After both the colossal size and success of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel and Disney now return with their second annual contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the form of Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man. Originally the project remained a labour of love for British writers Edgar Wright and the lesser known – but equally promising – Joe Cornish, before both men left the project. The story remains their own, according to the movie’s credits, but their screenplay went on to be altered by Adam McKay and lead actor Paul Rudd following their departure and Reed’s arrival. The Ant-Man that’s made it to our screens feels like a faint ghost of the film Wright and Cornish envisioned, a shell that still maintains a certain charm; reflecting this cinematic adaptation’s humble roots. I speculate, of course. Regardless of who should be blamed for the film’s faults and who should be praised for its redemptions, Ant-Man obviously suffers from too many cooks. It’s refreshing to see Marvel attempt a simplistic heist movie; a welcome move away from the “amps to eleven” intensity and hysteria of their sequel to The Avengers. Bravely small-scale, in more ways than one, Ant-Man has a whole host of admirable qualities but ultimately struggles with a far too obvious identity crisis due to a lack of one clear, central voice during its development stages.
When the scientific discoveries of Dr. Hank Pym fall into the wrong hands, he must employ a talented cat-burglar, Scott, to help him steal back his findings. Armed with a suit that allows him to decrease in size but grow in physical strength, Scott must learn from Pym and his daughter Hope in order to become a minute weapon in a risky heist. Both men are not only trying to save the world from a new form of dangerous weaponry but are also on a mission to salvage a relationship with their daughters. The film’s impressive, action packed visuals don’t gel too well with the manipulative, sickly-sweet family exchanges. Meanwhile Paul Rudd has been forced into a rigid, uncomfortable mould of ‘nice guy’ Chris Pratt and doesn’t seem to be trusted to deliver his own unique take on funny and charming. Clunky dialogue and exposition feebly bind all of the above like second-hand, sticky-less sticky-tape. There are laughs to be had but not nearly as many as we’d hoped. Michael Douglas comes on-screen only to rescue Rudd who’s drowning in an ocean of vanilla – trapped in some kind of bland straight-jacket that the stale script’s limitations have forced him into. Evangeline Lilly doesn’t have enough to do and Corey Stoll provides us with a terribly forgettable and clichéd villain. Despite an abundance of problems, Ant-Man is still charismatic and enjoyable – getting the balance right between referencing the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has gone before and boldly stepping out onto new, simplistic ground. A soothing come-down from Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man will never be the film we wanted it to be since Wright and Cornish exited. It’s like a temporary rebound that was fun at the time but regretted come morning. Watching Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man cruelly reaffirms what we’ve been forced to settle for. Michael Peña and his irritating Mexican stereotype struts around before you, nothing but a painful reminder of what Cornish and Wright could have done with Ant-Man, the one that got away.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.