Review: Ant-Man

ant-man-poster

Ant-Man was, to me at least, a movie that was in danger of being less interesting than its production history. Having bounced around Hollywood for years the current version of the film was originally intended to have been directed by infamously awesome director Edgar Wright as part of the Phase One of the MCU, but got held up in pre-production. Flashforward to 2014, when production had officially started, and Wright left the project for reasons unspecified, to be replaced by not-even-infamously mediocre director Peyton Reed.

That happens more often than you’d expect, but what worried me was that Marvel didn’t even change the release date. That spells trouble, but doesn’t necessarily mean the movie is gonna turn out bad. What had me much more troubling was that the trailers made it look…well bad. Still, it’s not like the summer movie season has been great (it’s been, aside from Mad Max, terrible), so I might be a little easier to please.

So how bout some plot recapping? In the 1980s, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) discovered something called the Pym Particle and created suit that allows him to shrink and become incredibly strong…and also control ants because why not? He used it to become a superhero fighting for SHIELD. But they had a falling out because they tried to copy his formula for the Pym Particle, so he went into the private sector.

Years later (IE, now) he’s been ousted from his company and his protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has nearly finished replicating his work, something Hank needs to stop, as an army of Ant-Men could change the balance of the world (also I think Hydra was involved?). To help him, he enlists Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a former thief to infiltrate the building, steal the new suit and destroy their data, against the wishes of his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) who thinks she’s better suited to…well be in the suit.

If I have trouble figuring out how to approach a movie, I usually start with the script (as it’s my biggest area of expertise), which is a little unfair in this case, because it’s definitely one of the weaker aspects of the movie. Much of the plot feels contrived or awkward, the attempts to tie it into the larger MCU are universally clumsy and huge chunks of the dialogue land with a thud, especially in the first and second act.

"I look like a what? What the hell is a Skitarii?"

“I look like a what? What the hell is a Skitarii?”

In fact, the movie is generally at its weakest in the early parts. Its clear the most thought went into the big finale, so the movie feels a little like its marking time to get there, and the setups are a bit too on the nose at points. For example, the movie is far too eager and far too obvious in setting up its ‘Don’t cross the streams’ limitation, and the reason why Hope isn’t allowed to wear the suit is eye rollingly obvious (although the payoff for that is…acceptable).

It’s starting to sound like I’m down on this movie; I’m not, I’m merely keenly aware of its faults. That said, I (and I am as surprised to be writing this as you are presumably to be reading it) actually rather enjoyed it. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will be aware that I was…not sold on it, based on the trailers and assorted marketing, so I was not expecting to come down on the side of this movie.

Still, while it has its share of faults, it also has its fair share of good points. The action is clean, well directed and more often than extremely inventive, making good use of the character’s power set and abilities. The movie moves at a good clip, apparently aware of its thematic and storytelling shortcomings and never feels like it needs to get dragged down under its own weight (like certain…other Marvel movies this year), and while there aren’t as many laughs as there could be, the ones it gets it earns.

"Charge my Ant Horde... That sounded better in my head."

“Charge my Ant Horde… That sounded better in my head.”

More importantly (as its a good cover for one of its major flaws) while the dialogue is across the board weak, the actors are all working hard to make up for its shortcomings. The great Michael Douglas is the big standout, pushing some incredibly cliched scenes and concepts into real emotional payoffs through sheer force of will.

Paul Rudd isn’t as impressive, and on paper his character is cliched to the point of being insufferable, but he’s working hard to give the character some charisma and charm, and he’s mostly successful, even if he can’t really imbue the character with much in the way of depth. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope is theoretically more interesting, even while her background gets predictable sometimes, and given the stinger and other elements hanging around the edge of the script, I hope we get to see more of her, even if the attempts at a romantic angle feel incredibly forced.

The supporting cast has more issues, as of the gang of thieves, only Michael Pena’s Luis has any real characterization (although he is amusing, and has some moments where he breaks character molds that I found entertaining). Corey Stoll is probably the weakest link in the cast; His arc is running way too close to Green Goblin’s from the Sam Raimi Spider-Man but huge chunks of it seem to be missing and so while he’s a visually and conceptually interesting villain (and the big final blowout between him and Ant-Man is pretty good) I never got really invested in him as a villain.

"I knew I was going to be a villain from the start! Why do you think I named myself after a wasp, one of the most evil insects?"

“I knew I was going to be a villain from the start! Why do you think I named myself after a wasp, one of the most evil insects?”

As anyone who follows me on Twitter would know, I was…shall we say nervous about Ant-Man going in. The trailer and assorted marketing left me cold, the lack of Wasp was annoying and I wasn’t that invested in the character to begin with. But, maybe it’s the generally lackluster Blockbuster season this year, or maybe it’s the low expectations, but I rather enjoyed Ant-Man, significantly more than I was expecting. It’s not any kind of classic or a best of the year, but it’s definitely one of the better blockbusters of the year thus far, so if you’re inclined to see it, I won’t discourage you.

Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he supports any movie in which someone gets hit by a train-sized Thomas the Tank Engine.

Pros:

– fun and inventive action

– pretty funny at times

– mostly good acting

– seriously, a train-sized Thomas the Tank Engine

Cons:

– weak script

– relies really heavily on cliches

– tie ins to the larger MCU feel forced at times

Rating: 3.5/5

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Elessar

Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile with an obsession with Nicolas Cage and a god complex. His favorite movie is Blade Runner and his least favorite is The Condemned...which probably says more about him than he wants it to.

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Elessar

Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile with an obsession with Nicolas Cage and a god complex. His favorite movie is Blade Runner and his least favorite is The Condemned...which probably says more about him than he wants it to.

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