Friday, 17 July 2015

Ant-Man

Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.


For many moviegoers whose knowledge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't extend to its second tier pantheon of superheroes, the thought of a microscopic man in a microscopic suit and mask may sound a bit, well, ridiculous. Neither super nor particularly heroic. However, if you don't have Thor's hammer, Captain America resolve or Iron Man know-how, what's an Avenger to do? The answer is: go small and exude a good sense of humour, which is precisely what floats this latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic firmament. Marvel had more to prove with Ant-Man than any other post-Iron Man MCU entry and Phase 2 closer might be the sucker punch few expected this year. In  fact, there never been true classics among human shrinkage wee sub genre, as the format does force filmmakers to visualise the world from a very particular point of view and that never been easy for anyone. After Captain America: The Winter Soldier's conspiracy curves, Ant-Man arrives with a burglar trying to go straight who reverts to crime because the only post-prison job he can get is a McJob. The run time of the movie is well spent on setting fresh character connections. Those links are plotted with satisfying symmetry across a pattern of fathers/children and mentors/protégés.   


Paul Rudd nails it as Scott Lang, he's such a likable addition to the MCU and I absolutely loved his portrayal of the character. This guy brings a sort of average-Joe charm, bringing the film to life with his sharp comic timing, almost like Chis Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) he's smart enough to handle these films with a light touch. Rudd is helped by an ace supporting cast. Having an actor of Douglas' calibre on board lends the film some gravitas to balance the humour. Michael Douglas is fantastic in this movie, not just because it's Michael Douglas and he's a hell of an actor, he's talented and it's nice to see him in a good movie; but they gave Hank Pym such a good back story. His relation with his daughter ads a great depth to this film and took it in the right direction. Douglas resumes his Wall Street-ish mentor mode which ads wrinkly warmth, he sells every line as Hank Pym: this genius who, by the way it must be noted, also fathered Ultron in the comic books canon (in earliest movie he was created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner). Michael Pena is comedy gold, every word coming out from this guy mouth is perfect, he nails every line as well. Yet, the villain is purely a plot devices. He's just a big evil guy who's really good at being evil and like to do evil things, like shrinking lambs without even feeling a shred of guilt. He's not a compelling character. Darren Cross acts stupidly and harshly when things are on the line. He doesn't have the demented grand vision that a major villain should have - Ultron would have him for a snack. 


Marvel was once again able to take a less known, a lot smaller hero and make it as entertaining as this film was, it really paid off. Writer Edgar Wright mostly perfectly captured the comedy/drama/action balance. The story dynamics are fundamentally silly but the action sequences are very well done. The film deals with divorce, estranged fatherhood, societal alienation which sounds more like a Bruce Springsteen song than a Marvel pitch; but the comic relief is judiciously dished out and the first half hour has a lighter hearted approach. The story central conflict does not involve Scott but rather, Pym and his betrayer. This movie understood that it was a smaller movie. It's knowingly small scaled which is alright because heroes are also small scaled sometimes. Visually, the 3D really ads something to the action scenes at least - god knows I'm not a huge fan of 3D. This has to be highlighted as those scenes where Scott shrank down in size, they blurred out the background so deeply do that the focus was solely on this tiny man running around. It worked very well for those sequences.   


Indeed, the action scenes are stunning to look at, the cgi isn't obvious at all, it may be due to the photo realistic aspect of the whole cinematography. Ant-Man isn't perfect. The structure isn't perfectly balanced in the first act. Sometimes it's very funny and sometimes deadly serious. This feels like couple different movies are happening at once. Finally, the comedy prevails in a project that is historically integral to the Marvel map of the world but also seems on the margins of it. I won't spoil anything but I also loved the way it tied into other MCU instalments with references. Marvel did it again. Ant-Man is a lot of fun, I laughed constantly throughout this film. 


Overall Ant-Man is a refreshing proposition, in a super-sized summer, the dinosaurs and Arnie-bots won't know what it them. Reed and Rudd's film, is proof that no matter how silly some ideas might sound at first, good things often do come in small packages.

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