A man can shrink to the size of ants, and also has the power to communicate with them. As powers go, he’s hardly Superman. In fact, the more you think about it, the dafter it sounds. And yet, this premise has made for one of Marvel’s best superhero films, and something which is bound to be one of the year’s biggest movies.

The film starts with burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is released from prison, and is eager for a second chance in life – circumstances, however, conspire against him, and he takes on one last job. The house belongs to Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a scientist who has perfected a size-changing suit and a method of controlling ants. Pym recruits Lang, training him to be the new Ant-Man in order to stop his former mentee Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from weaponizing the technology.

This movie is great fun – rather than following the same mould of every Marvel film before it, it is structured as heist movie with a lot of comedy (and this is real comedy, as opposed to the forced quips Marvel likes to shoehorn in all of its films). We get plenty of hijinks linked to size changing, and a fun training montage showing us the range of Ant-Man’s abilities – particular praise must go to whoever animated the ants, as they feel like characters in a way you’d never think they could.

The whole heist is a mesmerising piece of cinema, gripping throughout, with the size changing allowing for some incredible different backgrounds. In a world where all superhero films must get bigger and bigger, the small scale of this film was a nice and refreshing change – the end sequence is so action-packed and thrilling that it is easy to forget that it takes place in a little girl’s bedroom.

The girl in question is Lang’s daughter, and she raises one of the film’s main problems. There are two separate father-daughter bonds here – Lang and his daughter, Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily) – which need mending or saving, and we are supposed to care about them. The issue is that, in between the superhero origin stuff and the heist action, there isn’t the time to expand on them enough that you actually do.

That’s not to say the acting is bad in any sense. This is Rudd’s film, with Douglas and Lily providing excellent support and both getting in a number of excellent lines. I was less enthralled with Lang’s gang of crooks, led by Luis (Michael Peña), but they also made me smile a couple of times and weren’t in the film enough to detract too much. That said, some viewers will love them, especially Luis’ stories of how he gets his tips.

Stoll goes through the motions as Cross, but this is another fairly bland Marvel villain role in a canon filled with them. Really, many of the bigger issues in the film are definitely caused to the Marvel model of filmmaking, with forcing the film to fit into a larger cinematic universe being one. Although I reckon the film would have been just as good – if not better – completely on its own, names and faces crop up like no-one’s business. At the start, a young Pym angrily leaves S.H.I.E.L.D., which works as backstory, but we also have sections where Lang must retrieve a MacGuffin from an old base (cue a familiar face) and a familiar name crops up during the heist sequence. There’s even a throwaway line about Marvel’s newest acquisition, Spider-Man.

After the well-publicised issues with Edgar Wright leaving the director’s chair, and issues with the main character’s lack of recognition (and, in many ways, how silly a premise Ant-Man is), I’m pleased to say that Ant-Man is great fun. After the disappointing Age of Ultron, fears for this film were high, but the gamble has definitely payed off. Even if you don’t like Marvel films, you’re gonna like Ant-Man.



Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Michael Douglas (Dr. Hank Pym), Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne), Corey Stoll (Darren Cross/Yellowjacket), Bobby Cannavale (Paxton), Michael Peña (Luis)
Running Time: 117 Mins
Country: USA

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Reece Goodall

One day, long ago, a man had a dream. Then he woke up and started writing film reviews instead.