PrintE-mail Written by Jack Bottomley

Not all that long ago the superhero film was not really even recognised as a genre, it was just something that blended into action/adventure or thriller films. Films like Tim Burton’s Batman’s and Richard Donner’s Superman were the best recalled. And then, something happened around the mid-2000s and the superhero film stopped being something frivolous and became serious business. Since that point, Marvel Studios has taken the ball and run with it, creating a cinematic universe that has grown beyond belief in under a decade. Already we are entering Phase 3 and are at a point where you can’t so much as flick on the TV without a new Marvel hero (or any hero for that matter) being advertised as the next big thing. Exciting times these may be, but with them comes a problem: fatigue. In a matter of a few years, the superhero genre has boomed into something financially indestructible, but as the somewhat less passionate response to this year’s Age of Ultron showed, certain audiences are tiring of the established formula. The solution? Something fresher, something friskier, something… smaller?

Originally helmed by Edgar Wright (though he is still credited in script and story), Ant-Man is an adaptation of Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby’s Marvel comic book hero. Lesser known compared to other material, Marvel have aimed to do for Ant-Man what they did for Iron Man in 2008 and the Guardians of the Galaxy last year, and y’know what? They have succeeded… again. The film centres on recently released former thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who’s looking to provide for his estranged young daughter. To do that, he ends up getting lured back into a job, only to find that he has drawn the eye of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who gives Scott a second chance to be the hero his daughter thinks he is. Pym wants Scott to be the Ant-Man and help save the world from Pym’s obsessed former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who is close to unleashing Pym’s revolutionary technology (that he has kept hidden for years) and thus endangering the world.

A film about a hero that can shrink to the size of an ant and with another world domination plot at its core may sound like a clichéd bore, but Ant-Man is anything but. Yes, the plot bares similar structure to other Marvel films (third act action climax), but where this film differs is in its tone. The pacey script retains Edgar Wright's DNA to the point that you cannot imagine him still being at the helm and the film being all that different from what it is now. The dialogue is chock full of comedy and self-referentiality that both parodies the nature of blockbusting superhero capers and their ridiculous scale. The film stands out from the crowd by looking to the ground where others soar to skies, and in turn acknowledges the ridiculousness of the concept and just embraces it to provide fresh set pieces and original action sequences.

Peyton Reed’s film thunders along with laughs, the odd dramatic moment, and references to other Marvel films - without relying on prior knowledge or the studio’s established heroes bailing this film out. The heist plot elements create something a little different and at the very core of the film is a perfectly cast Paul Rudd who is enthusiastic and energetic as Scott Lang. Plus the Ant-Man abilities are uniquely used and his outfit is undoubtedly the best looking Marvel hero gear since Iron Man’s suit. Michael Douglas also appears to be having a ball as Hank Pym, and Evangeline Lilly offers brilliant support as Hope van Dyne. Although many may best enjoy the performance of Michael Peña as Scott’s fast talking mate Luis, who steals scenes aplenty throughout. The only setback is Corey Stoll’s rushed villain, but Stoll still retains an edge of menace in the part.

From running through drains to battling on a train set, this film is knowingly funny, gripping and an absolute joy from beginning to end. It advances the Marvel Cinematic Universe where needs be (see the post-credits scenes), but better yet spends more time developing and introducing you to its very own hero. Ant-Man feels very much like its own film and has fun toying with the ideas of scale in a modern day superhero picture and suggests that the future may be filled with heroes but there are still numerous interesting things to do with them on the big screen. Many may disagree, but we found Ant-man to be well-written, confident and surprisingly fresh and innovative entertainment that in lesser hands could have been a joke on the big screen. As a result, this has to stand as one of Marvel’s most impressive accomplishments yet.

Special Features:  Featurettes / Deleted and extended scenes / Gag reel / Audio commentary / Sneak peeks 


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