thu 18/04/2019

Ant-Man | reviews, news & interviews

Ant-Man

Ant-Man

Paul Rudd is Earth's petit protector in a fun comic book flick from Peyton Reed

Good things come in small packages: Paul Rudd is the less-than-impressively-monikered 'Ant-Man'

With its teeny tiny protagonist Ant-Man joins a movie tradition that includes The Incredible Shrinking Man, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Innerspace. And yet the 12th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe feels like a fresh perspective on the modern blockbuster, where bigger certainly hasn't always meant better. A miniature superhero might not seem hugely useful in the fight against contemporary cinema's monolithic threats but, in its surveillance and espionage themes and heist plot, Ant-Man does a sterling job of selling its premise.

Based on the comic book creation of Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby and directed by Peyton Reed, Ant-Man stars the spectacularly affable Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a modern day Robin Hood figure, whom we meet as he's released from San Quentin, where he's served a stretch after taking redistributive revenge on his corrupt employer. This gifted cat burglar is head-hunted by Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), architect of the "Pym Particle" – a substance which reduces the distance between atoms, allowing the user to shrink down to the size of the titular insect and thus go undetected. Combined with a specially designed suit (pictured below right), they can change size at will and really kick some ass.

Marvel's female roles remain largely thankless and humourless

Hank is at war with former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who is recklessly developing similar technology for sale to the highest bidder, including a superior "Yellowjacket" suit, which Hank wants Scott to steal. Hank's daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) has wheedled her way into Darren's affections in order to spy on him, although her antagonistic relationship with her father puts them at odds too. There's also father-daughter angst for Scott, who is being denied access to the loyal, button-cute Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) by his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new partner Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) – that is, until Scott can get himself back on the road to respectability.

The screenplay from departing director Edgar Wright (who left the project citing creative differences) and Attack the Block's Joe Cornish has been added to by Will Ferrell's writing partner Adam McKay and Rudd himself. It largely strikes the right notes; however, in amongst the irreverent humour, miscreant heroes and anti-establishment sentiment there's some cloying morality about living up to your potential which feels hackneyed and studio-imposed.

Like Bill Murray without the snide edge, Rudd brings winning, and usefully grounding, bemusement to the fantastical proceedings. Douglas is hardly stretched and, although Lilly is sidelined (Marvel's female roles remain largely thankless and humourless), this is at least addressed, and there's fine support from the versatile Michael Peña (Fury, End of Watch) whose broadly comic performance as Scott's right-hand-man Luis is one of the film's highlights – particularly his tendency to over-explain sources of information, which is imaginatively and amusingly relayed.

The sometimes wearyingly lengthy effects sequences thankfully tend towards the ingenious (a fight inside a falling briefcase, for example), the CGI-wizardry impresses during the initial transformation sequence and the film has fun with its ant armies, by casting ordinary objects as terrifying threats and honing in on the intense peril of the micro-action before pulling back to reveal the apparent innocuousness.

Ant-Man marks the culmination of Marvel's "Phase Two" and they've brought the chapter to a close in likeable style. Reed's film nods to franchise fans through references and cameos: Hayley Atwell puts in a brief appearance as Peggy Carter, as does John Slattery as Howard Stark, and a minor Avenger pops up. Equally, those who've tired of the series' box-office dominance, or who've never succumbed to its charms, might find this a more palatable option than previous efforts; its little-meets-large antics and leftfield humour make for an engaging couple of hours.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Ant-Man

Rudd brings winning, and usefully grounding, bemusement to the fantastical proceedings

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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