Marketed as this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man isn’t as quirky or out-there as its intergalactic predecessor — no Blue Swede on the soundtrack here.
In the unlikely hero department we have Paul Rudd, unsurprisingly immensely likeable as Scott Lang, a scrappy ex con who favors a wry smile over wisecracking and is trying to get his life back on track.
Roped into an ill-thought-out burglary (not robbery: no threat of violence), Scott finds himself on the hook to scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas as Michael Douglas in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), who wants him to “steal some shit”. As Scott says, “Makes sense”.
Just as Guardians was a wacky space opera, Ant-Man is Mission: Impossible, if Tom Cruise was less than an inch tall — or, you know, 1/66th scale — and his team was largely comprised of insects (and a gleefully dopey Michael Peña).
Constantly inventive with its use of scale and space — there’s a laser battle in a suitcase amidst LifeSaver mints with a Siri/The Cure joke thrown in for good measure — Ant-Man feels at least like its taking some risks.
Unfortunately this isn’t the case with its obsessive villain, CEO Darren Cross (Corey Stoll via the Max Zorin School of Business), whose motivation never feels fully developed beyond some weird surrogate father issues.
That being said, there’s a touching theme of fathers and daughters at work here — Scott and Cassie, Hank and his brittle, hard-ass daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lily) — but obviously it has to contend with universe-building stuff (the Avengers are more than tacitly acknowledged).
Still, Ant-Man is a character-driven oasis amidst the arid sprawl of the wider MCU; a wryly absurd success in miniature — all the more remarkable given its troubled development.