Ant-Man: Big ideas, small payoff

Or how the Marvel universe has jumped the SharkMan

Emotion and humour

Paul Rudd was a good choice for the Ant-Man that Edgar Wright wrote. Just not the film he ended up starring in.

Rudd has great comic timing and presence but his style is awkward and knowing – a very different animal to the cocky bravado of, say, Robert Downey Jr.

Marvel has figured out how to fit Tony Stark ego-humour into a superhero movie, but it fails miserably at including Rudd’s. What you end up with is a superhero who doesn't really look or act like a superhero and then jarring comic interludes from Paul Rudd who just wandered onto the set from romcom filming next door. Not that the comic set-pieces aren’t good – they are – but they belong in a different movie.

And the emotion, of course, is pure comic book. A whole backstory of father and daughter who lost their wife/mother and so remain angry with one another but still love one another. It might have worked but it didn't. Probably because Michael Douglas didn't really seem to be all that present (didn't he have a stroke a few years ago?).

It does work with Rudd and his daughter. In fact, a whole film with Rudd as the great but flawed Dad dealing with his ex-wife and new asshole boyfriend is probably one worth watching. But in this superhero flick it never feels like more than a plot device.

When Dr Pym gives a speech invoking his daughter as a way to get Scott Lang (Rudd) to become Ant-Man and do something stupid and dangerous, Lang tells him: "Wow! That was a great speech." But it wasn't, which makes you wonder whether Rudd is mocking him.

Even more confusing was when Lang advises Pym to get the Avengers to do the job instead of him. This is very confusing. Is he joking? Are the Avengers fantasy characters? Or do they really exist in this cinematic world? Or is it an in-joke?

It turns out it's a plug for the last Avengers movie. "Oh, they'll probably be too busy lifting up an entire city," says Pym/Douglas, or something like that. I would guess all the Marvel nerds think this is hilarious, but it feels like bad product placement. And then in a completely unnecessary 10-minute tangent that could literally be cut out entirely and no one would notice, Ant-Man actually goes and fights an Avenger for absolutely no good reason.

Which Avenger? Captain America? The Hulk? Whatever Scarlett Johansson's one is called? No, some black guy with wings and goggles. Superfly? No, Falcon apparently. This is the Marvel universe and you're supposed to be embarrassed if you don't know. Even when he is thrown in for no reason other than to shove the next part of the franchise down your gullet.

Before we went to see the film, fellow hack and comic-book buff Neil McAllister decried the fact that Ant-Man was going to follow the exact same Marvel formula. "And the worst bit is just before the credit, you'll get some bullshit extra scene that sets up the sequel."

Marvel is so full of itself right now that it included not just one but two extra scenes. Both of them serve absolutely no purpose but to set up a sequel, one before and one after the credits.

For Stan Lee – oh my god was that Stan Lee as a bartender right at the end?!!! – this all makes perfect sense. He is simply extending the comic-book approach to film – with multiple crossovers and setups. Buy the next book in this series. Buy the next book in the new series.

But for a feature film, and two hours in front of a screen somewhere other than your own home, this is all too much. Ant-Man was an original, amusing, lively and exciting film when it was first imagined. But by the time it appeared at the other end of Marvel machine, it had become just one more movie.

Should you go watch it? Why not? You know exactly what you'll get and if you fancy it, enjoy. But if you're waiting for a great film to enjoy, give this one a miss. ®

Ant-Man film poster Title Ant-Man
Director Peyton Reed
Cast Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly
Release date 17 July
More info Movie website

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