Ant-Man is the perfect example of how successful the Marvel Cinematic Universe is. It shouldn’t work. Describe the superhero and his “powers” to someone unaware and unfamiliar with the Marvel Universe and Ant-Man himself and they won’t take the idea seriously. It is difficult to get excited about a hero who can shrink to the size of an ant, even with the added strength and ability to control his namesake.
Disney and Marvel have established a well-known, trusted Cinematic Universe and because of this, even the biggest of risks on the least well-known of their comic book properties doesn’t seem like the gamble that it should. Guardians of the Galaxy was their first gamble and Ant-Man is probably a bigger risk than that but because you know the Universe it is set in and the creative minds behind it, you want to watch and see what it is all about.
To Marvel’s credit, this far into their franchise, Ant-Man offers something very different. It is an origin story but the nature of the superhero manages to subvert all the usual story beats we have seen many times before. We have never seen a superhero who shrinks and enlarges at will so when he is learning to control his powers, it is something different and not just a montage of heroic deeds like we have seen many times before.
It also helps that Ant-Man isn’t a “good guy fights evil” kind of story. This is, loosely, a heist movie. The Ant-Man suit is used for stealing from the movie’s villain. It isn’t about fighting crime or saving lives but about stealing technology. This means we get a very different kind of origin story.
The movie itself is offering visuals we have never seen before. Ant-Man is about being as small as an ant so we get the inside of the bath, the floor of a nightclub or the inside of a suitcase. It is fights, adventures and peril in environments that we haven’t seen superheroes fight in before. It offers something so much more original and different.
Of course, all this could only be done effectively if the effects are up to scratch. Luckily they are. The shrinking and enlarging, the effects when Ant-Man is small and of course the environments around him are all realised fantastically. It helps tell a very unusual story.
Like all of Marvel’s other movies, the casting in Ant-Man is also perfect too. Paul Rudd would be nobody’s most obvious choice for a superhero but he plays the hapless, charming thief Scott Lang very well. He balances good humour, soft-nature and a cocky streak well without coming across as too annoying. Evangeline Lily is also very able as the main female role and has a strong part in the story. Her future in Marvel is bright and is ripe for development.
The real casting coup is Michael Douglas. Douglas plays the older Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man who designed and invented the suit. He gets the best lines, some of the cooler moments and has great chemistry with Rudd’s Lang which offers a great passing of the torch sub-plot to the movie.
There are other sub-plots that work less well. The more emotionally heavy scenes fall flat and feel too forced. They seem shoe-horned in and don’t work as effectively as you would hope. Add to this a heavily under-developed villain. There is very little for Corey Stoll to do except look menacing and make nasty decisions. He falls into the normal trap of serving a purpose, giving Ant-Man someone to punch, fight and prove themselves against.
These elements don’t take away from how successful this movie is though. It is an original superhero origin story and offers a new element to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also helps that there are decent cameos, sly little Easter Eggs and a bigger story that the characters in this movie will ultimately fit into.
Overall, Ant-Man is another successful gamble for Marvel Studios and demonstrates something new in the franchise. Ant-Man may seem a silly prospect but is realised brilliantly here, with believable effects and a great cast. There are some dodgy story points and the villain is under-used but this doesn’t stop Ant-Man being a very exciting prospect and a welcome addition to future movies.
Rating – 4
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)