Great things come in small packages, or so my girlfriend always tries to tell me, and Marvel’s latest venture is perhaps its riskiest yet. Everyone knows Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and The Hulk. They’re the cool ones, the A-list heroes, and they can prop up some of the lower tier folks too. We all love Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Scarlet Witch, but they’re not in the cultural zeitgeist the way the main team are.
Poor Ant Man then. Poor Hank Pym. The original diminutive hero was one of the founding members of The Avengers, and he was the bloke that created Ultron, you know, of Age of… fame. So why no Hank Pym, why no Ant Man until now? One of Marvel’s darkest and most nuanced heroes finally comes to the big screen… in their funniest film yet. Yes, it seems they can literally do no wrong at all. Well, except for that Black Widow toy debacle.
Ant Man stars rugged, comedic every man Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a cat burglar fresh out of the slammer and wanting to do right by his daughter and ex-wife. It’s just a shame he can’t hold down a job even at Dunkin Donuts. That one more job motif rears its ugly head as his criminal friends try to drag him back in for the big score. Break into some big shot scientist’s house, crack a safe, and steal the goodies inside. Easy, right?
Except that the big score happens to be one Ant Man suit, belonging to a certain Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). From there, we get a terrific spin on the typical noob to superhero montage with a trial by fire thrown into the mix. Evangeline Lily joins the cast as Hope Van Dyne, Pym’s estranged daughter who thinks she should have the suit for herself. Corey Stoll takes on villain duties as Darren Cross; a former protégé of Pym’s who is trying to copy his hidden research into shrinking and the creation of the Pym Particle. He’s working on his own creation, the Cross Particle, and through some waffly pseudoscience, it’s driving him nuts too. As well as melting lambs.
Lang starts off in prison and somewhat on the fringes of society, but the film proceeds to go well out of its way to explain how he’s really just a nice guy who has made some bad choices. It takes away some of the edge of the character, and really stinks of the sort of moral whitewashing we saw in Guardians of the Galaxy, where every member of the team goes from lifelong “A-holes” to saints within a matter of days. Paul Rudd is likeable no matter what he does, and as a slightly more hardened crook, he’d still be a decent guy to root for. In saying that, the heroic figures in Ant Man are slightly more three dimensional than you’d expect. It’s a shame then that the villain, Yellow Jacket, is so dull. Then again, origin story goons usually are, as they get in the way of those sweet power discovery montages we love so well.
Ant Man contains more overt nods to the wider Marvel universe than we’ve ever seen in an origin tale, and it truly feels part of this shared universe, rather than a series of in jokes for fans to pump their fists at. It’s great to see one of the New Avengers cross over for a cameo in a hilarious fight scene.
Speaking of which, the action in Ant Man is top notch. The shrink and grow powers of the Pym Particle make for incredible fight scenes on a - pardon the pun - small scale, and it frequently cuts from the epic story beats back to a moment that just revels in the stupidity of it all. It also features the best Thomas the Tank Engine cameo you’re ever likely to see. We stay with Rudd in the suit a lot, without ever having that infuriating Tony Stark style in-helmet camera that makes you feel like Downey is just standing in front of a green screen for the entire filming process. The action keeps a foot just enough in the real world versus CGI to keep you interested, and even with CG ants roaming all over the place, the scenes focusing on them are absolutely fantastic.
What’s great is seeing the different approaches to the powers of the suit from Pym to Lang. Lang names his ants and treats them like friends. It’s interesting to see the abilities nuanced by the characters and interchangeable with a suit. It’s a spin on Marvel superpowers we haven’t seen on the screen yet. Ant Man is also very much about men and their daughters, and Ant Man, both in Lang and Pym form, are the first potential Avengers who have a family besides from Hawkeye, and we all remember how sweet his family were in Ultron.
It might enrage you by this point that Marvel can’t seem to make a mistake, but if that’s the case then you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like success, and we don’t need that sort of negatively on this blog. Ant Man is heartfelt, hilarious, and action packed. The perfect follow up to the heavy and hefty Ultron, it’s a small story on a small scale with a big heart, and introduces the wonderful Anthony, a noble ant who is brave, loyal, and judging by his wings, probably a she.