Should I Watch..? 'Ant-Man' (2015)
What's the big deal?
Ant-Man is a sci-fi superhero thriller film released in 2015 and is based on the Marvel character of the same name created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby. It is the twelfth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and as such, exists in the same universe as all other MCU films. The film sees recently released thief Scott Lang recruited by eccentric scientist Hank Pym to prevent his shrinking technology from falling into the wrong hands. The film had a difficult development with screenwriter and director Edgar Wright leaving the project just before shooting was due to begin and was replaced by Peyton Reed. Like most other MCU movies, Ant-Man was well received by critics and earned around $517 million worldwide which has prompted speculation that a sequel or prequel may be in the works.
What's it about?
The film opens in 1989 when scientist Hank Pym resigns from SHIELD after they attempt to replicate his shrinking technology. Vowing that it should never be used because it's too dangerous, Pym retreats to his mansion in San Francisco and hides his technology away from the world. In the present day, Pym is ousted from his own company by his estranged daughter Hope van Dyne and his protégé Darren Cross after they come close to replicating his technology on their own with the Yellowjacket, a miniaturised military suit.
Meanwhile, recently released thief Scott Lang is determined to go straight but after by denied access to his daughter Cassie, he quickly falls back into his light-fingered routine. He falls into contact with Pym via his shrinking suit which Scott steals from Pym's mansion. Pym begins teaching Scott how to use the suit to its full potential, which must be done soon before Cross begins selling the Yellowjacket prototype to the highest bidder - HYDRA...
What's to like?
Marvel fans will rejoice at the fact that even relatively minor characters like Ant-Man are now getting their own cinematic adventures. And sure enough, the film has more spit-and-polish than the average army barracks - CG is well utilised and offers us something different from the usual apocalyptic destruction seen in the likes of Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Naturally, the story is much smaller in scale as it deals with the sort of corporate shenanigans we've not seen since Iron Man 2. But within that, there's still time to cram in enough personal dramas and familial tension to fill an episode of Emmerdale.
Rudd provides a different kind of hero, one who isn't reliant on inherent godliness or even masses of weaponry like the similarly interesting Tony Stark. Peña is relied upon to provide most of the comic relief and combines well with Rudd's quippy one-liners while Lilly does well enough as the love interest (and future Wasp if the movie's hints are adhered to). But Douglas is a revelation, providing Pym with a grim back story and enough backbone to propel the film forward - I especially enjoyed seeing him at the beginning, looking exactly as he did during Basic Instinct, in the cleverest and subtlest use of CG I've ever seen.
- Your ears weren't playing tricks - the sound of the lasers used by Yellowjacket make the same noise as the AT-AT from the Star Wars movies.
- Douglas received a CG make-over for the beginning of the film to make himself look thirty years younger. He was so impressed with the results that he jokingly suggested he'd be up for reprising in a prequel!
- Although no longer attached to the film, Edgar Wright remained as an executive producer for the film. His good friend Simon Pegg lamented the fact that Wright's version of the film (which was intended as a stand-alone production) will never be seen.
What's not to like?
Ironically, for a film about a hero crawling through tiny holes, Ant-Man has more than its fair share of plot-holes. It doesn't quite convince us at any stage, nor does it know what it wants to be - heist flick, origin story, techno-thriller or whatever. It feels written by many typewriters and clumsily thrown together to make one semi-cohesive whole. Not surprising given the film's troubled upbringing.
It also isn't that exciting which, for any Marvel film, is a real disappointment. The action scenes, whilst still well shot and imaginative, don't come along that often and feel swamped in CG as Scott grows and shrinks at an alarming rate. The reason why Ant-Man has little action is probably because the villain hardly has anything to do - Stoll is fairly dull for a swivel-eyed loony who occasionally pops up to do a little bit of evil-doing before exiting the stage and allowing Rudd to continue learning how to use the suit. Hero and villain are kept apart for 90% of the film and it's only by the closing stages that things get interesting. Even the scrap between Rudd and Mackie feels tacked on and totally unnecessary, though doubtless it will help lead onto the next round of movies coming soon. Shameless self-promotion is one of Marvel's more annoying habits and at times, Ant-Man feels like a potential trailer for other projects and I'm not just talking about the obligatory end-credits scene.
Should I watch it?
It always struck me as an odd choice of film with which to close Phase Two and I got the feeling that Marvel themselves were getting annoyed at the delays in production and released Ant-Man to a public willing to lap up anything. That sounds harsh but still plausible - production started almost ten years ago, after all, before Iron Man changed the game. It's not a bad film by any stretch - Rudd's unconventional hero provides plenty of fun - but it isn't as exciting, thrilling or interesting as the rest of the MCU.
Great For: hardcore Marvel fans, younger viewers
Not So Great For: fans of the other MCU movies, action fans, casual fans of Marvel
What else should I watch?
If, like me, you left Ant-Man a bit short-changed then there's plenty of other characters waiting for you. Iron Man is a much better bet when it comes to techno-thrillers - Robert Downey Jr is superb as Tony Stark, the character is better defined and the action is hugely satisfying. Or if you prefer a more space-based sci-fi adventure then you won't find better than Guardians Of The Galaxy within the MCU - different and very funny, the film doesn't suffer due to your probable ignorance of the characters.
Back on Earth, Captain America has a trilogy offering a different type of film each time - The First Avenger is a Second World War action blast while The Winter Soldier has the feel of a political conspiracy thriller while still retaining the series' levels of action. Both are great films in their own right while the final film - Civil War is essentially a giant free-for-all between almost every Marvel hero seen so far. Finally, you can enjoy Marvel's greatest hits in the epic Avengers Assemble which has enough superheroes to please any geek, Tom Hiddleston's wonderful performance as Loki and a story that might still have holes but doesn't give you much time to study them. Unlike poor Ant-Man here...
Scott Lang / Ant-Man
Hope van Dyne
Darren Cross / Yellowjacket
Sam Wilson / Falcon
Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay & Paul Rudd *
Release Date (UK)
17th July, 2015
Action, Sci-Fi, Superhero
© 2015 Benjamin Cox