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Film Review: Ant-Man
In 2015, Peyton Reed released Ant-Man, the 12th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the final film of Phase Two. Based on the characters from the comics of the same name, the film stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, Tip Harris, Anthony Mackie, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian and Michael Douglass. The film grossed $519.3 million at the box office.
Scott Lang, a career criminal, is bailed out of prison by retired inventor Hank Pym for one last job: to steal Pym’s research from his former company before the new owner, David Cross can abuse it. In order to accomplish the mission, Pym outfits Lang with the Ant-Man suit and trains him to use its abilities.
While it’s not exactly the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man is a pretty decent and pretty fun film, interestingly mixing the two different genres of heist and superhero in a way that really works out well for the overall product. One on hand, it’s a superhero film, with the usual trappings of saving the world. But unlike recent superhero films that are first featuring said hero, it’s not exactly an origins story (Such as Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger were) or a story of how the group first came together (like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy). Instead, it’s more of a passing of the torch. In the MCU, Ant-Man had been around during the cold war already and disappeared for a while before Pym sees the need for the hero once more and “recruits” Lang. But the mixture of heist comedy comes in with Lang having been in prison for quite some time for burgling and has a reputation among his friend and some other criminals as a sort of legend and they decide to move on a hot tip of a great hit, which ultimately brings the two genres together. And it’s really interesting to see scenes of a megalomaniacal villain conspiring to become the most powerful man in the world paired with the heroes trying to subvert him covertly before it all blows up, resulting in the usual hero/villain fight. It’s a great path from points A to B that hasn’t been done much before, if at all.
And making up this film are some pretty good characters from the protagonist’s end. For one, there’s Scott who’s an ex-con just wanting to turn to an honest living so he can see his daughter, but since no one is willing to hire an ex-con, he decides to do one last job to get the money for said honest living. Ironically, that’s how he ends up with the Ant-Man suit and ends up fighting for the ability to both see his daughter and to make the world a better place for her. Further, Hank is a good counterpart and mentor for Scott as he wants to use him because of his love for his own daughter and desire to not lose her as he lost his wife. And the comic relief of the Heist Crew isn’t bad either, especially when it comes to Luis. The guy may be an ex-con who doesn’t care about going back to his thieving ways, but he’s got hidden depths to him, such as enjoying wine and fine art.
However, where Scott, Hank and the other good characters succeed, the film’s villain falls quite flat. While Cross goes about his scheme to acquire the Pym Particle and master the technology in order to sell it, there’s only two points in the film where we really get a look at why he’s doing it. One seems to be jealousy, seen when he’s upset at Hank for not sharing the research and the other seems to be his desire to be the most powerful man in the world, seen where he asks the question “what do you call the man with the most powerful tool in the world,” with an obvious answer. But apart from that, there’s no other inkling that he’s jealous or wants power, which makes the aforementioned examples very bad violations of “show, don’t tell.” It’s not even a good demonstration of the latter. However, throughout the film, Cross acts unhinged and insane, growing more and more unstable due to his frequent proximity to Pym Particles without the helmet. And that was shown very well, not just told to the audience. And I that was the reason for his villainy, that would be so much better. Not every villain needs a (ir)rational motive, sometimes , they may just be going insane. And that's just fine.
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