Directed By: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll
Release Date: July 17, 2015
Run Time: 117 minutes
Maybe we can finally cut this "is this going to be the first terrible Marvel movie?" shit out.
Ant-Man follows in the steps of The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy by filtering rote comic book movie tropes through a specific film genre. This time it’s a heist movie, wherein Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) enlists and trains con-man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to protect the secrets behind his Ant-Man suit and the Pym Particle. Also there’s some stuff about saving the world from an angry bald man who has a similar suit but is also evil for no reason, because Iron Man came out 7 years ago so it's been long enough to completely re-do it.
You can't have a conversation about this movie without someone pushing up their glasses and mentioning Edgar Wright. It's the cinematic equivalent of talking to someone who does Crossfit. I'm sure if Wright had stayed on it would have been the most ground breaking super hero movie ever. Sure. Whatever. What's surprising is not that the movie is entertaining in his absence, but that such a last minute replacement who did Bring It On and a bunch of bullshit could give it such personality.
|Well, maybe not THAT much personality
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a universe in which a super-powered robot is going to destroy the world, or an alien is going to destroy the world, or a magic Nazi is gonna destroy the world, or a different alien is going to destroy the world, or a different robot is going to destroy the world. It's impossible to overstate how refreshing it is to have a movie that is scaled down (Get it. Because ants are small.) with a more character driven story. After watching Robot James Spader literally lift an island while a dozen people fought an army of robots, it's a breath of fresh air to have a movie build to a climax that's based on personal stakes, not a worldwide extinction level crisis. Turns out it's possible to have a small battle between two people still feel larger than life and you don't need 45 minutes of relentless action and noise just to make the finale seem important. Who'da thunk?
So picture this if you will. You have a visionary director (not unlike Visual Mastermind Zack Snyder) leave 2 months before shooting begins, a character whose name and ability are unwelcome throwbacks to a large chunk of superheroes that were left in the 60s for good reason, and an advertising campaign that did the movie absolutely no favors. Seriously, did a single trailer get any of you excited? Take all of this and throw it on the shoulders of...Paul Rudd? Well shit, after Guardians I guess they think they can do whatever they want. Turns out they can, because Rudd takes this stupid concept and runs with it.
Michael Douglas' character may be the catalyst to the plot and the original Ant-Man, but this is Rudd's movie. Well, it's supposed to be. Both of them get about equal screen time until the climactic battle and both of them have to carry their own garbage subplots about their daughters. Rudd has to deliver a majority of the jokes in a script that thinks it's fucking hilarious, make the action scenes believable, make you care about the heist the entire movie builds towards, and make you care about a side story of his ex-wife and daughter. Do you know how hard it is to not make me despise a movie about a super hero taking a detour from punching people in the face to talk to a child? Or a movie where children talk? Or movies with children in them? I'm still mad about Iron Man 3.
As for everyone else? Evangeline Lily is fine as Hank's daughter, Hope, although her character doesn't give her much to do. She exists solely to be not like Scott for an hour and then like Scott and also grow to stop resenting Hank. She does the best she can with what she's given to work with, but Jesus Christ this movie does not stop beating you over the head for 2 hours about dads and daughters. Corey Stoll is in a similar situation as Yellow Jacket, who is the main villain for some reason. Why? Because he's bad. And also crazy. And bad. And insane. And evil. The next good Marvel villain will be the first, ignoring the one exception of Evil Magic Space Elf of Darkness from Thor: The Dark World.
|I still haven't heard a good reason for why this is the finale of Phase 2
If there's one thing Marvel is always great about it's casting, from their lead actors to the tiniest bit players. Ant-Man is no different, and Michael Peña has two monologues that steal the entire movie. Almost none of Rudd's jokes landed for me, but Peña absolutely crushes it and after leaving the movie I wasn't thinking Ant-Man 2, I was thinking of a way to get him and Thor to have a conversation with one another.
The humor is fine, even though most of it isn't my particular style. Like I said, the script thinks it's absolutely hilarious, and that's nothing new for Marvel movies but I'm just tired of it. To be honest I think I laughed out loud once during Guardians and I've been getting tired of Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark since Avengers 1, so I'm not really the target for their jokes. I didn't show up to watch Paul Rudd rattle off some focus tested audience pleasing knee-slappers. I showed up because I'm 11 movies deep and at this point it's a waiting game to see who dies first: me or Marvel Studios (fingers crossed on me). I'm also here because I want to see what they do with the suit and if Reed did anything interesting with the action. I want to know if there are any innovative fights or if there's enough cool shit to fill out a trailer and then the standard CGI mind numbing finale I've grown accustomed to.
