Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ant-Man - The Littlest Marvel Film That Could


I will admit to some apprehension about seeing Ant-Man, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the last film in Phase Two. I had read about all the changes to script and to director and about the delays in releasing and frankly, I wondered if Marvel had perhaps gone one step too far, had squeezed a little too much from the tube this time. While I like Paul Rudd, I can't say he'd be someone I'd think of for a super hero. And what is Michael Douglas doing in a comic book movie?

I'm pleased to say that Ant-Man, despite it's four credited screenwriters, is better than I would have feared. While I was looking forward to what Edgar "Cornetto Trilogy" Wright might have written, seeing Adam McKay's name as a screenwriter gave me some pause. Nothing against him as a person, but I did have visions of an Anchorman-like approach to the story and that type of humor would not really be appropriate for this kind of film. There is more cursing in this film than I remember in previous MCU entries; not sure which writer was responsible for that, but overall though, there is a better mix of humor and action than I would have suspected going in.

There are a few problems with the screenplay, such as a woeful regard for time. We're told at one point they need to act in a few days and then we're treated to a montage of training which seems to last longer than the original time frame given. But don't let the space-time continuum get in your way, when you have to believe a man wearing a suit can shrink down to insect-size at the push of a button. There is a sort of pasted-on love story, which frankly detracts a little from the film. It would be nice to see a man and woman work together without always falling in love by the end. And finally, the movie ends up being a little more than a heist movie, a high-tech super hero heist film, but really not much more than that.

This is very much a special effects-laden film and for the most part they work very well. I'm not a big fan of insect movies in general, but I wasn't nearly as repelled by them as I would have suspected. Somehow ants are not as bad as others, I guess. I liked the ants in Them! and they're not nightmare fuel here. Perhaps I might not be saying that if I'd seen Ant-Man in the fake 3-D it is currently also released in.

Paul Rudd makes a good Scott Lang/Ant-Man. Obviously, he put on several pounds of muscle for the film, but he still retains his good-natured appeal. After Ben Kingsley's appearance in Iron Man 3 (2014) and Robert Redford's in Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014), I'm guessing there is no longer any stigma about actors of Michael Douglas' caliber appearing in these films. It was really odd to see him portray essentially an old man, Hank Pym. And while I can't say I'm yet over the time-waster Lost turned out to be, I don't hold that against Evangeline Lilly, who plays Douglas' daughter, Hope Van Dyne.

The supporting cast is pretty good, especially Michael Pena, who plays Luis, a small time criminal with visions of grandeur. And I'm beginning to think Corey Stoll, Darren Cross, can only play villains. And why not, he plays them very well.

Unlike her non-appearance in Tomorrowland, Jane Greer makes the cut here, playing Scott's ex-wife, Maggie, and the fiancee to the San Francisco police detective Paxton (Bobby Cannavale), who is after Scott for a number of transgressions, both personal and criminal.

While Ant-Man is a better entry in the MCU than I could have hoped for, I can't help but feel the experience was a little anti-climatic. Shouldn't Phase Two have concluded with Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)? This feels like the kind of film Marvel, now a part of Disney, could put out in their sleep.

Sadly, Ant-Man is not the next coming of The Guardians of the Galaxy, but rather a mid-ranger in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; a base hit, but not a grand slam home run. The promise of Ant-Man will return is greeted with more of a "of course it will", than "I can't wait."

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