The Incredible Shrinking Man was a seminal movie. At least in my (seven-year-old) head. When the tiny Grant Williams emerged from the doll’s house or, better still, when he took on a spider with a pin, my outlook flipped. So that’s the world I live in, I thought. Wow.
The best moments of Ant-Man are those moments. Like Willard Wigan’s micro-sculptures or the hyper-realistic giants of Ron Mueck, the everyday becomes art, the mundane becomes spectacular.
Better still, in the steam-punk Ant-Man suit, filled by Paul Rudd, the world becomes a playground, from plugholes to record grooves, to air vents to teeny-tiny tanks.
These sequences, with the reluctant hero whooshing through the shagpile, with his ant pals alongside are truly wonderful.
Indeed, I’m looking forward very much to Ant-Man 2, which, I hope, is the film this one should have been.
That is not to say this isn’t a blistering romp. But it’s weighed down with exposition and angst – which is just so much hard work – and burdened with a quest which appears to be, not save the world, but Through The Keyhole.
The story is this: Brainy cat-burglar and ex-con Scott Lang (Rudd) is in danger of losing his daughter’s adoration if he doesn’t get a grip on his life.
In an unlikely turn of events, he’s halted on his downward spiral by genius Hank Pym (a spry Michael Douglas) who puts him in the Ant-Man suit and sets him against Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), the protege who expelled the old man from his own company and then turned to the dark side.
Cross is looking to perfect Pym’s formula and flog the technology to the highest, baddest bidder. He sacrifices many a bleating lambkin in this search – that’s how bad he is.
Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) wants a bash in the suit but Dad is adamant (no pun intended) after his own dear wife disappeared into the “quantum realm” where everything is ever so much like a Top Of The Pops set from the 1970s.
The film had seen its original director Edgar (Shaun Of The Dead) Wright leave his project of eight years with Peyton Reed stepping in.
Wright and Joe Cornish get writers’ credits but Paul Rudd also had a bash at the script which pitches for some Guardian Of The Galaxy panache but still feels anchored to the clunky superhero origin story shtick that we can paint by numbers.
Lang’s hapless crim buddy Luis (Michael Pena) is the light relief but accomplished comic actor Rudd is tethered to the Marvel machine, so is rarely let off the leash.
The best humour comes from the micro mash-ups, with a major ding-dong set on a speeding Thomas the Tank Engine (very Toy Story).
Marvel prefers journeyman directors who submit to the bigger picture but here an auteur with an eye for blending wry comedy and startling action (Edgar Wright anyone?) would have injected more fun into proceedings.