Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll and Michael Douglas
Running Time: 117 minutes
Release Date: July 17th
After this summer’s bloated extravaganza Age Of Ultron, the timing of Ant-Man seems more than a little serendipitous. For people complaining that superhero movies were getting too long, too convoluted and too full of explosion-filled airborne third acts, Ant-Man might prove to be antithesis: snuggly under two hours long, Marvel’s cheapest movie to date (a snip at just $130 million) and, excuse the pun, working at a much smaller scale than usual. The whole city/country/world/universe isn’t under threat, it’s basically just two guys having a teeny tiny disagreement.
With less focus on city-flattening CGI and more attention paid to character, chances were good that Ant-Man could end up being the dark-horse of the Marvel canon. Despite the revolving door-esque director’s chair (out goes fan favorite Edgar Wright, replaced by Yes Man helmer Peyton Reed) and the four “credited” script writers, perhaps a certain alchemy could be found. Let’s be honest, our highlights of the Iron Man movies weren’t the action scenes, it was Tony Stark’s snark. Ditto when it came to Thor’s intergalactic theatrics, Captain America’s fish-out-of-modern-water old-school manners, or Star Lord’s arrested development. The movies may have begun to lose any sense of individuality when forced into the mould of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but at least the characters themselves had their own unique personality. Yet even this faint praise can’t be gifted to Ant-Man.
When master-thief but generally nice-guy Scott Lang (Rudd) is recruited by genius inventor Hank Pym (Douglas) to retrieve a shrinking suit from mentally unstable megalomaniac scientist Darren Cross (Stoll) using Pym’s own shrinking and ant-controlling suit, Marvel are letting us know that this is their “heist movie”. However, much in the same way that The Winter Soldier was their “paranoid 70s political thriller” and Age of Ultron was their “sci-fi horror”, the heist elements are the raspberry ripple in what is essentially Marvel’s giant block of vanilla ice-cream.
Rudd has buffed up, but he’s no Hemsworth, Evans or Pratt. He knows his way around a quip, but he’s still runner-up to Downey Jnr, Ruffalo or even Renner for the funnies. Perhaps he’s supposed to be “the everyday hero”, but when it comes time to join the Avengers, the obvious question will be “Why not just put the highly trained likes of Black Widow or Hawkeye in the shrinking suit?” The suit is all the power, and unlike Tony Stark, the man inside isn’t exceptional in any way. If Lang has no describable attributes that could make him stand out as a super-hero, then why should we accept him as one?
It’s a question that the movie doesn’t so much avoid answering, as help us answer in the negative. Lang is expendable, because Pym doesn’t want his infinitely more equipped daughter Hope Van Dyne (Lilly) to get killed, so it’s up to Lang and his comic-relief-only crew (led by a scene-stealingly funny Michael Pena) to do all the dirty work. Despite the likes of Adam McKay (Anchorman, Step Brothers) and Rudd himself pumping up the comedy in the script, it’s still not really all that funny. Despite Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Shaun of the Dead) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) coming up with the original script, there’s still not much in the way of original approaches to the microscopic action. And despite all that Marvel money and decades of progress in special effects, you’ll still be thinking that Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was better than this.
Without doubt, Ant-Man is the blandest, safest, least interesting Marvel movie since Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s been sanded down and blunted so much to fit neatly into the MCU jigsaw, complete with superhero cameos and borderline pointless double end credit stingers, a fear sets in that the initially inventive and vital Marvel movies have very much lost their edge in the goal of making more money. But then we remember that The Winter Soldier is probably still the best Marvel movie to date. Here’s hoping we get a similar jump in quality for Ant-Man 2.