In comparison to previous Marvel films, Ant-Man is an engaging reiteration that less can be more.

Along with its mega box-office pull, Marvel’s cinematic achievements have also gained a reputation for being loud and repetitive, with emphasis on sheer size and scale. But as we’ve seen before, it can also be uplifting, laugh-out-loud funny, and thoroughly engaging – all instantly recognisable qualities of Ant-Man.

By cutting out multi-character excessiveness from previous films, Ant-Man is also scaled down to size, albeit literally, with the use of just one protagonist. This works by allowing us to focus on the adventures of an everyday man, but one that is destined for incredible heroics. That man is Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a petty criminal desperate for a clean slate. Caught between his reputation as a cat burglar and a failed father, Lang stumbles upon a powered suit that shrinks him down to the size of an ant. “It’s nothing like the Ironman suit”, says inventor Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a former S.H.I.E.L.D scientist. Quite literally, Douglas is saying two things at the same time – don’t underestimate the power of an ant, and also that Ant-Man is unlike any other character we have seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Overlooking bland melodrama that has Lang trying to impress his daughter (primed with stock Hollywood cuteness), the film really opens up when we see the titular superhero in action. Filmed with Arri Alexa cameras, visual effects from Industrial Light & Magic are mind-bending stunning when switching back and forth between macrophotography and life size rendition. Also look out for a de-aged Michael Douglas in the pre-credits prologue (set in 1989), made possible with the use of motion capture technology. And given the context of the story where a lot happens in microscopic proportions, effects are aided with the proper use of 3D, resulting in a rare occasion where it actually works in favour of the cinematography.

With just the right amount of action combined with potent laughs (watch out for Michael Peña as a motor mouth), Reed, in combination with comedy writers Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright, keeps the story simple and easy on the eyes. And owing to the obvious detachment from the juggernaut trappings of previous MCU films, there’s none of that city demolishing nonsense that has become a standard in superhero films. Instead, the story remains enveloped in the fantasy ethos that illustrates how an ordinary person can become extraordinary.

The fact that Rudd (up until this point) has been cast in romantic-comedies makes him the ideal choice to play this unlikely hero. Equally unlikely is Peyton Reed, having directed a string of romantic-comedies that nobody remembers. There’s a reason why their collaboration in Ant-Man works to everyone’s benefit, much the same as Chris Pratt and James Gunn, who were both underrated before 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. While it’s apparently easy to make blockbusters with over the top action (looking at you Michael Bay!), Ant-Man as an origins story is self-aware of its limitations, resulting in another rare occasion where less is more. That alone should be an educated answer to an age old debate – Does size really matter?

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.