Astonishingly bland and about as edgy and adventurous as wearing odd socks, Ant-Man is a film sculpted by committee; an under loved cog in the money making behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Bubble.
Cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is trying to keep on the straight and narrow after his recent release from prison. Unfortunately, retired scientist Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) wants Scott to take on the role as the Ant-Man to help foil the dangerous plans of Pym’s former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll).
Where as Guardians of The Galaxy was the atypical Marvel fodder in a Technicolor dreamcoat, Ant-Man feels like a more unique film that’s had the life sucked out of it. I must state at this point that Peyton Reed deserves a lot of credit for jumping on board and producing an accomplished film in a little over a year.
The attempt to capture a fun and breezy tone is much welcomed even if it can never get the mix quite right. The core emotional line running through the film is one of fathers and daughters, with Hank Pym being over protective of his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily) whilst Scott wants to prove to his daughter that he can be a worthy role model in her life. These more intimate stakes are a welcome change to the world ending problems of Marvel’s bigger properties. Yet the moments of sincerity are undercut by jokes and humour that feels shoehorned in at the last minute (Scott’s ‘moment killer’ joke is the defining example). Michael Peña is having all sorts of fun as Scott’s buddy Luis, but it’s too full on and too broad to fit in with the rest of the film.
The VFX work is faultless, particularly the de-aging of Michael Douglas for the film’s opening. The shrinking sequences and action at the micro level are too well realised and give some action set-pieces a fresh edge. Unfortunately the actual fight sequences are terrible, edited into an incoherent mess of swinging arms and body lifts but no actual punches. The film may be light in tone but it’s visually too dark and dreary, particularly when far too much of the film takes place in a predominantly brown house and sludgy grey basements. Darren Cross' egotistical streak makes him one of Marvel's better villains, but his plan and motivations are still a little fuzzy.
Gone are the days where a single mid-credits scene would be enough to suggest a crossover of one character to another film. With Ant-Man, there’s a truly pointless scene involving an Avenger to lead Scott Lang into Captain America: Civil War; as well as adding nothing to the story, it’s particularly pointless because Marvel announced months ago that Ant-Man would be appearing in that next film. Even the ending of the film is concerned with setting up the Avengers nonsense, despite the fact that this film is meant to be a palette cleanser from all of that.
There are two films vying for our attention amidst the 117 minutes of Ant-Man: one is a fun, irreverent heist movie that wants to make the best use of the tiny hero’s unique stature amongst the Marvel properties, the other is a short prequel to a movie that’s almost a year away from our screens. Sadly, the former of those two doesn’t do enough to keep the latter from rearing its ugly head. In many ways I’d like to see Ant-Man get its own sequel so that Reed and co. can have a proper go at making it work. Ant-Man was too far down the road for Marvel to pull the plug in the wake of Wright’s departure. A salvage job was necessary but it doesn’t feel like Marvel had the tiny hero’s best interests at heart.
Ant-Man was released in UK cinemas on Friday 17th July 2015.