Marvel’s most problematic production to date, Ant-Man seemed like it was destined to fail from its conception. After the very public pre-production departure of every fanboy’s favourite director, Edgar Wright – who cited ‘creative differences’ for his parting with the studio – Marvel, and all those involved with Ant-Man, had a gargantuan task to successfully bring one of their lesser known, yet most ludicrous properties to the big-screen.
Last minute re-writes and a change of director were, arguably, the least of the film’s problems, with the main cause of concern surrounding the central concept itself and whether – even at a time where audiences will accept and embrace the most unbelievable of superheroes – a man who can shrink to the size of an ant was one step too far.
However, much like last year’s Guardians of The Galaxy, the Marvel machine have once again proved that not only can they bring their most outrageous ideas to the cinema and sell it to millions of people worldwide, but that these bizzare and frankly silly conceits work better than the much more serious superhero film.
With Ant-Man Marvel have pulled off what seemed like the impossible, and through all the mess of a troubled production, have created one of their most enjoyable and most accessible entries into their franchise so far. After the monotony of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which had so much of the same loud, fighty/crashy action that it left me with a headache, Ant-Man is like the Nurofen that makes it all better – a much needed change of pace in the already tiresome superhero formula.
The concept is still ridiculous, but gloriously so. The perfectly cast Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a former burglar who is trying to get his life back on track after doing time in prison. With child support to pay before he can see his estranged daughter, the temptation to return to a life of crime proves irresistible and he decides to take on a big, safe-cracking job.
Instead of money, all he finds is a suit which sets him on an unexpected path. It belongs to Hank Pym, a scientist who asks Lang to wear the suit and become the Ant-Man. With the ability to shrink, and the added bonus of super-human strength while he’s small, Scott, Hank and his daughter Hope, plan a heist to stop Pym’s technology from falling into the wrong hands.
Reminding me somewhat of childhood favourites such as Innerspace and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids; one of the main reasons Ant-Man works as well as it does is the fact that everybody involved seems to understand just how silly it is, and embraces it. It’s not meant to be taken seriously and is all the better for it, setting out to be nothing more than a hugely fun-packed adventure comedy.
Despite having a number of references to other Marvel films, as well as the cameos we’ve all come to expect, Ant-Man is a much more contained and – forgive the pun – smaller story that benefits greatly from some breathing space away from the now overloaded big budget Avengers movies. Character and narrative invention take precedent over spectacle and the obligatory tie-in scenes to the other movies, are easily the least exciting moments in Ant-Man.
There’s a simplicity to its structure that I love, with a story that revolves around a heist. Since Marvel released Iron Man in 2008, this is the closest they’ve come to replicating the films success, through a linear, character driven blockbuster that perfectly balances action and comedy.
Like Iron Man, Ant-Man has an excellent ensemble too. Perhaps one of Marvel’s biggest achievements is attracting and casting such talented people in each role, some of which are better known than others. The same applies here and everybody from the excellent Michael Douglas – who is just great to see on screen again – to the hilarious Michael Peña, are a joy to watch.
Consistently laugh out loud funny, inventive and exciting, Ant-Man may be small, but it has big laughs and some great action. Whilst we may never know just how different Edgar Wright’s vision would have been, Marvel have miraculously salvaged Ant-Man with a witty script and a talented cast and crew.
I’d expected a flop, but Ant-Man could turn out to be one of this year’s biggest surprises. If the studio continue to take chances on films like Ant-Man, they could very well be the superhero genre’s saving grace. However, with the character’s next appearance due to be in the already jam packed Captain America: Civil War, I won’t hold my breath just yet.
Image credit to http://www.slashfilm.com