FILM REVIEW: Ant Man

Marvel's Ant Man hits cinemas the 17th of July, 2015 (UK)

Marvel’s Ant Man hits cinemas the 17th of July, 2015 (UK)

“The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man.” Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Doctor Hank Pym, protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.”

Official synopsis from Marvel

Release date: July 17, 2015 (United Kingdom)

Certificate: PG-13

Director: Peyton Reed

Running time: 1h 55m

Screenplay: Paul Rudd, Edgar Wright, Adam McKay, Joe Cornish

Story by: Edgar Wright, Stan Lee, Joe Cornish, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber

 Remember when Edgar Wright and a number of principal crew said they were walking out of Marvel’s Ant Man? How all our expectations for the film were suddenly dashed and everyone proclaimed that the film would be bad. Like, Rise of the Silver Surfer bad?

Remember how whenever anyone mentioned Ant Man everyone said they wouldn’t even bother to go see it?

We need to apologise to everyone involved in making that film and we need to apologise right now.

Because in the case of director Peyton Reed’s Marvel debut we were all quite wrong.

The film is highly enjoyable to watch, with each element of the story working well together and some better CGI than that laughable opening fight sequence in Age of Ultron (which looked like something the SyFy Channel would produce).

Although I would never chose to see a film in 3D there were moments when the cinema gimmick really helped add another layer to the visual effects. Most impressive was the sequence of events where Paul Rudd, as Scott Lang, miniaturises himself for the first time.

It is easy to forget that you’re watching the film in 3D after a while and personally I wouldn’t count that as a bad thing. However, Ant Man’s visuals where not overdone and it wasn’t all focused on things like fights or action scenes. There are beautiful touches that you may never have thought to include when `filming` a miniature world: Dust motes in the air, grit and dirt on the ground, the texture of different materials, finger prints on glass. The shrinking of Scott Lang is exciting but it’s the view of the world as we never see it that lends real substance to the scenes.

But don’t expect to see all of those amazing effects until you’ve sat through a good chunk of seemingly never ending opening scenes. The film takes a while to get going and although what you’re watching isn’t bad, per say, there’s a lot of set up and exposition that happens and I found myself willing the story to actually start.

I attended the screening on Monday with fellow GS Agent James (jms1701), who commented at the end that he wished he’d looked at his watch and timed just how long it took the film to really get going, it was silly amount of lead up and everything could have been much more concise.

This whole first act is also where I found the majority of the film’s issues – Ant Man brings us a lot of tropes, most of them done to endear us to Scott Lang and show us that, Hey! He’s a cool guy! Sure, he’s a thief but he has a heart! Listen to this explanation about why he stole millions of dollars but did it for a super good reason. Listen to the story again, several times in fact. And did you know he has a daughter? Did you? You did? Well, let us drive that nail home a million more times, just in case you forgot.

They didn’t need to force feed us the likeability of Paul Rudd’s character; Scott Lang follows in the footsteps of Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill. He’s the everyman hero who reacts to the situation he’s thrown into in a way that I think most of us would. How he responds to what happens is pretty close to how actual human beings do; he makes mistakes, cracks bad jokes at inappropriate times and passes out when riding on the back of a flying ant, because who the hell wouldn’t?

After the film’s slow and shaky start things progress at a much better pace and the audience is treated to moments of genuine laughter as Ant Man showcases how comedy should be done in a superhero film. They’ve come a long way from the cringe worthy, forced slapstick of Captain America: The First Avenger. It doesn’t hit the comedic mark quite like Guardians of the Galaxy and it’s not exactly the excellent and unexpected dark horse that James Gunn brought us, but Ant Man is definitely exceeding all expectations.

We also get a female protagonist in Hope van Dyne (played by Evangeline Lilly) that we’ve needed to help balance out the forgettable Betty Ross, cardboard  Jane Foster or the gratingly Mary Sueish Pepper Potts. Hope joins the ranks of strong Marvel women, such as; Black Widow, Agent Carter and Lady Sif. Unfortunately Judy Greer’s Maggie Lang has about as much depth as a Kim Kardashian selfie and is just as engaging, that whole character could have been left on the cutting room floor and the film wouldn’t have suffered any great lose without her. The whingy ex-wife’s new policeman partner (played by Bobby Cannavale) ends up becoming the more diverse and enjoyable character to watch and contributes more to the film.

Both Michael Douglas and Corey Stoll put in amazing performances as Dr Hank Pym and Darren Cross. Stoll shows the subtle decent of his character from kind of shady but maybe-he’s-well-meaning to emotionally unstable but keeping his public face on, all the way down to his Yellowjacket monstrosity. Juxtaposed with this is Douglas’ Pym going on a journey from cold and detached to becoming not only emotionally invested in Lang’s wellbeing but also finding a way to confront the issues between father and daughter and his own short comings in relation to that.

A good performance was put in by the majority of the supporting cast – there are some cringey stereotypes in Lang’s little gang of bumbling criminals but the film seems to be aware of this and plays up to it in two cut away scenes where our preconceptions of Michael Peña’s character are knocked down, when Peyton Reed uses a humorous mix of show/tell narrative.

Over all, Marvel’s Ant Man has managed to raise itself up from the expected level of Fantastic Four awfulness to a pleasantly surprising Guardians of the Galaxy type of engagement. I wouldn’t say it thrills as much as Avengers Assemble or has the flawless enjoyment of GotG but I’m willing to bet that if you were one of the people disappointed with Age of Ultron, your faith in the MCU may be restored with what Ant Man brings to the table (which is apparently sugar cubes… see the film, get the reference)

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Fia – @madame_fifi

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