At first glance, Marvel’s Ant-Man may well seem like just another superhero origin movie and with titans like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America to contend with, is there really any room left for the little guy?
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a technical genius turned cat burglar, fresh out of prison and eager to turn over a new leaf, but events unfold that make this transformation impossible. It seems like there are no second chances for our hero.
Enter Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), by way of an elaborate con that lures Lang and his team of lovable rogues into a robbery of Pym’s mansion, that ends abruptly when Lang finds nothing but a strange suit.
After trying the suit on, Lang discovers its strange abilities. The simple touch of a button shrinks him down to microscopic size and catapults him into one of the first visual treats of the movie, a bizarre and perilous journey through pipes, under floorboards, and even across the floor of a night club, narrowly avoiding being crushed by giant high-heeled shoes.
As it turns out, Pym is a billionaire scientist (there’s a lot of those going around) whose discovery of “Pym particles” led to the creation of a suit that he once used on behalf of the government, making him the original Ant-Man. Now Pym is an old man and his former protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has built a shrinking suit of his own which he plans to sell to the highest bidder.
Fearing the consequences of his technology falling into the wrong hands, Pym enlists Lang to stage a heist to obtain and destroy Cross’s prototype before it is too late.
So far, so good.
Cross is the movie’s obligatory supervillain who might be better recognised by his alias “Yellowjacket” (the name he gives the suit). He’s a tall, bald, ultra smug businessman with no scruples to speak of and the moral compass of a psychopath. In many ways, he’s the archetypal corporate villain, in a similar vein to Obediah Stane from Iron Man or Justin Hammer of Iron Man 2, but severely lacking Bridges’ natural charisma, or Rockwell’s quirky charms.
What Stoll’s performance does bring to the franchise however, is perhaps the first certifiable psychopath. While other bad guys seek to justify their actions, Cross sees no reason to do so. He doesn’t appear to revel in killing, but will happily do so when it serves his purpose. He’s very cold and methodical, but with a disturbingly child-like innocence, as though he simply lacks all forms of empathy and cannot see his actions as inherently wrong.
There are moments that make Cross seem like an interesting character, but as with many Marvel villains he suffers from a lack of development with very little time devoted to finding out what makes him tick.
So how exactly does Ant-Man fit in with the rest of the MCU? Well, before the release of Guardians of the Galaxy, it might have been hard to believe that a film based around such an obscure character would be so well received, but this may well be another surprise success for Marvel.
The writing in Ant-Man is extremely witty, no doubt harkening back to Edgar Wright’s original screenplay, which Peyton Reed does a commendable job of translating to the screen. All the same, one can’t help but wonder what might have been, had Wright remained with the project.
In either case, I can honestly say that I enjoyed this movie far more than its predecessor, the Avengers sequel Age of Ultron.
Something about this movie flows much better. It feels like more time and consideration was given to the character and the world he inhabits, whilst seamlessly incorporating other aspects of the MCU without being overwhelmed by them. At the end of the day, it feels like a movie that could standalone if it chose to.
Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas both give amazing performances. I have never been a fan of Rudd, but his acting in this film has changed my opinion of him and if there was ever an actor who could portray a mad scientist whose superpowers all involved ants, it was Michael Douglas. Both actors bring to their respective roles the right amount of eccentric energy to make the quirky nature of the Ant-Man come alive.
One interesting addition is that (excluding Thor) Ant-Man is the first film in the MCU to deal directly with issues of family. Both Pym and Lang have daughters and are both influenced by their love for their children. In particular, Lang’s daughter is the reason he agrees to become the Ant-Man, wishing as Pym puts it, “to be the hero she already thinks you are”.
But this wouldn’t be a Marvel movie without its big budget effects and signature sense of humour and neither departments are lacking. There are innumerable visual gags and moments of suspense turned ridiculous by the hero’s gimmick of changing his size. I don’t want to spoil too much, but if you’ve seen the trailer you’ll no doubt have seen the fight that takes place on a Thomas the Tank Engine train set. The scene is hilarious from start to finish, whilst still capturing the action perfectly.
Whilst definitely not the massive success that Guardians of the Galaxy was, Ant-Man is a solid addition to the MCU, with enough unique flavour to offer something you haven’t seen before and have you craving more of it.
Runtime: 117 minutes