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Ant-Man

Year: 2015
Production Co: Marvel Studios
Studio: Disney
Director: Peyton Reed
Producer: Kevin Fiege
Writer: Edgar Wright/Joe Cornish/Paul Rudd/Adam McKay
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Anthony Mackie, Judy Greer, Michael Peña, Hayley Atwell, John Slattery, Martin Donovan

Marvel's Midas Touch continues. When movie fans first heard about Ant-Man many figured it would be the first Marvel film to fall down in a heap. Sure, MCU films had done spectacularly well in the past, but who among the general movie-going public had ever heard of a superhero who shrinks to the size of an ant? And if they had, how could a big budget modern blockbuster make such a premise the least bit cinematic?

But cast your mind back to early 2008, when nobody apart from a few comic-collecting nerds had ever heard of Iron Man except in passing. What Marvel did with the script and casting is now Hollywood legend, and with the first entry into the company's famed cinematic phase three, it shows no signs of slowing down. Never heard of Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange or The Inhumans? You'd never heard of Guardians of the Galaxy either, and look how that turned out...

If there are any tricks that make Ant-Man as creatively successful as Iron Man, it's that uber-producer Kevin Fiege apparently instructed director Peyton Reed and whatever screenwriter is most responsible for what's on screen (writing work by former creative team Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish is still credited) to amp up the laugh factor.

Downey Jr shined as Tony Stark for the same reason, and Ant-Man is full of jokes for their own sake – like Michael Pena's chatterbox comic sidekick – as well as tongue in cheek nods about how frankly ridiculous an ant-sized superhero is. You'll hear more laughs in the cinema at the sight of a 30-foot Thomas the Tank engine flattening a police car than in plenty of the so-called comedies of 2015 so far.

But despite maintaining a level of jocularity about the premise, the film manages the impressive trick of making an ant-sized superhero as exciting and thrilling as that of any other MCU character.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a master burglar and safe-cracker who gets out of prison determined to stay on the straight and narrow and finally be a good example to – and a positive influence in the life of – his daughter.

But after finding it hard to re-enter society he agrees to do just one more job, robbing the safe of a local retired industrialist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas).

The safe is a bust, containing nothing other than what seems to be motorcycle leathers and a weird helmet. The cops are called, Scott is caught and just when it seems his big chance at redemption is evaporating Hank himself visits him in the lock-up, explaining that he's chosen Scott to bring a unique technology to life – a shrinking and super-strength serum he developed decades before and decided was too dangerous to use.

Pym's former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who now runs his company, is trying his hardest to develop the serum for himself, knowing he has a goldmine waiting to happen with the military brass lined up to buy it.

The race is on to use the miniature suit (which comes with the ability to control and marshall insects around the wearer) to stop Cross in his tracks before he can unleash his own fearsome version called the Yellowjacket and save the world in the usual Marvel fashion.

From the get go you know you're entering a world of absolute brand association, so if you're sick of superhero movies you'll want to like it a lot less than you do. All the familiar elements are there, but Marvel have worked some magic to make it engaging – and certainly funny.

One wonders what original director Edgar Wright would have made of it before his very high profile exit from the project, but the usual marvel X factor is very much in place. For a little longer yet, it seems the Marvel badge over the title is enough to bring punters through the cinema doors in droves.

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