Paint by numbers superhero heist film that will have you laughing in the aisles.
As more and more Marvel content saturates our lives, there is a growing audience that wants to see the crack in their armour. Ant-Man seemed like the one step too far for a company that continues to build a cinematic universe that is diverse while centrally focused. Ant Man like Guardians Of The Galaxy is a relatively unknown commodity in the mainstream but unlike the 2014 juggernaught, the film rests on the back of one man. Ant Man took a similar comedic tone as GOTG and was in many ways quite similar. Maybe too similar.
Ant-Man sees Scott Lang take on the shrinking lead character as he returns from inside San Quentin to a world not inviting to an ex-con. With visitation of his young daughter held against him, Lang looks to return to crime to make ends meet but it intercepted by Hank Pym, the original Ant Man. Pym enlists Lang to help him steal some technology which threatens the security of the world. Business as usual at Marvel then. Alongside Lang and Pym we have a team made up of a hard edged brunette, a wise cracking side kick, a computer whiz and another guy, who can apparently drive. Mixed in with the heist plot we have a slew of Marvel cinematic cameos and references which will have even a passing fan excited.
The problem with Ant-Man is that it’s been done before. The heist movie is a classic hollywood genre by now, from The Great Train Robbery to The Italian Job to Ocean’s 11, it’s been done, but never as a superhero film. So here we have 2 paint by numbers concepts being splashed together and it very rarely is more than the sum of its parts. We know the superhero origin story beats by now, we know the heist beats and Ant-Man hits all of them predictably. We hit lots of the same character tropes as well, the mastermind professor (Erik Selvig, Professor X) and the hard edged female (Black Widow, Pepper Potts, Agent Carter, Gamora) being the most glaring. Many comic books do follow the same beat points and as we see more films taken from graphic novel origins there is likely to be crossover, but as we saw last year in The Winter Soldier, Marvel can combine genres to make something amazing.
The star of the show here is the comedy, both Paul Rudd and Michael Pena are knock out funny. A hilarious script mixed with perfect timing sees every single joke land and a truly delightful experience being in the cinema. Pena has never been high on my radar as a comedic talent but steals the screen every time he is up there. Rudd has been a comedic talent for years, his turns in I Love You Man, The 40 year Old Virgin and even 2014’s polarising They Came Together have shown him to be one of the most charismatic likable and hilarious actors working. The idea of being able to see Rudd and Chris Pratt share the screen in future Marvel films is delicious. Ant-Man is funny from the first second till the last and will warrant repeat views as a result.
Ant-Man is far from a failure, it is a competent film that is truly hilarious and will continue to hold Marvel as the untouchable movie studio of the new millennium. However fatigue is starting to set in, we are seeing repetition that threatens to derail the genre like it happened to action and horror and so many other genres before they were reimagined and revitalised. And this is all before DC has really started rolling out their universe. Ant-Man is more than worth a watch, it will exceed most people’s expectations, but at the end of the day it doesn’t hit the same overall joys of other films this year.