We finally enter the second stage (though not Second Phase) of Marvel’s solo superhero films with Ant-Man, a which sees traditional funny man Paul Rudd turn into one of Marvel’s finest. Let’s make one thing clear to start with: Ant-Man isn’t the usual big ticket hero like Iron-Man or Thor. He’s best utilised in smaller scale mission situations or as a killer piece of the Avengers team utility belt. In just his Ant-Man form he’s a little like Hawkeye – quite the specialist, potentially deadly, but not the most obvious fella to call in to save the day.
The film succeeds when it managed to try and burst out of this straightjacket to show how both in his shrunken and normal physical capacity the Ant-Man is a potentially incredible solo and team fighter. The fight scenes were a great showdown for this, with the battle between the Falcon and Ant-Man as just as if not more interesting that the big ticket fight between Ant-Man and the villain Yellowjacket. Pitting two people with different powers against one another and seeing how both operated made for an interesting and dynamic sequence. By contrast the film lagged with the use of Yellowjacket, aka Darren Cross, as the adversary. Come 2015 we’ve seen an awful lot of Marvel villains, from the much loved Loki, the unforgettable Red Skull to the more lackluster Malekith. We know there’ll be bad guys and as a result we know they all have some kind of issue which makes them the ‘bad-guy’.
Cross’ arc of ‘you scorned me so I tried to do better and became bad’ is purely forgettable. His villainy slotted into a traditional archetype without actually being charming or interesting. Corey Stoll’s a fabulous actor, don’t get me wrong, but without a strong adversary the film begins to fall behind the better Marvel fare. However, the film did manage to have some of the most heart of any of the Marvel films to date bar the Captain America films. Steve Rogers is a man out of time trying to make a new life for himself, Scott Lang is somewhat the same. A man on the fringes, Scott spends the film trying to do the best for a daughter who loves him. Hank Pym is a man desperately trying to keep together what is left of his relationship with his daughter. These human relationships make the film interesting, especially the one between Scott and his wife’s new fiancee, played by Bobby Canavale. It’s the reminder than people aren’t just good and bad which makes Ant-Man an interesting addition to the Marvel canon. The idea isn’t a new one by any means, but instead of setting it in outer space or with a massive team of super heroes, Ant-Man is a story of two fathers desperately trying to do what they can for their daughters.
As per usual its tied up in the Marvel Universe; those less versed with the lore might find the inclusion clumsy, but it struck the right balance to pepper the film with extra interest without detracting from the fact it was an Ant-Man’s story after all. What will be exciting to some is the fact that by the end of the film we’re introduced to another female superhero. If there’s any criticism about the gender/colour balance in the film at all, it’s that minorities and women are both rather underrepresented. The females are given a chance to shine, but they’re still swimming in testosterone and some of the more feminist movie-goers will have cause to roll their eyes at the end.
The world isn’t perfect, and Ant-Man certainly isn’t, but then I don’t think anyone at all expected the feature to bat with the best on the Marvel roster. It’s a firm film from the studio and certainly better than some of their others. Paul Rudd is a charismatic lead as is Evangeline Lilly as the Hope van Dyne, soon to be the Wasp. It’s enjoyable, fun fare which injects more blood into the Marvel franchise, though it doesn’t change the game. Don’t expect a masterpiece. Expect laughs, plenty of heart, and more superhero fun.