All of the action is fantastic, and the further I get away from my initial viewing the more I want to revisit the third act. It's not just that the CGI is amazing (it is), and it's not just that everything is choreographed and shot well (it is), it's how creatively they use the shrinking and growing. A lesser movie would have relied on him shrinking and showing every fight from the point of view from everyone else. You can see it in your head. "Where did he go" and then they pretend they got punched really hard and fall over. Repeat for the entire movie. Hell, you might even get a stereotypical Mexican guy yelling that the guy is possessed as he's getting thrown around the room. Shit, you could even get an "El Diablo" in there. That's essentially the movie I thought I was going to get. I want to give Marvel the benefit of the doubt, but I saw Anchorman 2, so knowing Adam McKay came on to do rewrites after Wright left didn't inspire me.
I didn't get "El Diablo," I got the camera changing perspectives throughout the fights, so not only did you get to experience the disorienting change in the environment along with Scott, but also from a third person perspective to see what ants fighting to the death with items found in a suitcase would look like to everyone else. The best example is the finale against Yellow Jacket. I'm sure you've seen the trailer shot where Yellow Jacket gets steamrolled by a train and the camera changes perspective to a toy train falling off the tracks. The finale is full of that and it literally never gets old. I could watch a couple of robot bug men throwing train cars while an epic instrumental score plays and jumpcutting to Thomas the Tank Engine letting out a meager "toot toot" all day and never once get sick of it.
|Seriously I could watch 2 hours of this and never get bored
So where does Ant-Man fall short? This is the twelfth Marvel movie so tell me if any of this sounds familiar: The villain is incredibly lame and is saved only by the performance of the actor, there are forced relationships that you couldn’t possibly care about no matter how hard you tried, and a majority of the scenes of them out of costume i.e. the non super hero stuff is incredibly generic. I enjoy all of these movies to varying degrees, but it would be dishonest to pretend they don’t all follow the same formula. Same basic outline, different characters saving the world from [insert underdeveloped villain here]. Will Hank and his daughter patch up their rocky relationship before the credits roll? Will Scott prove he can be a good father? Will I give a shit?
Probably, Definitely, Nope.
The first 20-30 minutes is what you expect in any super hero's debut movie: the origin story. The problem is there are two concurrent origins being explained at once, Scott's and Hank's. For that entire first act it feels like there are two entirely different movies spliced together. One is "funny" with the guy from Clueless getting out of jail and getting fired from Baskin Robbins by Neil Hamburger. The other is Michael Douglas hiding top secret weapons tech from S.H.I.E.L.D. and his daughter not forgiving him for not telling her the truth about how her mother died. They don't gel well, but once the two characters meet it smooths out and streamlines into a mentor-student relationship.
Shame the movie never finds a good villain along the way, because Yellow Jacket's entire motivation for going batshit insane is a shrug of the shoulders and mumbling about Pym particles or some other alliterated nonsense from 60's comics. They explain him being evil the same way a child apologizes. They don't really know what they're saying or if it makes any sense but they know they have to say it or they're in huge trouble so they just say it to get it over with. Stoll does fine with the bare bones he's given and honestly his performance is the only reason Yellow Jacket isn't a bottom of the barrel villain, but every time he was on screen I couldn't help but think of how much I wish he was John Malkovich instead.
All in all, it's fine. It's not great, but it's not bad. It's.....ok. It's an enjoyable way to spend 2 hours, but it will forever be overshadowed by what it could have been if Edgar Wright had stayed on. Personally I'd put it right in the middle of the MCU. It's no Winter Soldier, Iron Man, Guardians, or Avengers 1, but it's infinitely better than anything with Thor in the title. I feel about the same as this as I felt about Age of Ultron. Wasn't great, but good enough to recommend, and it's something I'll watch any time it comes on TV. It's fun, it's an easy watch, and best of all I made it through the entire review without making a joke about the microscopic size of my medically embarrassing penis.
|The only thing irredeemable here is this movie!