Ant-Man

Director: Peyton Reed (2015)

Marvel Comics’ inch-high superhero springs into action but comes up short in this action heist caper.

After a difficult and rushed production, it arrives in cinemas labouring under a weak script, some surprisingly mediocre SFX and a mistaken if unwavering faith in the charisma of it’s leading man Paul Rudd.

What’s most impressive about Ant-Man is it manages to crawl to a conclusion despite the obstacles of bottomless plot holes and boulder sized inconsistencies strewn in it’s path.

This is busy, forgettable and easily the weakest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Genius inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has created an Ant-Man suit. But after initial success he buried the research after a fatal accident.

He also discovered prolonged exposure to the suit’s active agent – the Pym Particle – causes psychological imbalance.

A beauty of steam punk design, the suit shrinks the wearer to ant sized dimensions while offering super strength.

It also seems to bestow a super leaping power and an imperviousness to injury.

Pym has also created a device to control ants giving the tiny warrior an airborne army to command.

However his former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is now a corporate boss and intends to use Pym’s technology to create a more powerful Ant-suit called Yellowjacket.

Cross wants to make a fortune selling Yellowjacket to evil military interests.

So Pym recruits cat burglar Scott Lang (Rudd) to use the Ant-suit to break into the highly guarded lab to steal back his data.

Lang is a pacifist do-gooder who’s estranged from his cute-button daughter and is short of cash.

Despite being more than qualified, Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) is not best pleased at being overlooked for the dangerous mission.

Lily is mostly required to stand and stare. She’s allowed to punch Rudd in the face but is generally employed to look pretty and be the recipient of Rudd’s ‘charm’.

As her onscreen dad, Douglas is cinema’s most action-orientated tweed-wearing elderly professor since Dr Jones Senior.

The former Oscar winner manfully does what he can with the material.

Even at full size Rudd is an anonymous leading man, mugging his way through scenes.

He can’t blame the script after he contributed a great deal to it. He does award himself an undeserved kiss.

It’s unsurprising Rudd is absent from the best scene. It occurs early doors where a younger Pym (an effectively CGI’d Douglas) faces off to an aged Howard Stark and Agent Carter (John Slattery and Hayley Atwell).

Rudd’s only saving grace is that he isn’t Ryan Reynolds, an actor even more forgettable who is unfathomably presented with leading roles.

Reynolds has been gifted the lead in X-Men spin-off Deadpool (2015) – this after being awful as DC’s Green Lantern (2011).

Stoll is kinda playing the Jeff Bridges role in Iron Man (2008) but lacks the big man’s roaring presence.

He can’t generate sufficient evil intent even when literally leading lambs to the slaughter.

In extremely minor parts the excellent actors Bobby Cannavale and Judy Greer scowl and scold to order.

The action scenes are dull fights or concerned with Ant-Man being flushed along drainpipes or falling from heights.

They are parallel redemption tales of father’s reconnecting with their daughters.

But the film runs shy of engaging with it’s emotional core, possibly for fear of alienating its teenage boy fan base with icky feelings.

So it undercuts potentially tender scenes with Rudd’s gurning face, reducing our engagement.

Ant-Man experienced a difficult and eventually rushed production.

After working on a script since 2003, original director Edgar Wright – Shaun of the Dead (2004) – and co-writer Joe Cornish – Attack the Block (2011) – were jettisoned in May 2014 prior to principal photography.

Creative differences were cited and the pair were replaced on writing duties by Rudd and Adam McKay, Rudd’s director on Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004).

Peyton Reed was dropped in as director and briefed to make the film conform more neatly to the Marvel movie template.

His most recent directorial effort was the weak but appropriately named Jim Carrey comedy Yes Man (2008).

Moments of Wright’s trademark zippy writing remain. So does his love of British pop culture in the form of Thomas the Tank Engine in a seemingly Hornby train advertisement-inspired set-piece.

Plus his deconstructive tendencies are apparent in Lang’s inept accomplices Luis, Kurt and Dave (Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian, Tip Harris).

They are respectively hispanic, Russian and black. Each are so typically reductive of unthinking Hollywood, it suggests Wright intended to use his sly wit to invert their behaviour and our expectations.

Sadly non of this happens because in Reed’s pliant corporate hands all subtlety and irony is lost.

The trio remain un-amusing ethnic stereotypes played for broad and laughter-free comedy.

It’s interesting Russian sits alongside hispanic and black as an ethnic ‘other’ in Hollywood eyes.

More entertaining and/or interesting films featuring tiny protagonists are The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Innerspace (1987) and Honey I Shrunk The Kids (1989).

Them! (1954) and Antz (1998) offer larger amounts ant-related fun.

The best Marvel movies are expertly constructed entertainments who reach beyond their comic origins and core audience – but Ant-Man lacks ambition or wit and prefers to pander to its fan base of teenage boys.

It’s one good joke features British children’s character Thomas the Tank Engine – so if you’ve seen the trailer there’s no need to watch this.

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