Ant-Man review: super downsize me

After the bombast of ‘Age of Ultron’, this lo-fi Marvel release is as enjoyably laid-back as its amiable star, Paul Rudd, though the pleasures are decidedly small of scale

This week, Donald reviews crime thriller True Story and Tara looks at lo-fi Marvel movie Ant-Man. Plus, Donald speaks to the director and producer of Pixar’s Inside Out. Video: Kathleen Harris

Film Title: Ant Man

Director: Peyton Reed

Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll

Genre: Action

Running Time: 117 min

Thu, Jul 16, 2015, 19:29

   

He may be small, but all eyes are on Ant-Man. The final film in “Phase 2”, according to Marvel Studio-speak, arrives at a moment when The Avengers: Age of Ultron has fallen just short of its predecessor’s box- office take (gasp in horror): $1,388,538,846 compared with The Avengers’ $1,518,594,910. That’s hardly chickenfeed, though it does hint at a tipping point.

Could it be that Marvel is waning just as Warner Bros’ DC output goes serial and interconnected with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Or – whisper it – might we be all superheroed out just as a certain other Force is, as it says on the tin, Awakening?

The plot thickens. Ant-Man has weathered a “troubled” production history before scuttling its way to a google- plex near you. In May 2014, Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright (who had been attached since 2006, co-writing a screenplay with Joe Cornish) “exited” the project in favour of romance-director Peyton Reed (Down to You, The Break-Up), to the strains of much gnashing and wailing from the “comic book community”.

Interestingly, two of the three best sequences in Ant-Man rework the old Edgar Wright-Simon Pegg two-step of capering with voiceover and scene-setting, as the hero’s former cellmate Lang (Michael Peña, terrific) outlines a cast-iron heist which, of course, isn’t at all cast-iron.

Trailer

Elsewhere, notwithstanding a neat final showdown in a child’s nursery – it takes far too long for the film to be Honey, I Shrunk the KidsAnt-Man feels a bit off and a bit insect-sized.

Size matters. Who knew?

Ant-Man is a smaller Marvel production, made for the market price of 2.3 Robert Downey Jr appearances. The film’s low-key sensibility takes cues from its laid-back leading man, Paul Rudd. It’s a nice idea, and it worked for RDJ, but in practice the film is transcendental-meditation low-key and just too damned nice.

Rudd’s Scott Lang/Ant-Man is the sweetest ex-con in the world, a veritable saint whose Robin Hood-style crimes have estranged him from his beloved ex-wife and cutesy-pie daughter. He is, moreover, surrounded by other good-natured ex-cons (Bobby Cannavale, et al), who are each more charming and twinkling than the last.

Ant-Man sparks into life when the lovable criminal gang is on-screen. Sadly, this does not amount to a great deal of the run time. Criminally, Ant-Man wastes Michael Douglas as Scott’s mentor, Hank Pym. And, worse, it gets entirely mired in a romantic subplot between Scott and Pym’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly).

Hope is emblematic of all that is overcooked in Ant-Man. The character is simultaneously everything – tough chick, corporate suit, estranged daughter, potential superhero in waiting – and nothing at all.

Stay tuned through the end credits, when product X will feature preview of product X2 and additional preview of product Y3.