Sunday, 19 July 2015
Review: Ant-Man (UK Cert 12A)
Ant-Man is the twelfth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and brings Phase Two to a close.
If Captain America: The Winter Soldier could be loosely termed a political thriller and Guardians Of The Galaxy a space opera, the best description for Ant-Man would be a heist movie.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is released from prison and wants to set his life on the right path, to provide for his daughter Cassie, but finds his past history makes that difficult. On a tip from his friend Luis (Michael Pena), Scott burgles a house and finds a strange suit. The suit has the amazing ability to shrink the wearer to the size of an insect. Scott is then recruited by the suit's creator, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), to help with an audacious heist that might just help save the world.
It's a very good-natured romp, ably led by a winning performance by Paul Rudd. Scott Lang is a different type of hero. He isn't a scientist or a soldier or a tech millionaire or a god. He's a criminal, a cat burglar, albeit a principled one. He doesn't use violence and is quick to correct people on that point. He's fundamentally a good man who did the wrong thing for the right reason and paid the price for it. There are shades of Chris Pratt's Star-Lord here: Lang is goofy at times, serious at others and is a general winning presence.
Other performances are similarly strong, particularly Evangeline Lilly as Pym's estranged daughter Hope Van Dyne. Lilly gives a great performance as the tough, strong Hope and her scenes with Michael Douglas as father and daughter negotiate the heist and their own personal relationships are some of the best in the film. Douglas is on top form as Pym, playing the mentor role well. He foregoes the usual mentor cliches and there's a nice dry wit to some of his lines.
That's not to say all performances are great. I had some issues with a few of them. Michael Pena is a good comic foil as the motormouth Luis but he's overused in places and the comic notes don't always work. Similarly, whilst Corey Stoll makes for an engaging villain as Darren Cross, he comes across as a bit one-dimensional in places and reverts quite quickly to swivel-eyed loon whereas other Marvel villains have been a bit more subtle.
Peyton Reed's direction is pretty slick. There's some great scenes when Lang is shrunk and those worlds look great, particularly parts of the final showdown between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket. The fight scenes where Lang changes size in between blows are well choreographed and read well on film- there was always the danger that it might look a bit silly.
There was always the risk that, after the release of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Ant-Man would have just been a bit of a damb squib and a bit inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. That is not the case. Ant-Man is very much linked to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, not just in some throwaway lines but in one particular sequence where Lang has to retrieve an item from an old SHIELD facility which is now being used as an Avengers base. The mid-credits and end-credits scenes both hint towards bigger things within the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe as well.
Considering its troubled production history, there was a real chance that Ant-Man could have been a disaster of Catwoman-like proportions. Luckily, the film seems relatively unscathed from the behind-the-scenes drama and is engaging and charming. It might not be up there with Marvel's best; however, it is far from the worst they've ever done.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5