ANT-MAN is the latest in what feels like a recent spate of superhero releases. In the last few months, we’ve had AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, DAREDEVIL, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Is there room for this insect-sized hero?
In some respects, ANT-MAN is your typical superhero movie. It follows a fairly well-worn path: character finds power (in this case through technology), masters the same, overcomes challenge, becomes hero. That much is pretty standard by now and Marvel films tend to adopt that pattern.
But they do so because it works, and ANT-MAN is certainly a film that does that. The effects, characters, actors, script: they all come together really well.
The plot feels “smaller” (more puns?) than more recent Marvel films, but this is no bad thing. It allows Ant-Man’s varied powers to be explored. Compared to some Marvel heroes, Ant-Man has quite the menu of abilities! As a DC fan I haven’t read much Ant-Man, so I needed to become acquainted with him. Whilst I still don’t really understand why a character who shrinks to the size of an ant can also punch and kick with such force, or why he must also be able to command an army of ants (other than because he is also called Ant-Man), I’m cool with that. He’s little and he can do amazing stuff. Deal with it.
It felt more believable for this little dude to be facing off against another small threat, than against a massive Earth-shattering event that would require the attention of the Avengers. Hank Pym insists that Ant-Man handles the threat posed by the Yellowjacket technology rather than calling in Tony Stark et al. Generally Marvel seems to be pitching these single-hero films (although, as you’ll see, ANT-MAN is not quite single-hero…) at smaller threats: justifying the entire Avengers ensemble only for larger catastrophes.
So far as tone, ANT-MAN represents the lighter side of the Marvel spectrum. It’s more GUARDIANS than DAREDEVIL. The interaction between Rudd’s Lang and Douglas’ Pym is entertaining; and when the script takes a romantic turn, Lang’s relationship with van Dyne (played by Evangeline Lilly) is believable. Meanwhile, the supporting cast do a great job: Rudd’s adoption (or rather acceptance) of the Ant-Man mantle doesn’t mean that he leaves behind his pseudo-criminal associates. They provide some comedy relief to an otherwise more serious latter half of the movie.
I couldn’t write this review without mentioning Michael Pena, who plays Lang’s Latino ex-con friend Luis. He’s a great support role but can clearly play deeper parts as well (as demonstrated in CRASH). To me, he is one character: Elliot Martinez from LAZARUS WAR: ARTEFACT. If ARTEFACT is ever made into a movie, Pena has to be considered for the role of PFC Martinez – he is exactly as I imagine Martinez. Anyone who has read ARTEFACT will probably agree!
Goes without saying, ANT-MAN is a CGI fest. It’s a movie that relies on the CGI to get things done. This is a movie that probably couldn’t have been convincingly made until a few years ago, but the budget is well-spent and younger viewers in particular will be entertained by this aspect of the film.
ANT-MAN isn’t going to break any movie moulds, but it’s well done and great fun. Sometimes entertainment doesn’t have to be highbrow: it has to blow stuff up and make you laugh. ANT-MAN certainly does that, and if you enjoyed GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY or AVENGERS then this will float your boat (or bug).