Thursday, July 23, 2015

You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Tiny

Year: 2015
Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll
Run Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Ant-Man is a punchline. A superhero who can make himself really tiny? He’s the Aquaman of the Avengers. It’s like when you’re at a restaurant and ask for a Coke and they say, “I’m sorry, we only have Ant-Man.” At least, that’s been the online dialogue among non-comic book fans. But guess what? Guardians of the Galaxy took a property that literally two and a half people cared about and converted it into a media juggernaut, so why not Ant-Man?

Enter Edgar Wright. …Exit Edgar Wright. Leave the keys to the guy who made Bring It On and Yes Man (I’ve never ever heard of that superhero). Suffice it so say, Ant-Man isn’t quite the sterling success that Guardians was, though it packs some punch in a very similar, if slightly watered down manner: trump up an achingly generic storyline with a heavy dose of good-natured humor and hope for the best.

Also – exactly one disappointingly brief ab shot.

Ant-Man tells the story of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a cat burglar trying to turn his life around after his release from San Quentin. He’s working hard to be a good role model for his daughter, but it’s tough to find work as an ex-con. He’s sent on a job that turns out to be an elaborate set-up by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, looking just as confused to see himself here as I am), who has invented a suit that can shrink the size of the wearer while increasing their strength. This suit is controlled by the Pym particle. Only Hank knows the formula to this particle, which is also a liquid because science. Also he can mind control ants, because why not.

Hank enlists Scott to work with his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) to help him perform an elaborate heist and shut down the operation of Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who has taken over Pym’s company to develop a shrink suit called the Yellowjacket, which he plans to sell to HYDRA, which is basically the Marvel equivalent of Osama bin laden presents the Nazi Party. If this suit falls into the wrong hands, it’s somehow even worse than Iron Man’s suit, which can shoot nuclear warheads out of its ass. Because ants. Or something.

I’m so sorry, Hunter.

The biggest liability – and the biggest strength – of Ant-Man lies in just how inconsequential it really is. It knows it’s a story you’ve heard a quintillion times before and it knows it’s just a breadcrumb on the trail to Avengers XD: Montezuma’s Revenge or what have you, so when it takes the liberty of not taking itself so seriously, it soars. Ant-Man is a film with a tremendous sense of humor, both about itself (and its stature among its epic superhero peers) and within itself. It’s a genuinely funny movie, much like Guardians of the Galaxy before it, though admittedly most of its best lines are disproportionately handed to the terrific Michael Peña (as Scott’s best friend Luis).

But when Ant-Man isn’t laughing, it’s unrepentantly mechanical. Characters repeatedly show off their grotesquely inflated single behavioral traits like some kind of low rent freak show, trying not to trip over the hypnotically gargantuan foreshadowing scattered haphazardly at their feet. Character motives bend and snap in ways that put Elle Woods to shame, all in the service of ladling the audience with as much steamy, nutritious Marvel Cinematic Universe exposition as they can handle. The highest number of the most affordable cameos jockey for position among the actual storyline, which at this point is so overgrown and choked out that the establishing shots are practically subliminal and the entire second act has been converted into one incoherent montage,

Although, to be fair, I’m pretty sure that’s technically a genre now.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly serviceable. Those who love Marvel will get a kick out of connecting the dots. And those who just want Ant-Man only have to unfocus their eyes during a couple key moments to keep themselves pure. There’s a dash of political commentary, a surprising playfulness in the infrequent action sequences incorporating the balletic exchanging of sizes, and the questionable creature CGI is easily overlooked by the film’s jocular tone. No, the only truly, egregiously bad thing about Ant-Man is Evangeline Lilly’s hair, which she has clearly stolen from Bryce Dallas Howard’s sacrificial wig altar on the Jurassic World set.

It’s the only possible explanation.

But the fact remains that Ant-Man is a lark. It’s a fun, occasionally clever sugar rush, but it’s not Marvel filmmaking at its finest. It’s worth a watch for the humor, but absolutely do not go into it expecting anything other than a tinier version of everything you’ve already seen before. By every definition of that word.

TL;DR: Ant-Man is a funny, but inconsequentially generic entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Rating: 6/10
Should I Spend Money On This? Sure. Why not beat the heat? Just beat it at matinee prices.
Word Count: 850
Reviews In This Series
Ant-Man (Reed, 2015)
Captain America: Civil War (Russo & Russo, 2016)
Ant-Man and the Wasp (Reed, 2018)

1 comment:

  1. I paid evening show price and I'd do it again!

    I also like bob cuts, although you do raise an interesting comparator point. Hope is kind of exactly like Claire in Jurassic World, if the film and it's creators didn't outright loathe her.

    Also, Paul Rudd's abs make me sad. He's like, what, 60? I wish I could get cast in a superhero movie, with all the personal training/body shaming and whole "getting paid to do sit-ups" thing that affords. Alas, 'tis not my lot.