Marvel Studios have garnered quite the rep when it comes to risk taking…
Be it the initial hiring of Robert Downey Jr to making a moody talking racoon a star, they seem to relish challenging themselves when it comes to making ridiculous things not only work, but to be embraced.
Ant-Man looked to be a step too far.
Despite being an original Avenger back in the comics Ant-Man has always been barely C-list, each wearer of the mantel more disaster prone than the last. A read through of the (to date) 3 Ant-Men’s personal problems reads like a who’s who of a Jeremy Kyle special. Domestic abuse, depression, schizophrenia, drug dependency, theft, sex addiction… Not exactly prime material for Disney to market to kids.
Plus then there’s all the hoo-hah that happened behind the scenes, director walk outs, script rewrites… It’s no wonder everyone was touting Marvels diminutive ant rider as their first flop.
Which is a shame, because Ant-Man is actually pretty damn good.
So how did Marvel pull THIS one off?…
It’s actually pretty simple. Keep it simple. That and stick to tested formula like glue.
Despite being the film to close out the studio’s “Phase II” of movies, Ant-Man feels very “Phase I” (and luckily not Phase IV, which is an old 70’s movie about killer ants and therefore the geekiest in-joke reference I have ever made).
Redemption seeking hero, elder mentor, wacky team of hangers on, simplistic villain, slap stick training montage, literally EVERYONE cracking wise, it’s all there. And while the familiarity does ease you into the film and it’s out-there concepts nicely, it does mean that the first half an hour of the story is fairly unremarkable.
And then about a third of way through, a sizable up-shift happens…
While spoiling as little as I can, we come upon a scene requiring ex- thief and trainee hero Scott Lang to steal a little something from an old Stark Industries warehouse. Only it’s not an old Stark Industries warehouse anymore, it’s now housing a rather famous group of people. And one them is home…
The scene is simply fantastic and gives the film the boot up the arse it needs as it then literally rockets all the way through to the end flinging spills and thrills every which way.
The shrinking stuff is awesome making the fight scenes and set pieces legitimately original with a fun sense of slap stick about proceedings. Plus this film could be the greatest positive press for ants you’ve ever seen since A Bug’s Life. They are so ADORABLE!!! I’m not saying it’s gonna do for ants what Babe did for pigs, but watching these little buggers aid Lang in his hiests is an utter kick.
Also and somewhat oddly enough, due to all the size changing, the movie has quite a large depth of field, actually making Ant-Man the first movie in bloody ages I would actively suggest going to see in 3D.
There’s no real need to mention the (excellent) cast as Marvel have always hired smart, but a special mention really needs to go out to Michael Peña, whose overexcited (possibly savant) buddy character steals the show (his motormouthed speech montages are a genuine comedy highlight of the year).
In closing, this isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff here, but fun is fun and this is an absolute ton of it.
Finally, any Marvel junkies will be well served (but thankfully not over stuffed) by the usual teasers and references to the bigger universe. Think Guardians Of The Galaxy level of name dropping, e.g. rich, yet not distracting. And stay around until the end of the credits (of course) to get some skinny on a certain upcoming war that’s gonna be anything but civil.
Lack of size matters.