Well, I’ve seen Ant-Man! That seems like it took a while, but I guess it’s only been out a few weeks. Movies are a bit pricey in Australia so all I had to do was fly to Thailand and then it became easy to afford (even as I write this, I am waiting for my showing of Mission Impossible Rogue Nation. Thanks, Thailand!)
Anyway…Ant-Man. Could it possibly be any good? Well, you already know. It’s been out for a while and you’ve already read reviews and blog posts, if you haven’t actually gone out and seen it yourself. And the answer is yes, it is. It’s pretty good. Which just goes to affirm the fact that you can skillfully tell a story about just about anything if you’re canny enough. Of course, Ant-Man is a bit silly, but thank goodness for that, right?
Who goes to see a film called Ant-Man, or really, anything from Marvel Studios, and expects or wants to see high drama? I want a wise-cracking, goofy, adventure story with its feet firmly grounded in Marvel’s “touch of fantasy” movie world. And I got it. Paul Rudd, who I guess I’m supposed to be familiar with but am not, is charming and fun as Scott Lang, a likeable thief who distinguishes between robbing and burgling because the one doesn’t involve any threat of physical harm, and whose crime was sort of in the Robin Hood steal-from-the-rich / give-to-the-poor vain anyway. He’s got a daughter he’s estranged from whom that he wants to do right by, but in a Jean Valjean-style of motivation, he’s driven back to crime because the system (eg. Baskin-Robbins) won’t let him in.
Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view, he tries to rob Hank Pym, who in this movie is a Batman-level strategic mastermind, the creator of the Ant-Man suit (which allows the wearer to shrink). He’s also created another, completely separate technology that allows him to tell ants what to do, incidentally. Pym had a falling out with his unscrupulous protégé who now wants to—would you believe it?—weaponize Pym’s shrinking technology. Pym’s only choice is to get this one thief with a heart of gold and trick him into putting on the shrinking suit to find out if he’s worthy of the Ant-Man mantle so he can then train him to break in to the lab and steal the guy’s tech and destroy his gigantic room full of computers that apparently contains every last back up of every bit of the research into this technology.
This movie contains all manner of predictable nonsense – an overcomplicated heist plot, an extended (really extended) training montage which is going on while the bad guy is doing who-knows-what, paper-thin motivations for Pym to train this new guy to do the job rather than allowing his more experienced daughter to do it, lots of urgency with no sense behind it (Pym has to get inside the building or people will die, he tells some cops during the movie’s climactic scenes, but once he gets inside we find out that his part of the plan is to…nothing. He doesn’t do anything, except almost die), and Scott Lang escaping from inescapeable limbo at the end of the film thanks to the power of being the movie’s main character.
I find it hard to write about the film without remembering all this stuff and pointing it out, but the fact of the matter is that as far as an entertainment experience goes, none of it really matters. The movie is a low-stress roller-coaster ride with lots of energy and rampant wit, and a fun storyline. The supporting cast is enjoyable, with Michael Peña as one of Scott’s thieving buddies standing out. And the movie features a few strong tie-ins to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to make the fans happy, including an extended fight scene with the Falcon (looking way better than we saw him for 5 seconds in Age of Ultron).
It also features an acknowledgement to one of the difficulties of the rest of Marvel’s non-Avengers films, which is why people in the solo movies don’t call their superhero friends for help all the time: Scott Lang starts off his partnership with Hank Pym by saying something like, “OK, the first thing I think we should do is call the Avengers.” I don’t remember Pym’s reasons for not doing so, but I appreciated the fact that they hung a lampshade on it.
The film also promises a sequel or follow-up of some point, with indications that Pym’s daughter Hope will become the Wasp, and the potential for Hope’s mother, comic book’s Janet van Dyne, to still be alive and to return as well. Janet’s physical appearance is deliberately obscured in this movie so that a famous actress could play her in the future. In interviews, Michael Douglas (Pym) has suggested his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones take the role, while Evangeline Lilly (Hope) has suggested Michelle Pfeiffer simply on the basis that she was awesome as Catwoman. I read recently that Michelle Pfeiffer wants to play a tough butt-kicking character a la Jack Bauer, so maybe this is her chance!
One small complaint about the movie is its random and forced use of a few off-color bits of profanity. What’s the point of that? Why take a film that is so overall appropriate for children and stick a few pointless lines in it that would make sensitive ears uncomfortable? Are they afraid that teenagers or adults won’t think Ant-Man is cool enough without them? Come on, your movie is called “Ant-Man”. This is some goofy stuff, just own it and get on with it. Brother.