Perhaps fitting the title, this latest addition to the Marvel cinematic branding plan appeared without a lot of fanfare. Being released post Age of Ultron probably didn't help but it's a strange time in which new origin stories in the traditional sense have not been told for several years and even Guardians of the Galaxy was still a team up movie at heart. There was also some controversy surrounding the production as many will be aware, as after almost a decade of involvement director-writer Edgar Wright dropped out of the project just before filming due to creative disagreements that have not been discussed openly. Adding one more character to the roster shouldn't really have been an issue at this late stage but there was a sense that this represented another risky proposal to the studio, particularly with the oddball nature of the story and its comedy style. But at the same time it also had the potential to add something new in terms of what can be done with visual effects set pieces - with the right kind of imagination shrinking characters down on film has been done well several times in the past. However the feeling that this has all been done before, along with the shadow of changes being made to the story at the last minute are noticeable issues that disrupt the fun to be had here.
Whether it's due to the re-writes, the direction or decisions made in editing, the humour and snappy dialogue to be expected in another Marvel release is definitely off here, with a lot of quips coming off as clunky or missing the mark in terms of comedy timing. I get that this was a little stranger than their other properties, but their stories about space gods and mutants have room for wit that is much sharper. It doesn't help that the usual origin clichés of a down on his luck hero going through training montages are doubled up with domestic melodrama from both the households of the retired Ant-Man (Michael Douglas) as Hank Pym, looking like a scientific Colonel Sanders and his new student (Paul Rudd) as Scott Lang, the thief with a heart of gold. There are also various other stock elements such as a forced romance between characters that don't get along and an evil business mogul with his own shrinking suit ready for an inevitable showdown. The whole thing comes off as being very manufactured at times, and right away the opening scene set some years in the past feels out of place signalling what is to come with abrupt edits between sequences that are jarring. It could be the way it was made with new material being inserted to the existing script, or it could just be how it was cut together. There were definitely more flashback moments planned originally, which is a shame since what we get is fun. But for a comedy there are many parts that are awkward and clumsy.
Now with these complaints out of the way, the result is still mostly watchable. It has a light tone, interesting action beats and plenty of effects to show off the power of someone who can shrink in size while growing in physical strength. The look the scenes involving bathtub escapes and riding insects is pretty nice. The cast is all fine if pretty generic and bland, with several comic relief side characters joining our hero in a plan to break into the villain's corporation before he can sell this technology to shady people. A sales pitch film reel scene straight out of the Rocketeer shows his intent to be less than savoury with hundreds of insect sized soldiers destroying military weapons bare handed. But it's shame that all of this doesn't fit together that well; the edges are rough. The sequences of testing the shrinking suit and also learning to use a device which puts real ants under mental control are entertaining, as are the fight scenes which are all injecting with little jokes and visual gags, particularly during the finale as size changes become faster and more dynamic. The result is a good time, one different from the usual climax where cities or planets are at stake - much like the original Iron Man; but this also means that the whole thing is also kind of forgettable when this has all been done before in both large or small scales.