Released in 2015 Ant-Man is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is the final film in Phase Two, with the first film of Phase Three beginning with the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. The film stars Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly with a number of appearances from other actors established within this universe including Anthony Mackie reprising his role as Sam Wilson aka Falcon.
The Avengers went toe-to-toe with Ultron earlier this year, and we have had several films in which we have delved into the Cinematic Universe giving us various origin stories so it seems a little late in the game to be bringing in a new character…however, let’s not judge the late comer to the party, after all, sometimes there is such a thing as being fashionably late. Is Ant-Man fashionably late to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe party?? Or is it yet another cash-in on a Marvel film in which a completely unknown character is thrust onto the big screen so more toys and media can be sold to fans of this Universe??
Join me, and let’s find out…
So the film opens with the Shield building seen in Captain America: Winter Solider under construction in 1989 with scientist Hank Pym (a digitally younger Michael Douglas) resigning after he refuses to share his revolutionary Pym Particle and his Ant-Man suit with his superiors because he fears what will happen to the technology if his superiors within Shield succeed in their attempts to replicate his work.
Cut to the present day in which ex-con Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is released from prison, he tries to reconnect with his daughter but is hampered by his ex-wife’s boyfriend, a cop named Paxton. Lang tries to get a job but he is stopped whenever his employers discover that he is an ex-con, despite the fact that took money from corporations that had conned people out of money and returned it to the victims. With very few options he takes a job from his former cell-mate and after some planning breaks into a house and steals a strange suit from a safe. In his apartment he puts the suit on and is inexplicably shrunk to the size of a bug. A voice in the suit’s helmet informs him that he is about to be tested to see how he handles being in the suit.
During this time, we also learn that Pym has formed his own company after leaving Shield and is horrified to learn that his former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is close to perfecting the Ant-Man technology, which Pym (Michael Douglas as he looks now) still maintains is far too dangerous to be allowed to exist in the world.
After Lang returns to his normal size, he panics and tries to return the suit. He is then arrested and thrown in jail by Paxton. The suit is brought to him by ants, and he is given the opportunity to escape from the cell. He does escape and finally meets Hank Pym in person who tells him that he set a trail of breadcrumbs for Lang to follow because Pym wants him to become the new Ant-Man, Lang agrees but has to contend with learning how to communicate with his greatest allies (the ants) and Pym’s formerly estranged daughter who doesn’t see why she cannot be the one to don the suit.
Right, not I have to say this right off the bat, this film has a concept which is laugh out loud ridiculous…a man that shrinks to the size of an insect leading an army of ants with various devices attacked to them (I am dead serious, that is something that happens) and because his molecules are closer together, his body is denser, and therefore his strength increases immensely. I lost track of the amount of times I laughed, and I wasn’t laughing at the funny moments (of which there are many), I was laughing at how truly stupid this concept actually is. Fortunately for everyone concerned this film keeps its tongue so far in its cheek it is in danger of burrowing through to the other side.
First off Paul Rudd, he is simply a joy to behold as the man who becomes Ant-Man, it is a bit of a shame that clips seen in the trailers in which he tells people that he hates the name and wants to change it are not in the film’s final cut. He obviously knows how silly the concept is but decides to just have some fun with it and I have to say that he oozes charm and charisma having a great on screen presence. Naturally he struggles to understand why Pym has chosen him, and why he allowed Lang to steal the suit in the first place…however starts to realise that he can use the suit to make a real difference in order to “become the man [his daughter] already thinks he is”
I like the chemistry between him and Douglas, two great actors bounce off each other superbly with Douglas as the world weary Pym who’s creation cost him his wife, his daughter, and all he wants to do is to put the genie he unleashed back into the bottle.
Lilly is alright as Pym’s daughter but her character arc is no different to a thousand others, she is estranged from her father, refers to him by his first name and knows that he has not told her the truth of how her mother died. Of course as the film goes on she reconciles with him, learns the truth about her death (…fuck knows why he just didn’t tell her the truth to begin with…) and after starting off hating Lang starts to…kind of fall for him I guess…they share a kiss at the end which does really come out of nowhere. Yes they have a heart to heart in her car but aside from a moment when she is watching him tend to some sparring wounds on his well muscled torso she never really does anything to indicate that she is becoming attracted to him.
