It’s remarkable that eight years on from Iron Man, the film that began this Marvel takeover of every screen in your local cinema, millions of people still flock to the movies and leave satisfied. In many ways they found a formula and stuck to it. A larger than life hero overcomes insurmountable odds and saves the day, usually getting the girl in the process.
Things started to deviate around Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The fate of the world was never in question. There were no floating cities, nor any transdimensional hellbeasts wreaking havoc on civilians. The Winter Soldier was more like an American James Bond – stylish with high speed chases and governmental cover ups. Cinemagoers weren’t blasted back into their seats with explosions, but leaned forward with intrigue, caught up in a more complex story than had been offered before.
If Winter Soldier was a Bond movie, then Ant-Man is a heist flick. Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang has been enlisted to steal something for Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) after swearing that his burglaring days are behind him. The rest of the movie plays out like Rocky, with Scott mentally and physically preparing himself for the task at hand.
The Ant-Man suit is aesthetically pretty cool, but alongside Thor’s hammer and Hulk’s tendency to smash everything, the ability to shrink isn’t so neat. The action doesn’t take front and centre here, but when it does, Scott’s knack for swiftly shifting sizes adds an element of originality to the violence. Communicating with ants as allies turns out to be oddly heartwarming and cute, and may make you reconsider stepping on any you see in the future. The world warps around Scott as he becomes a tiny version of himself, making for some of the most entertaining CGI in a long time. The fight scene on a Thomas the Tank Engine toyset is made to feel massive thanks to the miniature scale of our hero and the comparatively dangerous size of the train.
Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne gives Scott a hard time, but her allegiances are never in question. Her relationship with her father takes centre stage on more than one occasion, and quite rightly too – Lilly is given a lot to work with here and kills it. Thanks to the trio of her, Rudd, and Douglas, Ant-Man is a character driven story good enough you won’t even miss the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist and his ilk blowing things up.
This is just a fun movie. It’s a lot less intense than the epic Avengers films, and Darren Cross is no Loki or Ultron. Ant-Man won’t be remembered for having the villain you kinda want to root for. At under two hours, it isn’t a slog and doesn’t outstay its welcome. It has a nice pace that builds respectfully, with no character development left on the cutting room floor in exchange for a mindless car chase.
It might also be the most quotable of all Marvel movies so far. Edgar Wright may not have directed in the end, but his presence is felt in the script, with the humour akin to that of Scott Pilgrim vs The World. There are many laugh out loud moments, plenty of which would feel out of place in any other MCU movie, which makes Ant-Man all the more charming. It really is unlike any of the other movies to date, and yet fits right in with what they’ve got going on. Despite the cynics among us tiring of superhero movies in theory, in practice they continue to be more fun than anything else offered up by most major studios. A real fun send off for Phase 2 of the MCU!