To round out Phase Two of our MCU Reviews, it’s Ant-Man – a film that I’d always considered one of my favourite entries into the MCU.
To address the obvious, Paul Rudd made for an excellent inclusion to the Marvel line-up. In the role of Scott Lang, he was able to bring his natural charisma and talent for comedy, thanks in part to the film’s script, penned by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. Having a more selfishly motivated hero, makes for a refreshing change, and it also makes Ant-Man less of a superhero film and more of a sci-fi heist flick, which certainly sets it apart from the wider MCU.
While its concept alone is enough to make Ant-Man one of the most interesting Marvel films, in tone, its very much another MCU origin story – there’s a large cast of supporting characters to serve as added comic relief, there’s a distinctly unpleasant villain who becomes increasingly unhinged over the course of the film, and there’s the ever-present redemption arc.
That said, all of these things are handled slightly differently this time around. For example, Darren Cross is one of the more justified MCU villains – spurned by his idol and mentor, he sets out to create the technology that was hidden from him, and actually succeeds. He’s rightfully upset with Hank Pym, and it’s only in his ruthless pursuit of revenge (and his plan to sell the technology to Hydra) that he’s really a villain at all – something which is actually vaguely explained as being caused by exposure to the Pym particles.
For a sci-fi story, Ant-Man plays pretty fast and loose with its science. Now, stretching scientific principles is one thing, but over the film’s runtime, it repeatedly writes, rewrites, and ignores its own rules as it sees fit – usually only to allow for a quick visual gag – but this actually produces a number of glaring plot holes that become increasingly frustrating as the story goes on. The worst offender is of course the constantly shifting rules of how Pym’s technology really works (because every single rule that’s explained is inexplicably broken at some point during the film).
That said, the film does contain some visually spectacular miniature action sequences, which again lend the film an entirely different tone than its MCU contemporaries. Ant-Man has a real focus on fun, with only brief flirtations with the usual end-of-the-world stakes, and that fun is a thread that’s carried well by a competent cast.
One of Ant-Man‘s greatest assets is Rudd in the lead role, and the film uses him to near-perfection, allowing him to access his natural gift for comedy without sacrificing his more heroic moments. The film highlights just what a good fit the actor is for the MCU, and showcases his promise as a genuine A-list star.
Overall, Ant-Man works as an entertaining standalone epilogue for Phase Two. After the slightly weaker entry that was Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man delivers something a little different to Marvel fans, while still sticking to the franchise’s general formula. It doesn’t entirely break the mold, but it makes for a pleasant palate cleanser during an MCU watch-through.
Summary: Ant-Man is one of the MCU’s more interesting offerings, but it also has a real problem with narrative logic. Luckily, its excellent cast and impressive presentation serve as an adequate distraction from its many plot holes.
Highlight: The film’s miniature action sequences – particularly one that takes place inside a child’s train set – are both visually impressive and inherently comical.