Release Date: 17 July 2015
Running Time: 117 Min
Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer
In the space of just seven years and eleven films, Marvel Studios have grossed almost eight and a half billion dollars at the box office. Figures like that tend to get noticed in Hollywood and the resultant super-powered goldrush in LA has seen each major studio scramble to launch its own comic book mega-franchise. In case you hadn’t noticed, superhero films are big business.
Which brings us to Ant-Man, a film about a man who can shrink to the size of (you guessed it) an ant. An iconic character in the Marvel comics (he was a founding member of the Avengers) he’s perhaps not the likeliest hero to get his own movie; there’s something slightly hokey about a guy whose superpower is to shrink really small, punch really hard and telepathically control ants.
Marvel have a history of bringing weird B-list comic book characters to the screen though; just last year they had huge success with Guardians of the Galaxy, an obscure, space set comic starring a talking racoon and a walking tree. At this point the studio can seemingly do no wrong, and while the money keeps rolling in it’s hard to disagree, from a business perspective at least. Through their shared universe, Marvel have created a sort of brand name for themselves and audiences have come to know and trust that brand. Problem is, that in branding themselves so effectively the actual movies have become increasingly homogenous, as if there’s a set template somewhere for how these things are supposed to go.
Compounding this feeling is the knowledge that original director Edgar Wright – responsible for cult hits like Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs the World – dropped out of the project amid rumours of studio interference. At the last minute Peyton Reed, the director of unremarkable comedies like The Break-Up and Yes Man stepped in, offering a safe pair of hands but none of the verve and imagination that one could imagine Wright bringing to it. It’s a crying shame because a marriage of Wright’s idiosyncratic style with such eccentric material could have been great.
As it is, Ant-Man is merely okay. The tale of a good-hearted thief given an impossible heist and a superpowered suit to help pull it off, it doesn’t want for the usual thrills and spills found in summer blockbusters. In fact, all the stuff we’ve come to expect from a Marvel movie is present and correct: wisecracking leads, action set-pieces, cute references to previous or upcoming films. Much of it is fun, but it’s all a bit familiar. Even the final showdown follows the same ‘baddie has a militarised version of goodie’s power’ template familiar from Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2.
Enjoyable but completely unexceptional, Ant-Man could have been so much more instead of just more of the same.