Movie Review: Ant-Man (2015)
Marvel, Marvel, Marvel - Talking about Marvel being everywhere is almost redundant. This year alone, they had a smash hit with Avengers: Age of Ultron, dominated the small screen with the excellent Daredevil, and there is more in the future such as the Fantastic Four. With this film, Marvel focuses on another member of the Avengers family - Ant-Man.
Scientist Hank Pym created a super suit that allowed him to shrink to the size of ants. No longer able to use it, he passes the suit on to Scott Lang, an ex-con who is attempting to rebuild his life and reconcile with his daughter. Pym wants Lang for the job because of his history as a cat burglar. Lang is needed to pull off a heist from none other than the Avengers. Pym needs to keep the shrinking technology away from an agent who is increasingly losing his mind and wants to use the technology for diabolical purposes.
Sometimes with a good premise, a movie can seemingly write itself. Ant-Man, for the most part, feels like one of those movies. A lot of what makes Ant-Man work is the ant suit and what Ant Man can do with it. Human characters shrinking down to near microscopic size is nothing new but these scenes are pretty exciting and entertaining. After all, we've seen seen heroes do battle against foes from another world, saving cities, and doing battle with elder gods. There is something fun about a hero who worries about water spouts, traversing vinyl records.
That is only a sample of what Ant Man has to deal with. What makes Ant-Man stand out is the way Ant-Man's size changing ability is used in combat. One fight takes place in someone's briefcase. Ant-Man fully exploits his ability to change size during fight for some pretty creative battles. Sometimes he uses his ability to thwart people who can not change size while other times, he fights similar size-shifters. Although the movie kind of telegraphs what is going to happen, this film does have one of the more intriguing climaxes. (By now, people have probably figured out that if a character tells someone not to do something because it is dangerous, that thing is going to happen.) Still, in a day and age where every big action set piece tries to top the other, Ant-man takes a relatively unique and pretty bizarre approach. Even Ant-Man's insect sidekicks are pretty fun too. Without ever saying anything, they manage to convey personality with little tasks such as delivering the suit and even putting sugar in tea.
Ant-Man offers plenty of other fun moments. There are cameos of other characters such as Agent Carter, Howard Stark and Falcon. While this fully fleshed out universe has been around since 2008's Iron Man, it is truly unique as the comics have been doing this since the 60's. There were rumors that the Punisher was in Spider-man 2 even though it was just a similar-looking extra. Perhaps the reason that rumor blossomed is because fans wanted to believe that the movies were finally bringing the crossovers they loved in the comics to life. It took a few years, but it is finally happening. Also, Garrett Morris has a cameo as a cab driver. This is a callback to him playing Ant-Man in a very funny Saturday Night Live skit from the 70's. Whoever remembered that deserves the Marvel no-prize.
While most of Ant-Man is good, parts of it are lacking. Characters in this film are kind of hit and miss. Paul Rudd is likable enough as the eponymous hero, and Michael Douglas's cool charisma makes him for a great Hank Pym. He has a sort of stern delivery that makes him believable as an intellectual who would also be a superhero. Sadly, the rest of the cast could be described by their character trope - the daughter, the ex-wife, the sort of love interest. You've seen these characters in other movies so you can fill in the blanks for how they act here. Marvel movies have always been more about the heroes than the villains, but this time... well, as human Darren Cross, it is a pretty weak villain. Give Corey Stoll his due, he tries, but there is not much for him to work with. As Yellowjacket, the character is a little more exciting - as he functions as a villainous counterweight to the hero - but that does not happen until the third act of the movie (though still not on par with Kingpin or Loki).
The film also goes through a lot of emotional zigzagging. Although it is an effective scene, we learn about a major character's death completely out of left field. There is also a death later in the movie that is hard to tell whether it was meant to be played straight or played for laughs. Speaking of laughs, with the team behind this movie it should be no surprise that Ant-Man has a humorous bent.
Director Peyton Reed has directed good comedies such as Yes Man and the criminally underrated Down with Love. Paul Rudd - who cowrote the screenplay - has been very funny in movies like the 40 Year-Old Virgin and Anchorman while Edgar Wright has been responsible for modern classics Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. In Ant-Man... these guys did not bring their A-game. Comedy is subjective, but something aims to be funny and falls flat, it can really sting. Again, parts of this movie are funny - such as when Lang accidentally enlarges an ant during a battle. That leads to many laughs. However, there are scenes that feel like they are trying to emulate Judd Apatow comedies, and boy do they fall flat. I can't imagine people quoting that "Baskin Robbins" line years down the road. It is a shame this movie was not funnier as having an action comedy tone could have given this film a unique voice - similar to Guardians of the Galaxy. Also, this movie really drags its feet during the first, say, 20 minutes. Most of the flaws manifest themselves during that time, and the rest of the movie is generally good.
Overall, Ant-Man is a worthwhile entry into the Marvel lore. However, a few flaws keep it in the good-but-not-great category. It may not be in the upper echelon of great Marvel films, such as Guardians of the Galaxy or Iron Man, but a few creative ideas and exciting action scenes make this film worth seeing at least once - even if just as a Netflix rental. Though if you are squeamish about insects... I don't know what to tell you!
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