Ant-Man (Cert 12)
1 Disc DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment) Running Time: 117 minutes approx.
The latest addition to the Marvel film oeuvre is one I am not familiar with – in fact when I heard the title Ant-Man I assumed it was a spoof until discovering this was another creation in the prolific portfolio of the legendary Stan Lee!
With no reference point by which to judge this adaptation the story and many of its components feel different from the usual Marvel fare. It begins with a prologue set in 1989 as Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) abruptly resigns from SHIELD after learning they were covertly replicating his shrinking technology. Jump to the present day and Pym’s protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has unearthed Pym’s old notes and created a shrinking technology of his own called Yellowjacket, intended for military purposes.
Meanwhile skilled cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) leaves jail determined to go straight but after he is denied access to his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) Lang agrees to do a job set up by his criminal friend Luis (Michael Peña). However the job was sham designed by Pym to see if Lang was suitable enough for a very special mission – to don the original Ant-Man suit and stop the Yellowjacket project from advancing.
Originally created in the 1960’s Ant-Man has been given a complete makeover to appeal to modern audiences and compete with today’s advanced entertainment, going beyond the present day setting and being able to credibly utilise modern technology, with the inclusion of ethnic support characters and their bespoke cultural traits, a far cry from the staid Marvel set-up of old.
Thus Marvel may have stumbled upon a new superhero franchise in lieu of the fact that Ant-Man doesn’t have the same multimedia history as its brethren, and for many this will be the definitive introduction to the character. The past is briefly covered through the backstory of Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man who partnered Janet van Dyne aka The Wasp, mother of Pym’s headstrong daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), now a senior director at Pym Industries, having helped Cross take over her father’s company.
An apparent main theme for the characters is they are all flawed in some way – for Pym and Hope stubbornness is their key faults, as the pair have been distant since Pym refuses to reveal the true nature of how Hope’s mother died. Since Hope learned of Cross’s nefarious plans, she aligns herself with her father again yet a full reconciliation remains distant.
Lang is a moral criminal who stole back and redistributed funds a multi-million dollar company fleeced from its customers, driven by the interference of Cassie’s police officer stepfather Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) demanding Lang can’t see his daughter until he has a stable job and starts paying child maintenance. Pym’s offer really couldn’t have come at a better time.
It’s never actually explained though how Lang came to Pym’s attention or how his skills are compatible to wear the suit and break into Pym Industries to steal the Yellowjacket suit. Pym’s entire gamble depends on Lang taking the suit and trying it on, so what if he didn’t? Aside from having no film, would he sit back and let Cross get away with his plan seeing as he won’t let Hope wear the suit?
The concept then veers into spoof territory as Lang is taught how to telepathically communicate and control other ants, so they will fight alongside him and help when necessary. Lang even befriends a flying ant and names him – wait for it – Ant-hony! Lang also has the ant’s renowned incredible strength, allowing him to pack a hell of a punch even when in microscopic form for added comic effect.
Comic book/superhero films are of course a popular property of the special effects wizards and it is probably fortuitous that it was left until now Ant-Man to get the live-action treatment, when one considers how dated Honey I Shrunk The Kids looks today. Needless to say the visuals are a strong selling point not just in recreating the differing scales of Ant-Man’s surroundings but also in creating the adrenaline rush of his fast paced action sequences and size changes.
Suspension of disbelief is required in greater doses for this concept, conveniently obscured somewhat by the prevailing sense of humour and general light approach. Lang is very much from the quick quip school of superheroes (without having any actual superhero powers), ready with a one liner or two or just flat out cocky in the early going.
When the film needs to get serious it doesn’t feel as convincing as it should so the action once again provides enough fun thrills and spills to deflect our attention from this particular shortcoming. Similarly the cast come across somewhere between getting into the spirit of things while not being too overtly aware of how absurd things are. Paul Rudd, who is known more for comedy seems to be having the most fun in the main role, as does Michael Peña as Luis.
Michael Douglas is in the token veteran gravitas position and while the beard doesn’t convince, he slips into this role quite comfortably. Corey Stoll sadly doesn’t stand out as the villainous Cross, his bald head something of a cliché these days for the antagonist. On an aesthetic point the hard features and bob hair cut of Evangeline Lilly as Hope creates a stern image befitting a villain more than the female lead/inevitable love interest.
But as discussed earlier Ant-Man was intent on bucking certain trends entrenched in other Marvel titles so perhaps this casting and appearance idea was to subvert the usual main female casting since Hope was a tough and strong woman and not designated eye candy.
Therefore Ant-Man deserves kudos for offering something different and injecting a fresh sense of excitement into the lacklustre Marvel film canon. Not an instant classic but a whole lot of fun nonetheless and of course, keep watching after the credits for those cross promotion cameos.
English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
French & German 5.1 DTS-HD High resolution
Turkish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Audio Described English Dolby 2.0
English SDH, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Norwegian, Swedish, Turkish, Subtitles
Audio Commentary with Peyton Reed & Paul Rudd
Deleted & Extended Scenes
Rating – *** ½
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