Marvel’s newest superhero film is about to march into theaters hoping for a swarm of moviegoers. It’s going to be interesting to see if people crowd the theaters for ANT-MAN just as they have for past Marvel films. The true test is seeing how much a character like this will resonate with the masses, but filmmakers Peyton Reed and Kevin Feige have managed to capsulate heart and soul into an otherwise bland origins movie.
What!? Yes, I said it! I know there is amount of raving reviews for this movie. There appeared to be a general overall positive gut reaction from the majority of the people around me in the theater, even saying things like “better than Ultron”. This is a very difficult thing for me to do, but I’m essentially here to give it like I see it. Ultimately it will be the pointless, agitating, numbingly cliche plot that will lend to a less than popular box office return. But… I could be wrong.
The saving grace other than it being a Disney/Marvel film, is that this tidy package has excellent meaningful subplots of father/child relationships all around that make Ant-Man a very touching film. In case you don’t know much of Ant-Man yourself, like myself prior to the film, he actually is doing all of this for his daughter. The original Ant-Man, Hank Pym aka Michael Douglas, has his own relationship issues with his daughter along with a struggling father/son like relationship with who would become Yellowjacket. By all means, if at all anything, the movie has sentiments that most will be able to relate to, which is huge for a superhero movie.
This new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) brings master thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) as the present-day Ant-Man in the mix. In an effort to gain more visitation rights with his daughter Cassie, Scott is forced back into the world of burglary with his posse of comedic new characters featuring Michael Pena as Luis, T.I. as Dave, and Wood Harris as Gale. His latest job has him stealing the suit to his fate, the Ant-Man suit, from esteemed Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Scott must use the suit and its incredible shrinking abilities in order to prevent Pym’s former prodigy Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from destroying the world with Pym’s secrets.
In other words, Hank must train Scott in becoming the new Ant-Man to pull off a heist overcoming personal and physical obstacles to save the world. And there it is. That line right there sums up my feelings of the movie. It’s been seen before countless times and for a Marvel comic plot, just so plain. To some this simple delicate movie may be perfect, but I found it really just a means to an end. A storyline just to get Ant-Man going so he can be used in future Marvel films.
As for origin movies, Ant-Man felt to drag more than others in recent history. The entire explanation, montage of training, and development of the character took entirely too long. We very well could spend a whole movie getting to the his shrinking, but it all matters how we there. The movie contains long segways and lengthy scenes clearly trying to make Scott Lang’s thievery believable even though being played by a goof, a good goof, like Paul Rudd.
The relationships between Pym and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) along with Lang and his daughter are all but spelled out for the audience. Even Pym’s near father-like relationship with his apprentice Darren deemed too formulaic and obvious. Perhaps more character build-up and zippier early scenes would have gave the movie a different feeling.
I had a giant disconnect believing Paul Rudd as this mastermind thief that somehow was mixed with a crew that didn’t fit him in any way. Yeah, he is trying to do right within his daughters eyes, but I never felt it was organic. Instead it felt more convenient to have him already with this skill set that would lend well to what would be needed of him to be Ant-Man.
Evangeline Lilly was a great addition as Hope and I did enjoy the dynamic between her and her father Pym, however the idea she couldn’t foresee that everything he was doing was just to protect her was unrealistic. However, Lilly proves to be a strong character and a new role model for young girls that everyone will love to talk about as the entertainment world just can’t seem to accept how Marvel has treated Black Widow; a discussion for another time.
The dynamics between the characters did work. Paul Rudd did begin a little awkward as if he was forced to not act like himself for the first half of the film, but fortunately the latter half features Rudd in his typical antics and comedic style, which is really what everyone is expecting anyway.
There is plenty of good in this film though. There are many unique action sequences along with creative ant-sized environments that were completely satisfactory and impressive. Sadly I found myself at length just saying to myself “I just don’t care”. I guess it’s just me, but I just didn’t care for the story and what the characters were attempting to achieve. Every 10 minutes or so I had that blissful moment of me thinking “oh, I really like this part” leading me to believe the movie was on the right track only to be brought back to boredom for several more minutes thereafter.
The environments that were created by filmmakers and visual effects supervisors Jake Morrison (“Thor: The Dark World”, “The Lord of the Rings”) and Oscar nominee Dan Sudik (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, The Avengers”) were absolutely stunning, different and captivating. The first scene we see Lang shrink to an ant-sized man is creative and really helps the audience feel the vast difference between the two worlds. Just imagine being an ant in any environment and how difficult it would be to avoid the dangers of a human sized foot, other bugs, or even water. Ant-Man will go through it all. His ability to grow or shrink at a moments notice is where the unique fight scenes come into play. It quickly becomes evident as to why he will be monumentally beneficial to the Avengers.
I thoroughly enjoyed all the action sequences, even though this is a tad scaled back in comparison to say, “Age of Ultron”. Each sequence reinvigorates the last with more impressive, and no doubt challenging to film, choreography. One thing the film does exceptionally well is explain the science behind it all without being too explanatory. We know Scott is stronger when small, like how an ant can carry many times their weight, and that the force he has while small moves with him as he grows quickly. Even the science behind the suit was just briefly explained, but enough to make it believable in the MCU.
It’s a trick that the producers and writers had to be very conscious of while making Ant-Man. They are very aware of the silliness behind the movie and make no effort to hide the fact that some of these ideas are rather absurd. The movie does find the right balance between the science and just letting it be.
Another challenge, and an item I was scared about, was the stylization of the ants. There was tons of research on making them realistic yet still done in almost a cute way. This was a smart move as it shouldn’t scare audiences away. Director Peyton commented that this was something they spent a lot of time on to ensure the tiny environment would still appear photo-realistic and not cartoony compared to the normal-sized world.
Ant-Man is still a needed addition and will require a watch if you have any interest in the future of the franchise. I think we will be s
eeing a lot of Rudd in future films. Now that his character is set-up, perhaps I will have more of connection with him than I did in his stand alone film. There is great potential here and I have no worries about him fitting right in with the rest of the Avengers. If anything, hilarity will ensue with his interactions with the others.
There are plenty of tiny surprises and connections played throughout the movie that should still get even the nerdiest of Marvel fans giddy. But, still remember, it’s an origins movie that in a sense is still just a set-up movie. It does have a slightly different feel for a Marvel film, but not as much as they are trying to bill it as. I think the filmmakers are taking pride in its quaintness, but that felt to alienate the movie from the modus operandi of the rest.
This film will have its dedicated fans and have a place in history as much as “Thor” does, but won’t be as earth shattering as “Iron Man” was to the genre. Ant-Man will gain force, but will it carry you through the entire film?