Sunday 25 September 2016

Seven reasons to see Ant Man this weekend

Published 17/07/2015 | 12:54

Small but deadly: Paul Rudd is Ant-Man in the latest superhero flick in the Marvel franchise
Small but deadly: Paul Rudd is Ant-Man in the latest superhero flick in the Marvel franchise

Movie buff Ed Power gives us seven reasons to see Paul Rudd in Ant Man, which hits cinemas today.

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It's been a long, torrid summer for spandex powerhouse Marvel. Though Avengers: Age Of Ultron Hulk-smashed the box office, it was soon eclipsed by Jurassic World, an uncomplicated, family-friendly tent-pole to which audiences arguably flocked precisely because it DIDN'T engage in the elaborate world-building and sequel-priming that have become signatures of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Actors Evangeline Lilly (L) and Paul Rudd attend the world premiere of Marvel's
Actors Evangeline Lilly (L) and Paul Rudd attend the world premiere of Marvel's "Ant-Man" at The Dolby Theatre on June 29, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)

Critically, too, the comics giant has suffered a pummelling, with reviewers scorning Ultron's knotty plot and glib script. The blockbuster everyone went to see was Jurassic World; the one tastemakers adored was Mad Max Fury Road. Marvel was at the back of class, loud but overlooked.

Thus, the release of Ant Man this weekend is an important moment for the MCU. It's a feature that thinks small – and not just in the literal sense of telling the story of a hero (Paul Rudd)  a little shorter than a termite. The stakes are relatively low – no planets were endangered in the making of the movie – and the set-pieces are a departure from the city-destroying tableaux to which Marvel has become increasingly hooked. Here then, are seven reasons to set aside your post-Ultron misgivings and give Ant Man the time of day.

1. Paul Rudd is Really Good

Comedians playing it straight can be deeply unnerving. From Jim Carrey to Robin Williams, a funny type in a 'serious' role typically succeeds only in giving audiences the chills.  Rudd, a regular in the movies of Judd Apatow, isn't that sort of comic. He doesn't skate by on nervous energy. Instead he radiates a languid, stoner-dad shtick – a sensibility Ant-Man milks for maximum effect.

Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang/Ant-Man in Marvel's upcoming film
Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang/Ant-Man in Marvel's upcoming film

2. For Once The Fate of The World Isn't In The Balance

In Ant-Man nobody is attempting to destroy the earth or unleash an armada of flying goblins. The film spins a relatively minor-key yarn in which a harried dad tries to do well by his estranged family. After a summer of deafening climaxes and exploding planets, the dramatically-lowered stakes have the welcome effect of humanizing this most unlikely of superheroes.

3. The "Troubled Gestation" Doesn't Show

Ant-Man has been dogged by off-screen difficulties with original director Edgar Wright controversially exiting last year. Often, such tensions can result in a cobbled rush job. In fact, Ant-Man is mostly seamless, replacement director Peyton Reid putting his stamp on the project without calling undue attention to himself.

Small but deadly: Paul Rudd is Ant-Man in the latest superhero flick in the Marvel franchise
Small but deadly: Paul Rudd is Ant-Man in the latest superhero flick in the Marvel franchise

4.  The Suit Is Cool

Suggestive of something dredged from the subconscious of HG Wells, Ant-Man's costume is a retro-future steam-punk wonder – an outfit you can almost picture a person donning in the real world without being laughed off the street or bundled into the back of a police van.

5. Michael Douglas Is Backwards Aged and It Looks Real

They can send dinosaurs to the moon but, until recently, Hollywood special effects houses were unable to  persuasively conjure younger versions of older actors. But in 2015 they have assuredly mastered the challenge, with a plausibly fresh-faced Arnold in Terminator Genisys and now, in Ant-Man, a "young” Michael Douglas, who looks as if he's just slithered off the set of Basic Instinct.

Michael Douglas with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, son Dylan and daughter Carys at the Ant-Man premiere
Michael Douglas with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, son Dylan and daughter Carys at the Ant-Man premiere

6. We've Been Waiting Forever For A Movie About A Tiny Man Fighting Insects

The "shrinking man" narrative has an exalted tradition in Hollywood, as exemplified by (obviously enough) The Incredible Shrinking Man, Fantastic Voyage and – yes, we're going there – Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. With Ant Man the genre is revived. Audiences can once again thrill to the sight of a hero being nearly beheaded by looming blades of grass.

7. It's In The Marvel Cinematic Universe – But Only A Sort Of

Sit through the end credits and you'll learn Ant-Man does, in fact, tie in with Marvel's sprawling alternate universe. But unlike recent forays, where the action on screen seemed to exist simply to provide a link to the next movie, Ant-Man is more or less stand-alone – a solid chunk of entertainment that can be enjoyed on its merits, without additional context.

Actress Evangeline Lilly attends the premiere of Marvel's
Actress Evangeline Lilly attends the premiere of Marvel's "Ant-Man" at the Dolby Theatre on June 29, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Michael Douglas attends the world premiere of
Michael Douglas attends the world premiere of "Ant-Man" at the Dolby Theatre on Monday, June 29, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP)

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