‘Ant-Man’ offers bite-sized fun
By Adam Tatelman, Staff Writer
Ever since his debut in the comic series Tales to Astonish, Ant-Man’s been riding on the shoulders of the Avengers. He’s always been there. You just never saw him. Now it’s the intrepid insectonaut’s turn to carry the Marvel Studios torch in his own film, Ant-Man.
Superhero films no longer land in a genre of their own, but filter other genres through their stories. For example, Captain America does spy fiction and Thor does epic fantasy. This time around, Ant-Man takes on the grand heist storyline, fuelled by a special effects budget funded by previous Avengers films.
Diverging from the romantic comedy genre, Paul Rudd brings his average-Joe charm to the role of Scott Lang, a down-on-his-luck ex-con who struggles to pay child support in order to visit his daughter. He ends up caught in a generational power struggle after he inadvertently steals long-hidden technology invented by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a reclusive former captain of industry whose successor, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), is trying to copy and sell the technology to military contractors.
Lang and Pym set out to stop Cross, treating audiences to comedic spins on all the typical heist tropes of planning, training, and execution. The two misguided men who want to protect their daughters have some effective scenes together.
Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) has some old wounds to sort out with her dad, which gets a little melodramatic. There is some sins-of-the-father bitterness between Pym and Cross, but it doesn’t get enough screen time to emulate the palpable hostility that Tony Stark and Obadiah Stane had in the original Iron Man.
There are indirect references to Pym’s shrinking technology causing brain damage to Cross, but they are clumsily made and reek of bad editing or rewrites. The final act moves way too fast to feel impactful and reaches its resolution through foreshadowing (“Don’t mess with the regulator! You’ll go subatomic!”Pym warns) that’s only slightly more obvious than Egon’s ominous “Don’t cross the streams” warning from Ghostbusters. Then again, Ant-Man has been going through rewrites since 2006, so none of these issues are surprising.
Following in the zany, tongue-in-cheek footsteps of Guardians of the Galaxy, the subtle comedic foreshadowing of Ant-Man far surpasses the plot it’s attached to. Cut-away sight gags make way for over-the-top slapstick humour as the pacing builds, blatantly poking fun at overproduced CGI carnage that’s typical in the Marvel Universe by wreaking similar havoc on a microscopic scale. The final battle takes place on a child’s model train set, so it’s pretty clear this was never intended to be a serious drama.
Ant-Man is burdened by a predictable façade, but you have to embrace its imperfections in order to enjoy a fun-sized world of laughs.