Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Ant-Man

Back in 2006, work began on adapting Marvel’s Ant-Man for the screen. Edgar Wright, of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame, was hired to direct and co-write the screenplay with Joe Cornish. By 2011, Wright & Cornish had completely three drafts of the script and even shot test footage for the film. After Wright finished The World’s End late 2013, pre-production on Ant-Man started. But by May 2014, Wright left the project due to ‘creative differences’. The following month, Peyton Reed was brought in as Wright’s replacement and production began, with Wright’s original script altered. Finally released in 2015, almost 10 years after development began, was it worth the wait? And would it have been any better if Wright had stuck around?


Out now on DVD, Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray 3D, Ant-Man tells the story of Scott Lang (the ever-charismatic Paul Rudd), a petty thief who finds himself armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength. With the help of the suit’s creator, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Scott must embrace his inner hero and pull of a heist that will save the world. Narratively, Ant-Man didn’t interest me. I’m sorry, but I’m not a Marvel fan at the best of times – the ever-increasing Marvel Cinematic Universe is certainly an impressive feat as well as a financial behemoth, but I personally have never been a ‘superheroes’ guy. I can only assume if you’re reading this, you are a fan of the MCU films, and therefore I needn’t go into any detail about the story. You know what to expect, right? But having said that, Ant-Man starts out feeling different to the others. Firstly, the film begins as being two films in one – a Marvel film with a highly characterised villain, and a crime comedy.


These ‘two films’ are split, for the first chunk of the film. We follow the rather serious story of Dr. Hank Pym’s disagreements with Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross and his relationship with his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), while we also follow Scott Lang’s comedic post-prison life with his ragtag group of thief friends, led by Luis (Michael Peña). Once Pym and Lang meet, these two tones merge and create a rather uneven mood. Douglas puts in a decent performance and plays it mostly straight, especially in the unnecessary scenes of family drama with Evangeline Lilly. But Rudd’s comedic swagger, almost a hybrid of Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord and Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, creates an unbalanced feel to the film. That’s not to say Rudd is bad in it – far from it, he’s always played endlessly likeable characters – but a lot of his banter felt forced and out-of-place. Marvel films are becoming either too comedic, or too dark. They’re never in the middle anymore, something the first Avengers film nailed. Ant-Man tried to replicate this mood, but failed.

This problem may be due to the development issues. Despite receiving a writing credit on the film, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish’s script was altered by Rudd and Adam McKay (co-writer of Anchorman and Step Brothers) late in the production, and the final film was presumably changed heavily by this input. Frequent Edgar Wright collaborator Simon Pegg described Wright’s original script as ‘daring, funny and hugely exciting’ but lamented this was not the script we’d ever see come to life. Maybe it’s the mix of the remnants of Wright’s humour mixed with Rudd and McKay’s, but a lot of the jokes just didn’t land. Several critics have put this down to the film being ‘haunted by Edgar Wright’s ghost’, which seems like the best way to put it. Still, the Ant-Man we have is entertaining. There’s no denying that. But this is mainly thanks to the incredible spectacle of the film - viewed on a large screen in 3D with a good sound system, Ant-Man is a hell of an experience. The visuals are breath-taking, particularly when Lang is Ant-Man, leading a charge of ants or riding his flying ant, Anthony, into battle. And the Thomas the Tank Engine sequence from the trailers was spectacular – an example of when the hybridising of genuine threat and seriousness with comedy worked.


Ultimately though, Ant-Man is just another Marvel film. There’s nothing particularly different about it to make it feel any different to the others. The narrative is predictable, the villain is a walking talking cliché, the family drama for Rudd and Douglas’ characters is crowbarred in, and yes, Edgar Wright’s ghost does haunt the entire film. Despite a strong pair of performances from Rudd and Douglas and an incredible visual and sonic experience, Ant-Man’s flaws outweigh the good.

Without the development hell, Ant-Man could’ve been huge. But unfortunately, its shortcomings shrink it down to a mediocre 3/5.

★★★☆☆

Sam Love


Ant-Man at CeX


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