MARVEL MANAGES TOO, DESPITE ALL THE CONTROVERSY AND PROBLEMS BEHIND THEIR LATEST ENDEAVOR, PRODUCE A JOYISH PIECE OF SOLID ENTERTAINMENT. LED BY THE CHARISMATIC PAUL RUDD WHO SEEMINGLY EFFORTLESSLY SLIPS INTO THE ROLE OF SCOTT LANG WITH THE CHARM AND WITT YOU’VE COME TO EXPECT FROM HIM, EVEN IF THE MOVIE ISN’T ALL THAT MEMORABLE.
“I wonder what Edgar Wright would have done?”, that was the main question I had walking out of the theater once the final credits scene faded out and the words “Ant-Man will return” appeared on screen. It’s hard not to ask that question given the fact that Edgar Wright had been attached to this project since early 2006, however after a lengthy 8 year process of development the director was forced out of his own passion project so Marvel could manufacture his vision to fit the “bigger picture”.
And what we ended up with is not bad, not bad at all, it’s actually even pretty good, but it’s not the next level film that so many people including Marvel were telling and preaching to us. Ant-Man feels like a rewrite, the tone is admittedly all over the place and the characters are given just enough depth to understand their motivations but not enough depth to care about them, but before I get more into my review, let me set up the movie.
Ant-man takes place roughly a few months after the events of Age of Ultron. After pretty nifty yet unnecessary prolong explaining why Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) isn’t a hero anymore (as he was the original Ant-Man), during which the scene showcases some pretty incredible CGI on Douglas to make him look younger we flash forward roughly 20 years to and are introduced to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who has just been released from prison after serving a lengthy sentence from doing relatively cool crime.
Once out, Scotty Lang gets pick up by his former cellmate Louis (Michael Pena), who does all but steal the movie in the scene’s his in, and Luis introduces Scott back to the real world, where Scott unfortunately can’t even get a job a Baskin and Robins due to his criminal activity which results in him being strained from his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder) by his former wife (Judy Greer) and he new cop husband (Bobby Cannavale). All this drives Scott to team up with Luis and his his gang Dave (Tip “TI” Harris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) to steal something valuable from an old man’s house, in doing so Scott find himself introduced to the world of MCU and combating evil business tycoon Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) and winning the heart of Pym’s daughter Hope Pym (Evangeline Lilly).
Within that poorly constructed plot synopsis (sorry) there is a lot to like about Marvel’s Ant-Man but sadly…not a lot to love. My biggest criticism about the film is that nothing feels entirely new or revolutionary with a premise that is practically begging to be taken fully advantaged of. The filmmakers director Peyton Reed (Yes Man and Bring It On) and screenwriters Adam McKay (The Other Guys) and Paul Rudd (Party Down) kind of just go the generic expected route, not withstanding some impressive action scenes and glorious witty banter, the latter mainly due to a surprisingly hilarious Michael Pena who as stated before practically steals the movie.
Paul Rudd is great in the role of Scott Lang bringing the reliability and every-man complex he is know for when working with Judd Apatow. His has the right mix of straight man/serious wit with comedic and heroic timing that makes him a joyish riot to watch on screen as he dives and dodges threw the action scenes and the exaggerate fisticuffs he gets in with Corey Stoll’s heavily under cooked Darren Cross (but more on him later). The script does a great job at setting up and making you believe and relate to Rudd as far as his motivations and why he does what he does in the film, whether its to guarentee the safety of his daughter or to make a better life for himself or just even to prove to himself that he can be something more than just a common criminal.
You believe Rudd thanks to his performance and are rooting for him every step of the way, so that by the time he becomes a full fledged hero you cheer for him and buy into it. Most of Rudd’s evolution as a hero is in part thanks to Michael Douglas who gives a surprisingly earnest turn in Hank Pym and is given the most interesting character backstory and the bulk of the emotional core of the film.
There is a surprising revelation I made whilst watching the events of the plot unfold and that’s nearly everything that spawns the film main plot is either directly or indirectly steams from Hank Pym and his decisions. The sour turn that Darren Cross takes from promising protege to fallen son is partly due to Douglas’s actions as Hank Pym and well as the strained father and daughter relationship that Douglas and Evangeline Lilly’s Hope share through the better part of the movies development.
Douglas gets some juicy lines and great scenes to sink his teeth into the character and deliver what is actually the most interesting character in the film besides Rudd. However besides those two characters and Michael Pena brilliantly effective turn as Luis, the other characters fall very flat. One of the main problems I’ve had with the marvel films are their lack of good writing when it comes to the love interest and the villains, with Pepper Potts and Loki, Ultron and Winter Soldier aside, most of the marvel love interest and villains feel like an obligation or an after thought than a main ingredient and sadly this film falls in that same category.
Lilly is given the cliche father son development of the son not feeling the love nor respect from the father except here we get it in double doses with Lily’s Hope and Stoll’s Cross both feeling as though Douglas’s Pym dropped the ball of the father figure department. A better use of the plot motivation can be seen in Marvel’s first Iron Man movie (which this films borrows heavily on fimilar plot points and character arcs).
Unfortunately from there it only gets worse, given that the film needs an excuse for Stoll to become the big baddie they shoehorn this explanation that doesn’t get introduced until we are very well way into the film and Stoll has already crossed that point from believably shady to just downright cartoonishly evil.
Although Stoll does the best with what his given, there is very little there to deliver anything above predictably boring and routine. Lilly takes a similar route as her character development at first seems to be something fresh but is exposed to just being the one main thread that strings her along into the film and ultimately ends with a not earned romance between her and Rudd that just feels there because it’s expected and not because it’s genuine.
However on the plus side, one of the things that I always champion the Marvel films (unlike there counterparts) are their widely inventive action sequences. And while the action in this film isn’t as inventive as say Iron Man 3 or Thor: The Dark World, it’s still very fresh and new and welcome surprise. Given Ant-Man unique abilities a lot the action in this can be considered pretty stand alone and unconventional when it comes to these tent-pole superhero/blockbuster throw downs. The suit in action looks sleek and is a visual delight, including a really great fight sequence between Ant-Man and Yellow Jacket that takes place on a private jet, as the two grow and sink and trade blows in between.
Yellow Jacket is a visual treat and from the looks of the suit you can tell is something functional and great to explore in a fight sequence and visual department gets the most outta what they can squeeze from the villains suit (which looks all kinds of badass if I may add). The fight sequences are great as stated before and are easily one of biggest highlights of the film.
As a result of the pros and cons I’ve stated the film has its ups in down with the bulk of it coming from an under cooked script some flat direction and bland characters, with Corey Stoll, Hope Pym and even Rudd’s former Wife, Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale getting the blunt end of the character development, but sharp wit, charismatic leads from Rudd and Doughlas and great comedic relief from Pena and the rest of crew are able to give Ant-Man the passing grade it deserves and well welcome into the MCU family.
PS, this goes without saying but stay through to the credits for a nice surprise.