Eventually someone does get to say it: "Pick on someone your own size!"

That was always going to be a compulsory line in a film about a shrinkable superhero, with Ant-Man the umpteenth product off the Marvel assembly line but one that feels fresh, funny and not as in love with its own comic book legend as its many predecessors.

That line comes from Ant-Man himself, as played by a sparky Paul Rudd. It's delivered in earnest near the end and it actually earns its fist-pump in a movie that happily undercuts superheroic seriousness with wry irreverence.

Combined with action that shifts the usual Marvel macro battle to micro dazzle, a solid cast and a high-tech heist of a plot, Ant-Man delivers a good thing in a small package.

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It also seems to have emerged relatively unscathed from the departure of original director-writer Edgar Wright, who retains a script and story credit. A geek debate about what might have been will mumble on, no doubt. But if this had become anything like his videogame-inspired headache Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, then Ant-Man might have been a movie only a Comic-Con queue could love.

But the resulting movie is light, bright and tight, managing to cram in a sometime exposition-heavy origin story, a double daddy-daughter drama, and a crash course in North American formicidae and particle physics among the action.

Ant-Man makes a friend. (Supplied)
Ant-Man makes a friend. (Supplied)

And newfangled action is too as we follow Ant-Man down to bug size, where he commands his own ant army on a mission to help Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the genius former Ant-Man, protect his shrinking technology from being weaponised by his former prodigy Darren Cross (Corey Stoll).

Says Pym: "This not some cute technology like the Iron Man Suit. This could change the texture of everything." Actually the technology is pretty cute, Pym's hand-me-down ant suit a thing of Cold War chic. And so is the guy wearing it. Rudd's Scott Lang, just out of jail for a Robin Hood burglary, is slyly recruited by Pym.

Evangeline as Hope Van Dyne in Ant-Man (Supplied).
Evangeline as Hope Van Dyne in Ant-Man (Supplied).

He's hoping to go straight so he can be a decent dad to his young daughter whose mother ditched her jailbird husband for a cop. Pym has his own family issues with his grown-up daughter Hope (Angeline Lilly) who wants to follow in her father's (tiny) footsteps but reluctantly to help Lang shape up before he shrinks down.

They make for a cute couple helping this be the most outright fun you'll have at a superhero movie in a long time.

Verdict: Big fun with small-scale thrills


Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Angeline Lilly, Corey Stoll
Director: Peyton Reed
Rating: PG (violence and coarse language)
Running time: 117 minutes