It’s common comic book movie knowledge that Marvel’s tiniest Avenger (in the source material, at least) had big obstacles to get through as soon as it was announced he was going to arrive on screen. Any hero like Ant-Man competing with super soldiers and incredible Hulk’s would struggle, mainly due to the fact that - like when Tony Stark’s cocky metal-plated hero debuted - those uninitiated to the House of Ideas had no idea who he was.
Then Edgar Wright wowed the world with a snippet of what he had in mind, only for it to fall apart when he and the supreme studio didn’t see eye to eye. Still, without making a mountain out of an anthill, plans went ahead with director Peyton Reed taking the reins, instead. Thankfully the choice paid off because even though he might not be the Wright man for the job, he does a grand effort leading the charge of ants that go marching ahead of other solo gigs thanks to Ant-Man’s originality and genuine moments of awe.
Determined to keep this massive world together with every piece it releases, Marvel’s Ant-Man crawls into the cracks of the cinematic universe effortlessly in the first few frames whilst, establishing the history of the hero at the same time. Michael Douglas is Hank Pym, original inventor and wearer of the sought after ensemble who is keen to keep the Ant-Man suit away from dodgy government guys that see its potential in warfare. Pym bails on his business only to learn years later that his protege is close to letting history repeat itself, forcing Pym to enlist someone new to take up the mantle of the Ant and foil the plans for the competition.
Though super-geniuses in specially-powered suits sounds worryingly familiar, Ant-Man shifts into new ground with the arrival of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, turning the superhero film (and the heist movie it becomes) on its head. Centred on a crook with a heart of gold, Lang differs from Marvel’s usual mob as a normal man in a spectacular scenario. Playing more of the stupidly baffled than the bafflingly stupidly sort we’ve seen from him in Anchorman and the like, Rudd keeps the film grounded when it’s brought down to ground level, which is when Ant-Man really comes to life.
With the tools at hand of size-shifting and ant-instructing, the film makes its biggest leaps when Scott is at his smallest. Zipping down to insect size, it’s hard not to be reminded of the likes of The Borrowers or Honey I Shrunk The Kids, and feeling genuine wonder because of it. Credit where its due, Peyton Reed directs these scenes brilliantly, proving that miniature models and battles in back gardens are all he needs. You could risk thinking that this even outshines any scrap Earth’s Mightiest had with Ultron a while back, there’s simply so much more creativity behind it. Bullets fired at Scott drop like bombs and the teased confrontation atop a Thomas the Tank Engine train set is wonderfully orchestrated. One particular highlight if viewed in either IMAX or 3D sees Scott flying through a server room, where the towers may as well be from a futuristic city. It’s both fantastic and familiar at the same time, and none of it feels shoehorned in this growing universe that has gone small for moment, in just the right way.
As fresh as this new addition to the MCU feels though, there’s no denying that it falls at the same hurdle all this studios movies have before. Corey Stoll’s antagonist Darren Cross makes as much impact as any no-good double-crossing guy that’s come before him. His agenda is average, his mark in the scale of things unnoticeable. It may have been a better move for him to switch parts with Bobby Cannavale’s imposing step dad to Scott’s daughter, who also doesn’t feel used as well as he could be.
Thankfully, the weight isn’t all on Rudd’s shoulders with the supporting cast for the A-M-Team there to help save the day. Douglas isn’t as much as the seasoned superhero Hank Pym he could be, but he’s got the mentor gig down just right, and the family friction he has with his on-screen daughter Hope Van Dyne - played by Evangeline Lily - also makes its mark. The real scene stealer in this band of thieves however, is Michael Pena as Scott’s partner in crime Luis, who just like every other time he’s tasked with backing a films front man, delivers plenty. Hollywood, enough is enough now - give that man a leading role, please.
He and the rest of our heist-scheming heroes are characters you immediately attach with, in a world you can’t get enough of. Proving once again, that Marvel are at their best when it comes to their bravest ventures, Ant-Man’s journey to the screen may have had its bugs but the result is a surprisingly entertaining success.