Directed by Peyton Reed
Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Abby Ryder Fortson, John Slattery, Hayley Atwell, Martin Donovan, David Dastmalchian, Wood Harris, Gregg Turkington and Michael Douglas.
Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
You have to feel for Peyton Reed: not one of Hollywood’s most premium of directing purveyors, his appointment sent many a fanboy into a “tis-wa”s on social media when this supposed “safe-hand” was set to replace Edgar Wright, who had worked for close to a decade on getting Ant-Man made. Everything was against Reed, and he was up against it, which could have derailed another director almost immediately in a somewhat similar fashion, like when Richard Lester replaced Richard Donner for Superman II. But with the cast and crew – and most importantly Marvel – on side, Reed has been able to make the jump into the realm of superheroes, one which he has been trying to make for quite some time.
Written off before even a frame had been committed to film, it’s been somewhat surprising to learn Reed’s love of Ant-Man, both as a character and as a story, and I’m happy to report that he does a hugely admirable job here. In his Ant-Man, it’s Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), thief extraordinaire who becomes the titular hero; recently released from incarceration, Lang is desperately trying to reclaim his relationship with his daughter, only seeing one way to repair the damage. Agreeing to one last heist, which inadvertently leads him to the home of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a once great scientist who has a big (or small) contribution to make to the world, despite the influences of protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) and his estranged daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), who both have designs on Pym’s creation.
What is evident from the first few frames is Reed’s passion for the subject: spurred on by Wright and Joe Cornish’s story, the director embraces the sillier aspects of a superhero who trains and controls ants and creates a welcoming atmosphere that’s impossible to resist. The action is well-handled and Reed keeps the film’s pace taut and suspenseful, flourishing during the shrinking sequences as well as producing one of the best 3D films since the fad became such a strain, brought to life in a spectacular way thanks to the Marvel technical wizards – as is the opening flashback sequence (the who or what might be obvious, but the results are anything but wrinkly.)
If you’re in it for the comedy however, there’s plenty to enjoy: it’s a strange feeling to suggest that this could easily end up as 2015’s best comedy, but for the consistency and quality of the laughs throughout, it’s hard to argue. Adam McKay, one of comedy’s premium creators, and Rudd utilise the unique situations as the route to the funny bone bringing big and consistent laughs, not least when Thomas the Tank engine enters the fray, easily the year’s funniest moment. That said, there is a great amount of pathos running through the core: it’s a redemptive tale of good guys doing bad things while not being bad, broken families/fathers and daughters trying to reconnect. All much weightier subjects that you might expect from one of the writers of Anchorman and while the balance wobbles a little in the mid-section, overall the mix is just about right.
Then of course there is Paul Rudd, who excels. It’s almost a cheat to say he is a good-as-ever here, as he essentially plays Paul Rudd, but so charismatic and charming is he that he is almost impossible to hate. He dives head first into the role, immersing himself fully in the both the comedy and the physicality (Brian Fantana with a six-pack alert!) and leading from the front superbly. The return of Michael Douglas is very welcome indeed, and he brings with him the cool authority of his classic performances and another timely reminder of his iconic talents; Lilly does equally as well as Pym’s daughter Hope and flourishes as the “anti-damsel-in-distress”, while Pena almost steals the whole film as Lang’s over-eager ex-con friend Luis.
It’s shame to report that the dud note of the film is once again the villain, which is seemingly the one component of their universe so far that Marvel can never seem to get quite right. Not the step-up we were hoping for in Marvel’s big-bads, Stoll’s Darren Cross is typically one-dimensional without any real threat or purpose, despite an interesting sub-plot with Douglas’s Pym that is never fully developed.
While its troubled production history may have been cause for concern, rest assured that the troubles have only served as a spur to make Ant-Man even better. And it worked: there are the usual Marvel quibbles as well as a slight lull around the mid-section, but this is easily the most fun you will have in the cinema this summer. Funny and exhilarating, Ant-Man makes being small feel so immense.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Listen to the Flickering Myth Podcast review of Ant-Man using the player below: