This least-known solo superhero entry in the Marvel cinematic universe so far – is arguably the most surprising.
Ant-Man ends up standing tall after a troubled production – in which fan-favourite Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright was replaced by little-known Peyton Reed (The Break-Up) after artistic differences – with a noteworthy entry in the ‘juggernaut’ comic-book canon.
In Marvel terms it won’t be up there with the first two Avengers films, Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy, but is at least on a par with the likes of Iron Man 3, Thor and Captain America: First Avenger, and better than The Incredible Hulk, Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 2, as phase two of their blockbuster movie series closes with some bite.
Even though a large chunk of Wright’s (and writing partner Joe Cornish’s) well-regarded script seems to have remained, Reed and his cast deserve immense credit for not just saving the film from being a potential first major embarrassment for Marvel, but conjuring a well above-average superhero flick – with a nicely humorous underbelly.
Better still, due to the relatively unknown status of the character – outside of comic-book circles at least – it even marvels as a likeable standalone family movie in its own right, which makes it more appealing to the casual cinema-goer who may be suffering from ‘superhero overload’.
Another major plus factor comes in the form of amiable leading man Paul Rudd – known for roles in Anchorman, Friends and various Judd Apatow comedies – who stars as ex-conman Scott Lang, looking to get back on the straight-and-narrow and win back visitation rights to his estranged daughter.
But after being enticed back to crime by his hapless pal, Luis (Fury’s Michael Pena), this leads to him being head-hunted by Michael Douglas’ (excellently-cast) Dr Hank Pym – who’s trying to prevent a maniacal plot by Pym’s former protégé Darren Cross (House of Cards’ Corey Stoll).
Much to the chagrin of his disgruntled daughter Hope (Lost’s Evangeline Lilly), Pym wants Lang to utilise his size-shifting super-suited technology – which can basically shrink him to the dimensions of an ant and back again at will – and prevent Cross (who has emulated the tech) from selling it to HYDRA.
In becoming Ant-Man, Lang can harness the strength of the insects (who can carry items 50 times heavier than their bodyweight), as well as controlling breeds of ants for his own means, which will help in his quest to stop Cross – who later transforms into his arch-nemesis Yellowjacket – in a world-saving heist.
A few inherent problems do rear their ugly head throughout, including some slightly hap-hazard plotting, choppy editing and a ‘hokey’ backing score, but for the most part this still ticks all the entertainment boxes.
Throw in some nice SHIELD and Avengers references – Anthony Mackie’s Falcon makes a significant appearance – along with a couple of delightful mid-and-end-credit ‘stingers’, and you’ve got another noteworthy entry in Marvel’s burgeoning catalogue.
If the round of applause at the end of my screening is anything to go by – this tiny superhero is going to have legs during the start of the summer holidays.
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Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, Bobby Cannavale, T I, Judy Greer, Abby Ryder Fortson, John Slattery, Martin Donovan & Hayley Atwell
Running Time: 1 Hr 57 Mins
Director: Peyton Reed