SINCE the release last August of Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel has proven to the world that it can pluck any obscure character(s) from its massive arsenal and meet with great success. Ant-Man – hardly a household name – certainly does slot into obscurity, particularly since the establishment of the Marvel cinematic universe.
The film was further marred by the departure in May last year of Edgar Wright, the main creative influence in the project for nearly eight years, replaced with Bring It On and Yes Man director Peyton Reed. Yet, in spite of all the hurdles in placed in front of it, Ant-Man is able to leap over these capably to deliver a highly enjoyable experience.
The story quickly establishes the concept of the Pym particle, invented (or discovered) by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) which enables shrinking technology to be used on the Ant-Man suit. Pym is alarmed by the attempts of his former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) to recreate this technology, and so enlists the help of cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to conduct a heist, stealing the suit created by Cross and destroying all research relating to the technology.
While the film starts off very slowly by explaining all of this exposition, it quickly picks up the pace and doesn’t really stop, going from point to point in a fun way leading up to the final heist and confrontation. The plot’s greatest strength is that it does not share the high stakes of previous Marvel movies, where they are forced to save a large number of people from certain death or explain concepts in preparation for the next Avengers movie, Ant-Man is a wonderfully self-contained story revolving solely around the heist, and is a lot less cluttered than April’s Age of Ultron.
Though there is a significant cameo-come-scene with Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, creating a very blatant direct link to the Avengers and Captain America, it is entirely relevant to the plot and not gratuitous fan service. In this sense, the plot actually resembles what might happen in a comic book plot, embracing the spirit of its source material.
While the great performances of Rudd, Douglas, and Stoll carry much of the weight of the movie, I would be remiss to not mention the performances of Evangeline Lily as Hope van Dyne, Pym’s daughter, Michael Peña as Luis, and Bobby Cannevale as Paxton. We are teased wonderfully at Lily’s future in the franchise as Wasp which I cannot wait to see, and Peña almost steals the show with his comedic long-winded explanations that helps create one of the finest Stan Lee cameos.
However, while Ant-Man certainly entertains, it also skirts around many issues the Marvel movies are criticised for, namely its problem in creating villains with necessary character depth, as well as its representation of women. Corey Stoll as Darren Cross is an admirable performance from a great emerging actor, but there is little to explain how he goes from CEO of a business to the murderer and eventual supervillain that is Yellowjacket, beyond a half-handed explanation about how Pym particles affect the way the brain works.
Furthermore, yet again, Marvel has a very strong female character who in this case is far more able than the main character and could rather feasibly lead the whole film under a different name. Whilst we are teased in a post-credit scene that Hope is set to become Wasp in a future Marvel movie, this could have easily been a situation in which the gender and character was flipped, not dissimilarly to Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica. This would meet the fanbase’s clamouring for a female-lead movie instead of waiting till 2018 for Captain Marvel. However, for all these vested wishes, Marvel certainly have a plan.
In spite of everything, Ant-Man is probably the better of the two Marvel films that came out this year; it’s even one of the better entries in the MCU to date. Though it, admittedly, falls foul of the usual problems Marvel suffers from, they do nothing to drag the pace, managing to retain its sense of good fun thanks to a humbler story. I look forward to seeing these characters again soon. Definitely worth a watch.