This review is not for spoilers, for cameo details, for post-credit scenes. You want those? Go here. Or actually see the film on its release in just over a week.
Ant-Man is a family film, in both senses of the word. You’ll get a couple of shits, but that’s all – and I’m not talking about the kids you brought with you. There is no sexuality to speak of really. And what violence there is, is generally stylised, cartoony and, frankly wondrous. Those who thought Jurassic World was too much – and it was – should have fewer issues here.
Not that there aren’t mature ideas, there are. The film is about two families, the Pyms and the Langs, who have nothing to connect them save idealism, and both have fallen foul of it. Hank Pym who lost his wife and then figuratively lost his daughter then also lost his company. Scott Lang lost his freedom, his marriage and self respect as a father.
So Scott, a prisoner in San Quentin, after defrauding a corporate company of the very money they defrauded from their customers, Scott Lang is an Occupy Robin Hood who can’t catch a break or get any visitation rights until he can pay maintenance. His young daughter Cassie utterly loves him but his wife has moved on and what’s more they are both living with a cop.
Hank Pym needs a man for an inside job against Cross, a man he once treated like his son. But won’t risk his daughter. And Scott will risk everything for the chance to be with his daughter again. And maybe find a brand new family as well…
But what about the ants?
Well, the ants are pretty great and knock every other shrinking film of this type, even though there is a nod to feeding ants droplets of water from Honey I Shrunk The Kid. But they look great, and they are treated as soldiers, as tanks, and with the Carpenter Ants, as helicopters, the beat of their wings audibly replicating the whirr of windblades, and performing extractions straight out of Vietnam movies. It’s an attitude mirrored in a scene where Ant-Man is being shot at, repeatedly, and it plays out like someone running across No Man’s Land in World War One. And that’s what probably makes this film distinct.
Because this is a superhero movie. It is also a heist movie. It is also a war movie. It is eve also a Western. And it also a comedy, with thankfully more of the slapstick coming in towards the end, as the differences in the small and large world get contrasted for comic effect. Those are the pieces I think people are going to most remember and be grateful that they saw.
But certain key scenes are set up, teased and foreshadowed so much that I might as well spoil them here as you’ll be able to guess them the moment the first thing happens. It gets really obvious in what the eye is drawn to. It didn’t make me feel clever, it made the film seem dumber.
As for the 3D, I’m generally pretty 3D-phobic, but once my brain settle in, I wasn’t thrown out of it constantly as I was in Age Of Ultron. The 3D here is mostly handles responsibly and with purpose, as Paul Jenner said in the introduction, letting you shrink alongside Ant-Man. So you see the wide vistas, the differences in scale and are immersed in them before you are ripped out to see things from a macro perspective. Time after time, that works a treat.
Some logic flaws did jump out. An imperfect shrinking device that turns organic material to goop would make a rather nifty weapon right there, it could be sold to SHIELD as-is. Hell you could weaponise the shrinking process to attack the enemy by shrinking their tanks, buildings, cities away to nothing. Also the Yellowjacket suit looks like it could go up against Iron Man full sized. There is te suggestion of chemical imbalance but for Darren Cross, a villain who shows all sorts of smarts not usually associated with his type, he’s not looking at the big picture.
And of course, as you’d expect some very dodgy science that gets steamrolled over in favour of some damn fine scenes. But there is something missing.
There are very large Edgar Wright shaped holes in the film. Parts of the original screenplay which you feel were intended for Edgar to perform some of his more entertaining director pirouettes. Going into the kitchen to fetch a number of utensils and turn on the gas feels emptier when you think how he did that kind of thing in Hot Fuzz. One feels that a children’s party under his watch would have, well, more children. Doing unspeakable things. And the scene when Scott Lang is picked up from jail by a cohort and is driven home seems to be a reference from the video asking why people don’t use direction in comedy films to be funny.
Because, yes, much of the comedy in this film, is not visual. There are exceptions, the cut shot to Baskins & Robbins, the repeated motif of someone telling a story of what other people said, as we see those other people lipsynching to the narrator’s voice, even if much has changed in the telling, and then certain aspects of the final scenes that seen cribbed directly from The Lego Movie. And good, they were great there and they are great here.
But for much of Ant-Man, it is filmed straight, people say generally funny things and are sometimes awkward about it. Some way say that may make it a better fit to tell what are basically two stories about fathers and daughters, but I don’t think anyone felt the emotional family relationships in previous Wright films were undersold because of the visual panache. For some, however, this film may be a little easier to swallow. Damn them.
And amidst the big time actors of Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd, familiar faces of Evangeline Lilly and Corey Stoll, all being rather wonderful, I would like to give a special shout out to Michael Pena, who steals the show every time he is on screen as an art-loving motormouth henchman. In many ays, Ant-Man is his film and really hope he capitalises on it.
So that’s what I’m left with. A really fun, action packed film, that’s stands up with the Marvel troop and adds to its eclectic line. I’d put it below Iron Man, Guardians and Avengers but above Winter Soldier. Which I know will just start a whole lot of arguments. And whatever criticisms I have, I have plenty of compliments to match them.
Ant-Man is released in the UK and the USA on 17th July