Ant-Man is a must-see for those that prefer zany and absurd action in their comic-book adaptations. If The Dark Knight is the king of gritty superhero stories then Ant-Man is its polar opposite; rather than trying to mix a dark atmosphere with witty quips (e.g. The Avengers), director Peyton Reed has gone all-out to create an entertainingly ludicrous world for his miniature hero to bounce around in.
Michael Douglas, the veteran master-actor, is Hank Pym, a veteran master-scientist. Paul Rudd, the undeniably likeable comedy star, is Scott Lang, an undeniably likeable master thief. Their paths cross when Lang and his bumbling crew burgle Pym’s house, cracking a safe to find nothing but a strange suit. Lang soon discovers that this suit has unimaginable powers and, with the help of Pym, becomes the Ant-Man. Master and apprentice join together to take down Darren Cross, a devious and cold-hearted businessman with nefarious intentions for Pym’s shrinking technology.
Paul Rudd immediately shrugs away any doubts over his ability to front a superhero movie, displaying all the necessary comic charm to convincingly embody the ex-con underdog. He would slide comfortably into a Marvel line-up alongside Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill or Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark, his performance easily on-par with either of them. Michael Douglas is an equally fitting addition, capturing the essence of the reclusive genius with seasoned style. The “student & teacher” relationship between Lang and Pym is a refreshing dynamic, only improved by the strong chemistry between the leads. Although Ant-Man positions itself firmly at the ridiculous end of the Marvel spectrum, it can’t quite shake the established formula of its Cinematic Universe. The film’s sluggish start is worsened by typically clunky storytelling and laboured dialogue, saved only by Michael Peña’s scene-stealing appearances as Lang’s forever positive ex-cellmate. Similarly slow and disappointing is our villain Darren Cross (a.k.a. Yellowjacket), despite an effective portrayal by Corey Stoll (a.k.a. Congressman Peter Russo from House of Cards). Cross fails to ascend past the “generic corporate bad-guy” characterisation and is severely under-used for the first half of the movie. Maybe the unremarkable storyline exploring the relationship between Pym and his daughter could have been trimmed to allow more room for Cross to grow into a fully-developed nemesis.
While there has been much discussion around what Ant-Man could have been if Edgar Wright had directed the film, Peyton Reed has done an excellent job in crafting a funny, entertaining movie that is impressively daring for something so ridiculous (Wright’s comedic touches are still evident across the generally well-paced 115 minutes). This is one for the audiences that loved Guardians of the Galaxy but were left cold by Age of Utron; a self-aware slice of comic-book stupidity boasting a strong cast and spectacular action sequences on a micro-scale.
★ ★ ★ ½
Ant-Man is on wide release in UK & US Cinemas now.