Dr. Hank Pym, inventor of the size reducing Pym Particle formula and Ant-Man identity, has long held his prized breakthrough secret to keep the world safe from its potentially catastrophic effects. After years of development, Pym’s once protégé has managed to replicate the formula and intends to sell the technology to the highest bidder, so Pym sees little choice than to recruit renowned thief, Scott Lang, to done to Ant-Man suit and put together a heist that will remove the technology from the grasp of the unworthy.
To people who have been keeping an eye on all things Marvel-in-development, it is a well-known fact that they have had the Ant-Man screenplay since before the first Iron Man film went into production. Recently the film has become more synonymous with the fact that it lost its original writer/director, Edgar Wright, just as pre-production was wrapping up, and as such, it’s a stigma the film has carried since.
Just to get it out the way up front, yes, the film surely missed Wright’s intricate directorial eye, but his fingerprints are all over it, his spirit is mixed in there to some degree, but all that besides, it’s a fun, enjoyable film that stands comfortably on its own merits.
Visually and design wise, the film is as solid a first film as any of the individual Marvel characters have had. The digital FX work, once a bit of a worry when the (overly spoilerish) trailers hit, have in actual fact been polished off to a commendable and vastly imaginative degree.
The scenes, especially the initial ones, of the world viewed from an ant’s eye view are pretty astonishing and consistently retain a ceaseless pace, which in turn suggest at what an ongoing danger the world is to something the size of an insect.
Even with the change of director, however, it isn’t too much of a surprise that Marvel Studios have turned out a good-looking, high intensity film; it’s kind of their thing. What does stand out as especially impressive is their treatment of the various elements of the source material, even the kookier ones.
With a character like Ant-Man, who has had many people fill the roll within the source material, it would be easy to pick and choose the best elements and produce a kind of amalgamation, but instead a more original (at least insofar as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is concerned) road has been taken, wherein the original Ant-Man (Michael Douglas) has long since retired and due to circumstances is looking to mentor his replacement, in this case, the morally dubious, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).
The story itself, in something of a brave turn, is much smaller (no pun intended) in scale than every other film in Marvel’s second phase, which is actually a bit of a breathe of fresh air, taking the tried and tested formula of pitting a hero against an unscrupulous personage with a similar power set, but this time mashing it up with a standard heist set-up. Don’t take this reduction in scale to mean that the film is less consequential in the scheme of things though, in its own way it expands the MCU as much as Guardians of the Galaxy did, and in even more directions.
Sure, Paul Rudd is the focus of this film, but the heist set-up lends itself perfectly to a wonderful ensemble piece wherein Hank Pym, his daughter and Lang’s lovable criminal friends all play vital rolls and get plenty of screen time. Also within this set-up, the MOST kooky of Ant-Man’s powers, one often ignored even in the comics, the ability to talk to and control ants, is explored with respect and given relevant use; no mean feat.
It’s not perfect though, the pacing is sometimes a little off, with some scenes, despite their overall quality, very much feeling shoehorned in to advance the greater MCU, while others, most notably the final stand-off, coming off as somewhat rushed. Also, by using vague yet reality based scientific explanations of the powers in play over out-and-out sci-fi jargon, the more scientific minded of the audience will find themselves questioning the film’s inability stick to it’s own scientific rules.
Ant-Man may not be the best of Marvel’s output, but it’s certainly not the worst; it IS however a rip-roaring and imaginative heist-adventure that should have the whole family enthralled and laughing while adding intriguing layers to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Be sure to stick around for not one, but TWO post-credit sequences.