It’s refreshing that Marvel chose to release Ant-Man when it did. If not for its palate cleansing goofy nature in the wake of the blockbuster status of Avengers: Age of Ultron, than for the script resisting the urge to “go big” and copy the same formula for its third act as all of the other finales in Marvel’s Phase 2 catalogue.
Instead it’s a deliberately more intimate affair, and without wanting to labour the pun, much smaller in scale. This is a good thing. With all the good will in the world towards Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Phase 2 is filled with movies that have the same finale.
For those not in the know, Ant-Man was one of the original Avengers in the comics, a man called Hank Pym. In this instance Pym’s days of adventuring are behind him and he appears courtesy of Michael Douglas. The mantle of Ant-Man falls on Scott Lang, a cat burglar who chances upon the shrinking suit one day and finds his life irreparably changed.
For many a year the project was under Edgar Wright’s control, predating the MCU. Then, when the MCU picked up pace, Wright left the project due to that old chestnut, creative differences.
This was a concern, but thankfully new director Peyton Reed has managed to give us a solid story that is filled with humour. How much of the script was kept from Wright’s time on the project isn’t clear (I’ve no doubt it’s covered on a DVD commentary or something), but any worries are soon put to bed. The jokes hit the mark frequently, and the plot moves forward at a decent pace. In an effects-heavy film like this there was always a risk that something was going to fall flat. That isn’t the case, with the shrinking and enlarging effects handled well. You’ll even get hit in the feels by the CGI ant called Antony.
In true Marvel fashion, the story is solid but the depth to the characters is another point worthy of mention. So the villain, Corey Stoll’s sinister businessman Darren Cross, is defined solely by his desire to be an evil villain (see every other Marvel movie villain), but the heroes are very well detailed. Lang is determined to do right by his daughter, while Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne, daughter of Hank, has her own issues to resolve with her father. These are layered and complex characters that deserve our attention. And then there is Michael Pena’s Luis who, to be fair, is presented as the comic relief. And excel in this role he does.
The finale flies in the face of Phase 2 by pitching Ant-Man and Yellowjacket off against one another, in miniature form, in Lang’s daughters bedroom. You won’t look at Thomas The Tank Engine in the same way ever again, that much is certain.
Closing with a teaser that we may get to see The Wasp in a sequel is another strong point in a film that gets it right in almost every respect. Well done Marvel and everybody involved. It just goes to show that, metaphorically speaking, the sky’s the limit as far as this cinematic universe is concerned.