Did it go wrong with­out Wright?

SFX - - Contents - An­drew Os­mond

From one star to five stars and all in be­tween…

Re­lease Date: OUT NOW!

12A | 117 min­utes Di­rec­tor: Pey­ton Reed Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Dou­glas, Evan­ge­line Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña, Judy Greer, Bobby Can­navale

Ant- Man starts with

our hero seem­ing hope­lessly out­matched in a prison brawl with a moun­tain- sized con­vict. It’s an open­ing that fore­shad­ows the chal­lenges he’ll face when he’s in­sect- sized, dodg­ing stamp­ing feet and mon­ster rats. But it also ac­knowl­edges Ant- Man’s un­der­dog sta­tus as the most pre­pos­ter­ous Marvel film hero yet; a shrink­ing su­per­hero lead­ing a loyal ant army, who must ap­peal to fans of Iron Man and Black Widow. And yet he tri­umphs, borne on wit and won­der. One minute we’re laugh­ing at his lu­di­crous­ness, the next he’s daz­zling us with a roller­coaster ride through a drain on a raft of ants, or hurl­ing toy trains and build­ing blocks with Hulk- scaled gusto.

Like the Guardians of the Gal­axy, Ant- Man is un­known out­side comic fandom, but his history – a bit in­volved for a sum­mer block­buster – is laid out ex­cel­lently. We start with ex- con Scott Lang ( Paul Rudd) be­ing re­leased from San Quentin, where he’s done time for a se­ries of bril­liant bur­glar­ies. Scott wants to go straight, but he’s un­em­ploy­able; he also faces los­ing con­tact with his daugh­ter from a for­mer mar­riage. Tempted back to crime, Scott bur­gles a bil­lion­aire’s house, find­ing noth­ing but a strange body suit. When Lang puts it on, he has his first ter­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of shrink­ing and learns he’s drawn the in­ter­est of the suit’s owner, Hank Pym ( Michael Dou­glas). Pym once went un­der the name of Ant- Man, and is now seek­ing a suc­ces­sor…

Ant- Man was in­tro­duced in a 1962 is­sue of Tales To As­ton­ish. The film was de­vel­oped for eight years by Edgar Wright, who was due to di­rect be­fore his much- pub­li­cised de­par­ture last year. He’s still cred­ited as co- writer, while the new di­rec­tor is Pey­ton Reed, known for comedies like The Break Up and Bring it On. Heaven knows what Wright’s ver­sion would have been like; maybe there’ll be a doc­u­men­tary about it one day. But Reed does a mag­nif­i­cent job of chan­nelling Wright’s hu­mour and sen­si­bil­ity. The tone’s breezy, the di­a­logue zings, and any fears that Marvel has strait­jack­eted Ant- Man van­ish about the time that one chap gets turned into a blob of jam and flushed down the loo.

Com­edy ac­tor Paul Rudd fol­lows like­ably in the ev­ery­bloke foot­steps of Chris Pratt in Guardians Of The Gal­axy. Un­like Peter Quill, though, Rudd’s Scott is un­used to the won­ders of the Marvel uni­verse, re­act­ing with amus­ing in­credulity to, say, ants serv­ing him sugar for his cof­fee. Michael Dou­glas is great fun as Pym, dry and sar­donic, yet sin­cere in his emo­tional mo­ments, which are hi­lar­i­ously de­flated by Rudd’s art­less re­ac­tions. Evan­ge­line Lilly is ter­rific as Pym’s es­tranged daugh­ter Hope, fu­ri­ous at her dad for choos­ing Scott as his suc­ces­sor. The show- stealer is Michael Peña as Luis, Scott’s fast- talk­ing Latino part­ner in crime; Peña de­liv­ers Edgar Wright- ish fast- cut mono­logues which ram­ble de­light­fully from the point. The weak link is a one- note bad­die, Corey Stoll from House Of Cards, as a so­ciopath de­vel­op­ing his own Ant- Man suit. But un­like Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Ant- Man’s ac­tion and char­ac­ters are tightly in­te­grated de­spite the vac­uum left by the weak vil­lain.

Some view­ers may chafe at Ant- Man’s long char­ac­ter set- ups be­fore the ac­tion cuts loose, but it re­ally cuts loose. In par­tic­u­lar, the cli­max con­tains the most de­ranged ideas of any Marvel film, piling up and up in Gil­liamesque style: a fight in a fall­ing suit­case; a Thomas the Tank En­gine bit. Maybe the lu­nacy will be toned down when Ant- Man joins the Avengers, but for now he’s the cra­zi­est su­per­hero on screen, and also the most fun.

Good old Anty, rais­ing money for char­ity in the In­sect Half Marathon.

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