Ant-Man: How Do You Like My Meta, Insect-Oriented Headline Pun?

Ant-Man, or, as the widely touted internet scuttlebutt melodrama scandal machine would have it, ‘Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish‘s Ant-Man retooled by Paul Rudd and Anchorman‘s Adam McKay, mid-wifing duties delivered by Peyton Reed (a Kevin Feige joint)’, is doomed to fail.

Marvel Studios’ nervously anticipated, much nerd-narked ‘phase two’ capper is an altogether more intimate affair — more concerned with family bonds and legacy than, as rather drily intimated, ‘dropping cities from the sky’.

After a nifty pre-credits showcasing Michael Douglas’ spectacularly de-aged (if such things float your boat) boffin Hank Pym and his SHIELD alumni (plot!), Reed’s film opens, proper and for all the world, like the scrappy superheroic little brother of Steven Soderbergh/Elmore Leonard adap Out Of Sight.

Honestly.

Reigning in the megalithic overreach of Joss Whedon‘s Avengers: Age Of Ultron, this latest entry into the Marvel cinematic canon gives us spectacular IMAX vistas set in microscopic worlds (even, tantalisingly, briefly throwing us into the ‘Quantum World’ — no one say ‘2001’, alright?) while still focusing on a street level, emotionally resonant milieu somewhere between the grit of Netflix’s Daredevil and the outright goof of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Anyway: here’s some plot.

As it goes with these things, there’s this technology (Pym Particles) see, and it’s got military applications, and, of course, its inventor, Hank, is a bit too much of a top fellow to let that business get misused.

Hank, however, has a conniving, slap-headed former assistant with nefarious technocratic delusions, being one Darren Cross (The Strain’s Corey Stoll— acceptable), who’s looking to throw a spanner in the works in an ‘international arms sales’ manner.

Enter: lovable, recently emancipated petty crim Scott Lang, played by every-mum favourite Rudd, hitting the prison-iron to good effect. He’s a good dad, of course, a bit of a ne’er do well but with a good heart, a Master’s in Electrical Engineering in the belt and, of course, he fiercely loves his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), like all good dads getting back on their feet after committing some victimless, Occupy-style ‘crimes’ (remember, this is a Disney effort…).

Aided by his endearingly inept crew (yes, we’re delving into the stereotypical here, but, hey: tropes), headed by Michael Peña, Scott is reeled into just one more job, only this one has more to do with, shall we say, quote unquote, destiny…?

Then there’s Hank’s estranged daughter, the flinty, punchy Hope, played by Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit — don’t hold that against her) who, thankfully, is less love interest than one hundred percent capable, thumpy, and destined to fulfill the utterly heroic heritage upon which her parents have bestowed her.

It’s exciting.

With a feisty, Schifrin referencing score from Buffy veteran Christophe Beck (okay, Frozen too), Ant-Man establishes a new standard in easy, comedically relaxed superheroics — turns out this is the first Marvel offering to nudge at the fringes of the kookier, lysergically inclined trip aesthetic of Ditko, Buscema et al (those pop-fuelled mavericks) and bodes promising things for Scott Derrickson’s (Sinister? Anyone?) Doctor Strange.

Having zero skin in the game in terms of Marvel’s bottom line, or box office prognostication in general, it’s satisfying to report that — as notoriously troubled a production it may have been — Ant-Man emerges a heartfelt, enthralling, kooky good time out.

They may have just lifted their game again, dammit.

Exhibiting a masterful command of tone, Ant-Man is, at charming heart, a breezy heist film with healthy lashings of surreal hijinks, comfortably spoon feeding the die hards with cameos and calls back to multiple generations of funnybook plots, while also skating the gamut of Incredible Shrinking Man via Pixar inspired set pieces.

It’s just plain fun.

Fun is back, you guys.

Fun is back.

Originally published at www.hopscotchfriday.com.