Directed: Peyton Reed
Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Evangeline Lilly.
Back in 1963 comic book heavyweight Stan Lee introduced the superhero world to an unusual, and smaller than average, character. Ant-Man, aka Hank Pym, shrank to life in issue 27 of Tales to Astonish and went on to become a founding member of the Avengers with his girlfriend Wasp, aka Janet van Dyne.
52 years later and the miniature hero is back in size alternating action on the big screen. The film focuses on Ant-Mans second incarnation rather than the Hank Pym story (it was deemed not family friendly, read the comics to see why) and sees Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) don the suit that gives him the ability to shrink to the size of an ant (it's all in the name) and make allies of the namesake insects.
Ex-con Lang is approached by previous Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to help him protect the secret behind the suits abilities from the bad intentions of Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) who is looking to invent a second suit and becoming Yellowjacket. This would be a bad thing. Pym is looking to utilise Langs burglary skills to steal the magic ingredient and foil Cross' plans.
With the help of his emotionally distant daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangaline Lilly) Pym trains Lang to use the suit effectively and develops a plan to stop Cross developing the Yellowjacket suit. Just to add a bit of depth to the plot, Lang takes on the job in order to get some money and get himself on his feet to prove to his ex wife that he has changed his ways and gain access to his daughter Cassie.
Visually, the film is very impressive. The VFX imagery that is produced when Ant-Man shrinks is incredibly well executed with a strong attention to detail. This is not Honey I Shrunk The Kids. From the dirt and grime in the bathroom to carpet fibres the visual offerings are accomplished to an impressive standard. Russell Earl was the Industrial Light and Music VFX supervisor for the feature. Work of note to date include Star Trek (2009), Harry Potter and the Pilosophers Stone (2007) and Pirate of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). Earl utilised CGI, still macro photography and motion pictures to achieve the tactile and realistic imagery that adds the dramatic and striking visual extravaganza, especially during the fight scenes.
Within Marvel circles, the film has become infamous as being the film that Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz etc) left more than three quarters of the way through development due to 'artistic differences' taking with him fellow writer Joe Cornish (writer of Attack the Block and star of UK TV show Adam and Joe). The team was then joined by Peyton Reed who is known for 90's cheerleading flick Bring It On and Danny Wallace book adaptation Yes Man. He may appear to be an odd choice but it is worth noting he spent time on the development of Fantastic four (2005) which was also produced by Marvel Cinematic Universe heavyweight Kevin Feige which may go some way to explaining the choice.
The film has tendrils of Wright and Cornish' writing which seems to support Reeds finished product. Both are credited as Executive Producers and this is evident throughout with the use of humour which is similar to the humour used within the Cornetto Trilogy and Wrights UK TV series Spaced. Certain scenes also reek of Wright, such as the flashback scenes where the people in the flashbacks are voiced by the person telling the story. The film does not try too hard to be funny and it recognises its ridiculousness in terms of concept. It would be easy to wish the film away in dreams of a pure Wright and Cornish interpretation, and that would be something that would inevitably be better executed.
The casting of Paul Rudd aids the comedic robustness of the film with the delivery of his lines highlighting his wisecracking talent that has been honed through films such as Clueless and Anchorman as well as his long running stint on TV show Friends. It is due to this experience that he is able to express the films comedy element better than any other character within the MCU, with the possible exception of Robert Downy Jr as Iron Man (Doth mother know you wealth the drapes?).
Rudd is an unusual choice for the part and there has been speculation regarding his ability to portray this role. The very fact that he is not a stereotypical superhero makes him all the more suited to this role. The role is an ex con that dons a suit to give himself special abilities and Rudd is able to pull this off well.
Michael Douglas has a strong screen presence as Langs mentor Hank Pym. Evangeline Lilly is almost consistently on the verge of tears or about to punch someone, or both. With the rumours of her taking on the role of Wasp we will see if she can develop her character interpretation beyond two emotions she seems to live within in Ant-Man.
Throughout the film there are links to The Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D, a nod to Antmans origins and hints at how the MCU may develop but this is not overdone as was seen in Jurassic World and its consistent nods to Jurassic Park. Overall the film is well executed with impressive and striking visual FX enhancing the imagery and realism of the world in which Ant-Man lives, both big and small. The screenplay is developed well however there is an atmosphere of 'what if' surrounding Wright and Cornish. You can't help but think it would have been a fuller film had they finished what they started rather than pass the torch. Parts of the film, the initial scene stands out, are dull and do not engage you as an audience. The films a whole is enjoyable and entertaining and MCU fans will enjoy it, as will non MCU fans. No spoilers, but stay until the end of the credits.........