Despite the years of pre-production nonsense that stalled its making, you still get the impression that missing-in-action director/screenwriter Edgar Wright still has his fingerprints on Ant Man. Although it feels as if somebody has been overly judicious in the editing suite, there is still plenty of fun to be had here. The jokes come thick and fast in a script that puts emphasis on the gags, if perhaps at the expense of exposition. Although It’s easy to pick some holes in this, narratively speaking; It’s just as easy to revel in a breezily comedic and, crucially, fun superhero movie that’s anchored by a smart, endearing central performance by the nigh-on faultless Paul Rudd. In some ways you feel like Wright is still exerting his influence over this lost project.
The good news for fanboys and girls is that this inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe gives you not one, but two Ant Men to enjoy. Michael Douglas get a pleasing runout as the ageing genius and original Ant Man, Hank Pym, and it’s nice to see all his working parts are still in order. Rudd meanwhile, takes up the role as the almost irredeemable, low-level criminal Scott Lang; the man who inherits Pym’s shrinking ant suit and takes up the role of miniature bringer of justice and stealer of shit.
Lang is fresh out of prison and desperate to reconnect with his daughter, from whom he is being kept by his ex-wife’s new, policeman boyfriend. He goes for one last big score to rustle up the dough to buy some credibility, and cash, to get back into her life. He he breaks into Pym’s apartment and steals his incredible shrinking suit but, as luck would have it, Pym has had his eye on Lang for a while and fancies him to carry on the work he was forced to abandon, much to the disappointment of his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly).
Hope’s colleague Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is on the verge of duplicating Pym’s shrinking technology, with obviously dubious intention, and the suitably contrite inventor sends Lang to steal back his technology.
With a project that has seen its initial director jump ship, there are bound to be problems. The script favours action over elucidation and many of its characters, Cross in particular, feel under-cooked. Neither his evil motivation, nor indeed his frostily paternal relationship with Pym, is ever really examined. Funnily enough, it doesn’t feel underwritten, it feels bizarrely over-edited. As you romp along and Cross grows steadily livelier, you feel like you’ve missed a couple of important details.
Papering over the cracks is a boisterous sense of humour that succeeds in showcasing Rudd’s, schlubby-yet-dashing leading man credentials. We might never know how much of Edgar Wright and original co-writer Joe Cornish have managed to contribute to the final product, but it certainly isn’t lacking in wit. I laughed out loud at least a dozen times and I am struggling to remember a time when I laughed more in the cinema. As I have indicated previously on this website, I could happily watch Paul Rudd read the dictionary and I experienced no small amount of joy seeing him hit his stride in a role that suits his cordial, everyman likeability.
The shrinking special effects will no doubt cause some trepidation for many who are looking forward to this, but mercifully they are delivered with flair. Lang drops into the bath, takes a ride on a vinyl record and wrestles atop a speeding model train. At almost every opportunity director Peyton Reed drops his titular, diminutive hero into a minor catastrophe that is played for laughs, and works. Ant Man embraces its status as almost B-movie superhero fare and elevates the material into something genuinely fun. Even the superfluous, shoehorned Avengers references and a needless cameo can’t spoil the enjoyment.
Action, Sci-Fi| USA, 2015 | Marvel Studios | 15th July 2015 (UK) | 12A | Dir.Peyton Reed | Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Evangeline Lilly, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pena