From small things, big things come

The West Australian

FILM

Ant-Man (PG)

Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas

DIRECTOR PEYTON REED

REVIEW RAY CHAN

Early pre-release reviews of Ant-Man were discouraging, with some proclaiming the latest Marvel Studios movie as possibly the worst in the franchise.

Certainly, the signs weren't good from the start. The project had initially been given to Edgar Wright, the director behind Shaun of the Dead, whose passion for all things geeky and clever comedy-action approach won over many fans. But he left the movie after "creative differences", studiospeak that Marvel became wary of Wright's influence possibly veering off the formatted template used for the other Marvel offerings.

Enter the lesser-known Peyton Reed, who was then forced to put together something from Wright's concepts, and a screenplay attributed to four writers: Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and star Paul Rudd.

Yet, surprisingly, the result is far from an unrefined cinematic chowder, as one might expect from such an unfortunate collaboration.

The story revolves round a kind-hearted thief named Scott Lang (Rudd), who is hand-picked by scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to replace him as Ant-Man, a guise he no longer wears after his wife Janet, also a heroine named the Wasp, died while the two of them were in the midst of one of their battles for good against evil as costumed heroes.

Scott is asked to don Hank's miniaturising suit and thwart the ambitions of Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), Hank's former protégé who now runs his company, and who's developing his own shrink-ray technology that he plans to sell to the villainous conglomerate Hydra. Scott has to break into Cross' headquarters and steal his shrinking suit known as Yellowjacket - a plan that involves some humorous training montages and banter between Scott and Hank's daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), who wants to wear the Ant-Man tech herself.

Despite his early wayward venture into crime, Scott has a heart of gold and responds to every situation with a good-natured retort before getting on with the important job of saving the day. With this mix of goofiness and noble intent, he comes across as a far more likeable character than, say, someone as arrogant as Iron Man's Tony Stark, or as wisecracking as the Guardians' Peter Quill.

Sure, the plot's familiar and recycled. Weird science; imminent danger; father/daughter conflicts; hero saves the day. The tone of the movie, however, is relatively light and predominantly faithful to the comic book feel from which it was spawned.

There are some lovely little touches, like henchman Luis (Michael Pena) whistling 'It's a Small World' when he is waiting for Scott to infiltrate Cross' building, and when the main antagonist gets trapped in a bug zapper. Scenes like these make the movie especially enjoyable for those numbed by the endless backdrop of destruction shown in films such as Avengers, Transformers and Man of Steel, or the grittiness and seriousness of offerings like Captain America, Thor and the Dark Knight.

The simple and fetching shrink gimmick of Ant-Man steals much of the show. The vacillations between shrinking and enlarging - the technology allows for both - leads to some spectacular effects, whether it's Scott leading an army of ants, or a toy tank being blown up to real-life, working proportions. The climactic smackdown between Scott and Cross takes place largely on a toy train set, and is particularly memorable for a Thomas the Tank Engine accidentally being expanded into gigantic size.

The movie also reveals connections with the Avengers that will please Marvel fans, and includes a cameo by an unexpected character. For comic book readers, the movie is replete with references that will be familiar, such as the mention of Tales to Astonish, and the use of the name Milgrom. As well, the post-credits scene offers prospects of a revival of the Ant-Man/Wasp team.

Ant-Man is sure to entertain audiences of all ages, particularly the younger ones tired with the grim and dark exposition of many other super-hero releases. Ultimately, though, it feels more like an appetising piece of finger food - appropriately enough - than a full meal. It's a tasty morsel that Marvel is serving up while we wait for the main course of the next super-sized action-hero movie.

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