Friday, 21 August 2015

Ant-Man (2015)

Small Wonder

Director: Peyton Reed
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña, Bobby Cannavale

The latest release from Marvel studios is better known for its behind the scenes troubles than a genuine building of interest in the characters, which is unfortunate. Luckily, Peyton Reed displays a solid handle on the film that will hopefully make him known as more than the Bring It On guy.

After his release from prison, ex-burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) wants to go on the straight and narrow, for his daughter's sake. Unfortunately, his prison sentence prevents anywhere from hiring him, which stops him from seeing his daughter. Scott decides to take a job, breaking into a vault which holds a strange suit. Recruited by retired inventor and superhero Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Scott takes on the guise of Ant-Man. Utilizing the suit, which allows Scott to shrink & communicate with insects, the team must enact a heist, in order to prevent Hank's shrinking technology from falling into the wrong hands.

Sorry for using the obvious gag, but it must be done. The tale of Marvel's diminutive hero is this studios smallest film (sorry again). Instead of a global threat or a mission involving gods, the focus is a heist, with two men and their relationships with their daughters taking centre stage.

Considering it's an origin story, don't be surprised by the generic structure which the film follows. This occurs after a beginning, which rushes to set things up in Hank's past and Scott's backstory. But Reed manages to not let this hurt the overall picture too much, thanks to the control he exhibits.

The shrinking scenes are utilized to thrilling standards, showcasing the obvious answer of what makes this hero unique from others in the MCU. This adds unique settings, as fights take place within a little girls bedroom, and inside a briefcase (with a humorous way to add music to the fight). There's also humorous little touches which stand out, such as a paddle being utilized as a deadly weapon, and Thomas the Tank Engine receiving his best ever cinematic appearance.

"Superman! Wait, wrong Universe"

References to the wider MCU are expected, but rather than them being crammed in ala Iron Man 2 and early Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., they surprisingly fit into the film seamlessly. When informed of the villains plan, Scott's suggestion to call The Avengers feels like a logical answer, while also working as a humorous reference. With this and Daredevil, the MCU references feel more natural and relaxed.

Paul Rudd fits well in the lead role, utilizing charisma and a likeable persona into Scott. The man's motivated by a need to do right by his daughter, and Rudd pulls this off with ease. Michael Douglas is well cast as the original Ant-Man, selling his role as mentor, cynic and over-protective father. His priority is preventing the wrong hands taking hold of his technology, but he never stops trying to mend his relationship with his daughter, Hope.

Played by Evangeline Lily, Hope has a strained relationship with her father, which is related to the fate of her mother. The father/daughter material steps over typical pitfalls, instead delivering genuine emotion thanks to the compelling material. Speaking of daughters, the young Abby Ryder Fortson manages to be an adorable scene-stealer all throughout the picture. Michael Peña gives off good presence, making for memorable support for our lead.

Unfortunately, Corey Stoll's stellar acting cannot help him escape Marvel's less than stellar track record, in regards to their villains. The motivations of his businessman, Darren Cross, appear to touch on a need to be recognised by his mentor, Hank Pym. But this isn't given as much attention, as things fall back on the "He's crazy, because he's the villain" mentality.

There's little sense in imagining what Edgar Wright's version of Ant-Man would have been like, as Peyton Reed's take is the only version we'll get. Luckily, the film has plenty of likeable characters we can enjoy following, a talented cast to bring them to life, a unique take on the action scenes, thanks to the impressive shrinking sequences, and a great sense of humour. Scott Lang's story may not have been as welcomed as other heroes, but at least this film justifies its existence well.

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