by Sam Robinson
Rated PG. Starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly. Directed by Peyton Reed.
Just one year ago Marvel’s biggest risk to date, Guardians of the Galaxy, released worldwide and the gamble paid off. A ludicrous concept which on paper looked doomed to fail, became a unique, fun, nostalgia-filled space opera.
Surely the success of Guardians would have boosted Marvel’s confidence as it faced the release of the next left-field hero from their bottomless cupboard: Ant-Man. Yes, a movie about an ex-inmate that goes tiny to hang out with ants. The film experienced trouble in production: a change in director and script rewrites; and I’m afraid to report, these difficulties show in the final product. But more on that after the plot:
Ant-Man centres on Scott Lang (Rudd) – a professional thief who is released from prison and hopes to start a new life with his young daughter, now in the custody of his ex-wife. Lang is recruited by retired inventor Hank Pym (Douglas) to don the incredible shrinking Ant-Man suit and complete one final heist, to keep the shrinking technology out of the hands of an evil bald guy.
Look, I’ll be straight up here – this isn’t really a Marvel film. This is a Disney family flick masquerading as a Marvel episode. Ant-Man has all the action a twelve-year-old will go gaga for: a goofy father hanging out with ants, riding a vinyl record, and stealing stuff. But for older audiences, it’s a bit of a yawn-fest. Director Reed has tried to recreate the clever balance of serious and funny that Guardians did so well but never gets it right – the funniest moments are sadly already spoiled in the trailer (Thomas the Tank Engine falling off the tracks). Try as he may, Paul Rudd is no Chris Pratt.
Further proof that this doesn’t feel like Marvel comes with a surprise scene that crosses over with events post-Ultron. It’s jarring and doesn’t feel right. Unnecessary back stories are shared, which adds to the overly-long runtime, as does the final battle which overstays its welcome.
‘I believe everyone deserves a shot at redemption…’ ‘Second chances don’t come around all that often… I suggest taking a really close look at it.’
Ant-Man doesn’t have much of a plot, but it is driven by Lang’s desire to fix his past mistakes and find redemption – a new start. He will do anything to spend time with his daughter again, and Pym promises that participating in his heist will achieve this redemption: the second chance Lang has been searching for.
I think this is true for all of us. We aren’t all ex-crims like Lang, but we have regrets and guilt that we want to shake. We have broken relationships we would like to see healed. We want a second chance, a new start. Ephesians 1:7-8a:
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us…
I love this passage, because it reminds me that God wants a new start with us. Redemption has already has been achieved by Jesus at the cross. Nothing that I could do could win true freedom and forgiveness, it only comes by God’s grace. I could work to fix the mistakes I’ve made – but only God can wash me clean. Pym promises Lang redemption but there’s no way we could achieve it ourselves. It’s through Christ alone.
If you’re planning to see Ant-Man with your friends, maybe you could spend time talking after the movie about where real redemption is found. Are we our greatest chance at fixing up our past mistakes, or do we need someone greater?
This may be the best shrinking film since Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but Ant-Man would have done better to shrink its runtime and focus on being more than just a kids’ film. And of course, stick around for the post-credits scene. This one is worth the wait. Three stars.
Ant-Man will be released worldwide this Friday, July 17.