Marvel have reached the point, now, where they can basically do anything and it’s presumed it will be a hit. This ability to print gold is a fairly recent development, likely stemming from the surprise hit that was Guardians of the Galaxy.
Part of it is the formula that Marvel (Read: Disney -Ed) have hit upon, combining quirky characters, a script which doesn’t take itself too seriously, and an ever changing cast of actors and actresses you know from that thing. This time we get the bloke from Basic Instinct, Phoebe’s husband from Friends, and the woman from Lost. Oh, and the alcoholic from the first season of House of Cards.
Ant-Man, I suspect, alongside the expected Doctor Strange film of next year, is Marvel reaching the stage of trolling DC that it can make the lesser known, frankly more absurd, properties into successful films before DC can get a Justice League film together.
So the pertinent question is, can they?
Having spent his years trying to hide his greatest invention, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is faced with his former protégé weaponising his greatest invention. He and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) enlist the help of down-and-out burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to become the Ant-Man save the world. Ish.
Okay, first thing, the “ish”. The reason Ant-Man works more than it doesn’t — and it does work more than it doesn’t — is its sense of scale. This isn’t the Avengers, and it knows it. The hero’s motivation isn’t to save the world, but to save his world, and that gives it a smaller scale and a more personal scope. That’s not to say that there isn’t the threat, but the hero’s motivation is inherently…well, selfish.
Which makes a nice change.
And make no mistake, this is ridiculous stuff. From the near slapstick antics of the size change, to the merest nod towards actual physics (And I warn you, they will fall apart if you think too hard -Ed), and there’s the ongoing oddity of why Scott is needed at all.
And one of the best sequences is the fight on the train set, which was covered quite heavily in the trailers, but manages to combine tension with the utter banality of what it actually appears to be happening, cut together with comic timing — though giant-sized Thomas is creepy in a way that defies actual explanation.
One thing which is starting to stick out is the manufactured explanations for why all problems can’t just be solved by the Avengers. The fact that Pym is paranoid about Stark stealing his invention and using putting it to negative uses is a fair point (And probably justified -Ed), but as the stakes do mount up it feels a little more stretched, even to the point where Falcon is directly deposited into the story.
Overall, I felt like this was one more pitched at those who haven’t already joined the Marvel church. It was a light, fast-paced film, with a sparkling sense of humour. It is designed to bring in those who are not necessarily signed up to the big franchises, the Avengers, the Captain Americas, the Iron Mans — which is an interesting choice given that this is a more obscure title. It’s also brilliant to see Paul Rudd actually getting a big headline role like this at last. He is one of the most consistently watchable and underrated actors presently working.
Ant-Man also demonstrates why Marvel will always beat DC at this sort of thing, as they both currently stand. Marvel can laugh at itself. Marvel doesn’t take itself too seriously. Next to the grim, overbearing weight of the Zack Snyder DC films this feels like something which the makers want the audience to enjoy, rather than simply to endure.
Which is what I go to the cinema for.