The villain is a little pointless, obviously the film needs one, and here it is the protégé of Pym who wants to develop the Ant-Man technology. He has developed his own micro-suit but so far has been unable to shrink a human to go inside the suit, the film establishes that Cross’ mind is being effected by a chemical called the Cross Particle (required to shirk a subject) that is driving him insane. Surely this means that Cross is a victim. Just like when the Hulk was affected by Scarlet Witch in Age of Ultron and attacks a city, no one from the Avengers blames Banner or Hulk because he has had something done to him that was beyond his control. Crazy people don’t know they are crazy. I get that Cross’ ambition has lead him further down the dark path that Pym turned back from but still they could have made more of an effort to humanize him rather than making him just the “bad-guy” that Lang will have to deal with. I know the whole duel personality thing has been done to death but there is really no attempt to make him anything other than the villain looking to cash-in on the Yellowjacket. I think Forrest Gump’s Mum said it best “There’s only so much money a man really needs, the rest is just for showing off” so why do men and woman that control billion dollar companies was more money?? What are they going to do, buy another mansion?? Or perhaps they want to create a money bin like Scrooge McDuck to go swimming around in??
During the film numerous objects are also enlarged, including Thomas the Tank Engine, but at no point does anyone establish why Lang doesn’t use the suit to take on a humungous form and simple walk over to Pym’s company crushing it into dust destroying Cross’ research into the Yellowjacket. Personally I think that the reason they don’t do this is because they say that shrinking someone moves their molecules closer together, thereby making them denser and stronger, so presumably if someone got bigger, their molecules would get further apart making them less dense and therefore weaker. I don’t know for sure and apparently in the comics Lang can use the suit to make himself huge if he wants to, so perhaps this is something they are saving for the sequel.
Now I am on the complaints train I also have to ask, what makes Lang so special??
Yes he is a crook with a heart, but in the same way that Thor’s hammer recognises someone worthy to wield it by granting them power why was Captain America, a man who ditched a plane in the ocean believing he would die in the process to prevent multiple nuclear weapons from decimating cities across the United States less worthy than a mortal who offered to sacrifice himself to save a small American town??
The point that I am trying to make is why does Pym not create a suit for Captain America to wear?? Or a dedicated police officer who has devoted his life to saving and protecting innocent people?? Yes, I get that the suit can be used to destroy the world but surely in the right hands the technology could be used to do great acts of good too, every technology could potentially be twisted to do something it was not intended to do, a Lunar Lander being used as a lifeboat when Apollo 13 “[had] a problem” or a CAT scanner being used to stop a Terminator in Terminator Genisys are just a couple of examples off the top of my head of two pieces of technology being used for something other than their intended purpose.
There are always going to bad people who try to weaponise something that was intended to be used for peaceful purposes, does that mean that such technologies should not be used to help people because some asshole is going to use them as a weapon?? Couldn’t Pym have built a kill switch into his suit that was so interlinked with the way the suit worked that it would not function without it, thus giving him the ability to kill any suit at any time if they are used for something he doesn’t approve of??
Plus I have said it time and time again during these reviews that trailers can be both good and bad, and not surprisingly our heroes spend the entire film trying to stop Cross developing his version of the Ant-Man suit, the Yellowjacket, and whilst Cross struggles to shrink organic life you know that he is going to wind up in the suit to fight Lang in the climax. It would have been obvious anyway but guess what…yep…the trailer shows us moments from the fight sequence between the two. So you know Cross will succeed and you know he is going to end up in the suit for the final battle.
I know I have talked about a fair few negative things but personally I think a film can be carried on charisma alone. I saw Pirates of the Caribbean The Curse of the Black Pearl three times in three days because I enjoyed Johnny Depp’s performance as Captain Jack so much.
I think that here the concept is beyond ridiculous but it did not stop me enjoying the film and even though Ant-Man is a late entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe it is a welcomed addition that is dripping with references to the other films. Lang even tells Pym to call the Avengers to deal with Cross rather than trying to do everything himself, and at one point Lang has an encounter with one of the Avengers. The fight sequence between the two does justice to both of the characters without one out shining the other one which could very easily have happened.
All in all I enjoyed Ant-Man and what more can you really ask from a film. I liked it and would be quite happy to share another stand alone adventure with Scott Lang aka Ant-Man although judging by the post credits scene we might be seeing him in Captain America Civil War. Oh yes, there are two scenes after the credits start to roll, one mid-credits and one post-credits scene.
As I sit here at my console writing this review my memories of the film are fresh, and the jokes are still funny, perhaps with a subsequent viewing when the jokes are no longer funny my opinion will drop (like it did of Blade Trinity) but for the moment I am more than happy to give Ant-Man a Thumbs Up.
7/10 – The villains are clichéd and the estranged child reuniting with their parent has been done over and over and over again, fortunately the screen presence of Douglas and the charm of Rudd as the criminal in over his head make this a great fun film. If you can stand how completely and utterly stupid and ridiculous the film’s premise is then you should have some fun checking this out.