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“Ant-Man” is no small fry.

Not since Guardians of the Galaxy has Marvel produced such a fun, humorous super-hero flick. The second Avengers film, which was released earlier this year, was a bigger box-office hit, but Ant-Man is more original. Granted, it’s the first film featuring this particular superhero, so while there is a novelty factor, moviegoers often prefer to see what they know. However, there is a witty irony about Ant-Man that Avengers didn’t quite nail.

Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang, a well-intentioned cat-burglar, looking for a fresh start. After a stint in prison, Scott is headhunted by tech genius, Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Pym was forced out of his own company by his protégé-turned-evil genius, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) some decades ago. Pym took with him a suit he designed, that can shrink the wearer to the size of an ant, while giving it the insect’s proportionate strength of being able to support 50 times its body weight.

With Darren on the brink of replicating the shrinking technology (which of course, he wants to use for nefarious purposes), a superhero of atomic proportions is needed. Hank employs Scott to “steal some shit” and destroy Darren’s data, before the latter sells it to terrorist organisation, Hydra. Together with an army of ants, Scott must prevent mayhem and destruction.

Ant-Man’s visual depiction of a microscopic world is wondrous and hyperreal. Grass turns to jungle, insects become monstrous, and Thomas the Tank Engine’s smile changes from innocuous to creepy. The red and black suit gleams, a thing of striking and ominous beauty, making Spiderman and Batman costumes looking like amateur creations.

Rudd is well-cast as the self-deprecating hero while Douglas has his usual, slightly arrogant charm. Evangeline Lily plays Pym’s intimidating and “I-have-Daddy-issues” daughter Hope, who trains Scott in martial arts.

The fast-paced and spectacular action scenes are cleverly interspersed with humour and jibes at other Marvel creations. “This is not some cute tech like the Iron Man suit”, Hank scoffs. Scott’s bumbling trio of criminal misfits add another level of playfulness to the plot. The film also explores Scott’s relationship with his seven-year old daughter Cassie, as he tries to be the hero she thinks he is.

With this film, Marvel has managed to add another creative instalment to its ever-expanding universe. Though it comes close to rivalling Guardians of the Galaxy, it just (by a small margin) doesn’t equal it. Neverthelss Ant-Man  is fun, light, and superbly entertaining.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Director: Peyton Reed

Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglass, Evangeline Lily, Corey Stoll

Ant-Man releases in South Africa on 31 July 2015.

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