"My first question is this, is it too late to change the name?"
It’s been a while since my last review as I was on holiday but thanks to the widespread distribution of cinemas I managed to catch the last offering from Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It may be the least intimidating superhero name ever (or Spider-Man’s less talented step brother) but here he is, Ant-Man.
Seeking a way to stop the technology that he originally created falling into the wrong hands, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) recruits low life thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), as he struggles to find money to help his estranged and seriously ill daughter, to save the world by becoming the Ant-Man.
I can’t help but notice that people have become harsher in their judgement of ‘Age of Ultron’ in the months after its release, accusing it of being slightly cluttered and having to juggle too many characters and subplots at once. While that may be true I think it’s overlooking the fact that Joss Whedon coped with it remarkably well and added a good mix of humour with some spectacular action, but I digress as if you felt that you want Marvel to return to the intricate origin story then ‘Ant-Man’ is most definitely a one character story, sort of.
While there are other areas of development circling around secondary characters like Hank Pym (why waste the talents of Michael Douglas), ‘Ant-Man’ remains primarily focussed on its title character. Paul Rudd does an excellent job with this as well, he uses the sly wit to draw attention to the fact that you’d feel a bit pissed off if, in a world saturated with heroes like the Incredible Hulk, Captain America and the mighty Thor, you got to be one called Ant-Man. There’s also a wonderfully meta moment as he tells Pym that their first step should be to do what every audience member asks why they don’t immediately do in the separate individual movies ‘Call the Avengers’.
The humour may be the strongest aspect of ‘Ant-Man’. Everything about it seems to fit into what audiences are currently thinking about the Marvel film industry, by using a lesser known character it’s a chance for them to poke fun at themselves a bit, just as ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ did last year. And also like ‘Guardians’, this proves that beneath all of their high profile stars Marvel still know how to create a pleasing and character driven story based on the credibility of the film alone rather than a big name alone.
To be fair though, many could argue that another great quality of the film, perhaps its best, was the whole shrinking sensation and the inventive action sequences that followed. They are visually stunning and is seamlessly blended with CGI. One would think that there’s only so much one could do with a miniature superhero but there are dozens of inventive, exciting and humorous action sequences from running straight down the barrel of a gun, a deadly duel through a model train set or leading a charge with an army of… well… army ants.
The elephant in the room is of course how does the film cope with its tumultuous production involving director Edgar Wright leaving the project. The main reason seemed to be that Wright was aiming to make more of a standalone film that something that tied into a shared universe, upon hearing this I was expecting to see a film that was drowned in references to other Marvel Movies. But actually what I got was a film filled with subtle nods to the Avengers, and mostly did its own thing. For Marvel fanboys though I have a feeling that more easter eggs will become clear as we approach Civil War.
One could criticise the almost deliberate small scope of ‘Ant-Man’ especially when compared to the huge scale of ‘The Winter Soldier’ and ‘Age of Ultron’. But then you look at its title character and for me the tone makes perfect sense, for obvious reasons.
So goodbye Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and despite its small size ‘Ant-Man’ is able to carry it off in fine fashion.