Published on July 20th, 2015 | by Brad0
Ant-Man – Review
Well, turns out my review didn’t kill Avengers: Age of Ultron! The Marvel machine ground on as the Avengers sequel rolled to $1.39billion worldwide, and the follow-up hit cinemas last Friday. Expectations for Ant-Man are somewhat more modest, due to both its troubled production and the fact that its lead is, y’know, Ant-Man. Not quite as little-known as the Guardians of the Galaxy but a risky prospect nonetheless. So is there potential for a big hit in this small package, or is it a little bit of a dud?
As I mentioned, Ant-Man had somewhat of a troubled production. We need to address that first, particularly an elephant in the room named Edgar Wright. For those who don’t know, Wright – the director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs the World and The World’s End, four of the best comedies of the last decade – was originally set to direct Ant-Man. He and Joe Cornish – the writer/director of Attack the Block – had written five drafts of the screenplay, cast all the major players and were deep into pre-production when something went sour. On the 23rd of May 2014, Wright walked off the film he’d been working on since 2003, to be replaced by Bring it On and Yes Man director Peyton Reed.
From what I hear, the straw which broke the camel’s back for Wright was studio execs having his and Cornish’s script rewritten without their input. Marvel were concerned that it was too out-there and weird. This was three months before Guardians of the Galaxy was released, so maybe things might have turned out differently had that one already been out there. It’s a great shame, but sadly you have to move on. Marvel moved on to Reed, but Wright’s spectre has hung over Ant-Man ever since. The biggest rival Ant-Man has is Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, a movie which doesn’t exist and it can’t possibly measure up to. So how does Reed’s version, with a massive rewrite by star Paul Rudd and Anchorman director Adam McKay fare?
It’s alright. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s perfectly adequate superhero origin fare. It runs dangerously close to being a remake of Iron Man at times, which is problematic. Paul Rudd carries proceedings pretty well with his natural charisma and easy charm suiting Scott Lang. Michael Douglas is fine as Hank Pym, though he could stand to be a bit more mad scientist for my taste. Evangeline Lily and Corey Stoll do alright with very little to work with as Scott’s love interest and villain respectively. The highlights in the cast are Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian and TI as Scott’s heist crew, though. Playing fairly stereotypical ‘excitable Latino’, ‘vaguely Eastern European’ and ‘funny black guy’ respectively, they get by far the most laughs in the film, particularly Peña as Scott’s former cellmate Luis. Michael Peña’s been a big favourite of mine since I first saw him in Crash in 2004, and it’s great to see him stealing a big movie like this. Faring slightly less well, though his performance is fine, is the very last-minute tacked on appearance of Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson AKA Falcon. There’s a section where the film effectively presses pause on the plot for about ten-fifteen minutes and has Ant-Man fight Falcon in a scene which might as well have a ticker running along the bottom of the screen reading “Captain America: Civil War – In Theatres Everywhere May 6 2016!” It’s not as bad as ‘Thor and the Magic Hot-Tub’ in Age of Ultron, but it’s not far off.
The film concerns Scott Lang (Rudd) being hired by Hank Pym (Douglas) to take up his former mantle as Ant-Man and prevent Pym’s former protégé Darren Cross (Stoll) from developing his own weaponised version of the shrinking suit and selling it to rogue interests (literally the worst use of HYDRA in the MCU so far. And that includes Age of Ultron.) Lang is fresh out of prison after committing a Robin Hood crime against his former employers who were swindling their customers, and is looking to go straight and provide for his daughter. So it’s a redemption story in which a ne’er-do-well gains a suit with abilities, trains to become a superhero and must defeat a businessman with a rival version of his suit. As I said, very Iron Man. This could be transcended though by virtue of being visually stylish and funny, two sure-fire ways to get the audience past a very clichéd plot. Unfortunately, Peyton Reed is the director, and visual panache and comedic timing are two elements he very strongly lacks.
It’s a shame, really. Ant-Man has a lot of elements in it which could, in the right hands, have carved itself out a unique little corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As is, it’s an OK, vaguely forgettable little mess, about on the level of The Incredible Hulk or Thor: The Dark World. I’m sure it’ll have its fans, and I’m sure it’ll do alright at the box-office, but I wouldn’t bank on seeing Ant-Man 2 any time soon. Scott Lang’s adventures will no doubt continue in other people’s movies and Avengers: Infinity War, but what’s likely to be his only solo outing is a bit disappointing.