Marvel’s Phase 2 has come to an end with Peyton Reed’s highly-anticipated Ant-Man. After all the pre-production hysteria (here’s looking at you, Edgar Wright!) that surrounded it, the Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas-starring ant-inspired spectacle raised a lot of eyebrows amongst the Marvel fandom.
Joining the superhero ranks of demi-gods, flamboyant billionaires and frozen war-vets comes anti-hero Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), expert cat burglar and Robin Hood wannabe. Following a stint in prison after a high-profile burglary of a morally corrupt former employer, Lang – now free but very much unemployable – is approached by scientist Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), to the dismay of his formerly estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), to take part in a world-saving heist in an attempt to stop Pym’s former prodigy, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), replicating his potentially dangerous ant suit and selling it on to the highest (and expectedly evil) bidder.
Prison escapades, father-daughter issues, custody battles, and numerous Avengers references… along with the whole ant-suit-wearing plot itself, there’s plenty to ram into the two hours of this busy, dubiously-paced spectacle. Like Age of Ultron before it, with so much explanation needed and so little time, things do get a little lost within the sheer scope of it all.
There’s certainly issues with Peyton’s venture into the Marvel Universe, but on the flip-side there’s still much to enjoy. Among all the backstory telling, cool-looking ant escapades, villainous goings-on, and lip-lick-inducing Avengers snippets, The Break-Up director, with the help of a strong cast, manages to intertwine enjoyable action sequence with well-timed (and occasionally brilliantly musical) jokes at the drop of a giant Thomas the Tank engine smashing through your ex-wife’s roof.
The ever-lovable Paul Rudd’s comedic chops played off well against Douglas’s straight-edged display, while Michael Peña’s Luis – Lang’s best friend, former cell-mate, and somewhat clichéd bumbling Latino ex-con – is the film’s actual comedy linch-pin and the starting point for several of Ant-Man’s funniest moments. Cross – though playing the thoroughly stereotypical balding baddie – grew from over-bearing protagonist into an enjoyable (and ultimately convincing) prodigy-turned-paranoid-crazy-guy cinematic villain.
As superhero origin stories go, Ant-Man can hold its minuscule, insect-based head high against the Thor’s and Iron Man’s of this crazy cinematic world. Fun-filled, action-packed, but never over-awed, Paul Rudd’s charm and Michael Douglas’s stern-faced act leaves this new Avenger in mighty good stead for the future.