Ant-Man (Peyton Reed, 2015)

What's it about? Master thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is recruited by master inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to defeat master criminal Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) by becoming (drum-roll) Ant-Man! What do you mean "who the hell's Ant-Man?"

Is it any good? Despite a troubled production (more of that below) Ant-Man turns out to be a solid, if fairly forgettable, comic-book caper. Much of its appeal lies in the smart casting of Rudd as the central anty-hero, who brings an amiable comic touch to proceedings, even if he is hardly stretched in the emoting stakes. Beyond that there's some stuff about family relationships, using-powers-for-good-instead-of-bad and, of course, controlling ants with your mind, which is all entertaining enough guff.  And it manages to avoid any comparisons with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, which could have been a potentially fateful blow. That said, it all feels a bit generic, marching obediently to the beat of its Marvel overlords. It's annoying, because the film threatens at times to show some measure of individuality, which could have really resulted in small becoming beautiful. In the end, though, it finds itself restricted and squashed by its requirement to contribute to the larger Marvel Universe colony and thus becomes just another worker in its service. A pity. Good to see Thomas the Tank Engine offered a more meaty role though.

Anything else I should know? That individuality I allude to above was primarily due to the input of original writer-director and long-time Ant-Man fan Edgar Wright, who was attempting to layer some of his anarchic comic sensibilities upon the source material. Sadly, this did not meet with the approval of the Marvel head honchos, who regarded Ant-Man as the final key film in Phase 2 of their master plan for world domination, which will come to fruition during Phase 3 - be afraid, be very afraid. Aghast at the greed of their paymasters, Wright and co-writer Joe Cornish voiced their concerns and were thus exited from the project due to "differences in their vision of the film", which is of course code for "booted unceremoniously of the project for someone who could obey bloody orders". Adam McKay and Paul Rudd were willing to bash Wright and Cornish's square script into Marvel's round hole, hence all four get screenplay credit. Meanwhile, Peyton 'Safe Hands' Reed came on board to direct and the well-oiled Marvel machine ensured everything progressed regardless, complete with inclusion of those increasingly tiresome credits sequences to highlight upcoming films from Marvel Studios. Read a timeline of events here if you can be arsed.

What does the Fonz think? The Adequate Shrinking Man.

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