Ant-Man marks the twelfth entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and with it, Marvel has perfected the formula that has seen them rise to phenomenal success in recent years. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a former thief who has just been released from prison, is now seeking redemption, and a chance to reconnect with his young daughter. This chance is presented in the form of scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who needs Lang to “break into a place and steal some stuff.”
The ‘stuff’ in question is a weaponised suit capable of shrinking its occupant to a microscopic size, which is being developed by Pym’s former protege-turned-bad-guy, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Also thrown into the mix is Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) as Pym’s estranged daughter. The story which follows is relatively predictable, with a plot line familiar to anyone who has watched more than a handful of Marvel’s previous offerings, but it is a whole lot of fun. Highlights include the training montage where Scott learns how to operate the Ant-Man suit and befriends an army of ants in Pym’s front garden, a quick trip to the new Avengers base founded in Age of Ultron, and a climactic set piece that, rather than the city destroying finales of most other Marvel films, instead takes place on a model train set (and features a hilarious cameo by Thomas the Tank Engine).
As mentioned, Ant-Man is nothing groundbreaking. Cross is another ‘villain-of-the-week,’ a trope which seems to continuously crop up in Marvel stand alone movies, like Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash in Iron Man 2, and Christopher Eccleston’s CGI heavy Malekith in Thor 2. Furthermore, the news that Paul Rudd will be teaming up with Captain America in next year’s Civil War broke months ago. Going into the film knowing this titbit, combined with the one-dimensional villain made it hard for me to feel any real sense of attachment to the character and the action. Director Payton Reed, aware of this, compensated with some truly fantastic set pieces, particularly those where Scott is minuscule, which almost makes up for the lack of any real sense of peril.
Thankfully, Ant-Man does not get too bogged down in the mythos of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe like other recent films have done. Despite having seen all of the current MCU films, I found it hard to follow several plot points in Age of Ultron earlier this year, but Ant-Man has no such problems. It is not afraid to poke fun at some of the more cliché elements of the previous films, and is accessible both for hardcore fans and casual cinema-goers unfamiliar with the wider story. It is not an exceptionally thought-provoking or innovative piece of filmmaking, but I would definitely recommend Ant-Man as a fun popcorn movie.