The Aphthakid is back and so is the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its latest installment: Ant-Man. More after the jump.
Ant-Man is a perfectly acceptable super-hero movie. Its issues are mostly meta. In other words, you come into it wondering why it exists at all. Why of all the characters available in the Marvel stable, did they hitch up Ant-Man? I mean, seriously, Ant-Man?! The movie actually does a fairly good job of making the case that Ant-Man is a cool hero with a nice set of powers, and they don’t avoid the fact that the name is terrible.
Paul Rudd plays our title character, who goes by Scott Lang when not engaged in ant-ics. He brings his affable Paul Ruddness to the proceedings but not much else. His performance is rather underwhelming. He’s fine when he’s playing the usual Paul Rudd smartmouth character, but when he’s asked to pull off the emotional subplot, he falls a bit flat. He can say as many times as he wants that his daughter means everything to him, but he doesn’t quite pull off making it believable.
The sub-plots all revolve around daddy issues. Scott Lang is searching for a way to reconnect with his daughter after getting sent up the river for some Robin Hood style burglaries. Hank Pym likewise is estranged both from his daughter, Hope, and his protege, the son he never had, Darren Cross. Seriously, it’s like Daddy Issues: The Motion Picture.
Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym is one of the better parts of the movie, especially early on when he’s being more of the stubborn jerk that Hank Pym is famous for being. As much as this adventure is a redemption for Scott Lang, it’s doubly so for Hank Pym who has a lifetime of regrets and burned or semi-burned bridges. Douglas does a good job bringing that out, while still having a wry sense of humor.
Evangeline Lily plays Pym’s daughter Hope. As previously mentioned, she’s got some issues with her father. Lily plays her very well, and it’s a fun character. She’s tough and headstrong, but, at the same time, she thinks before she acts and follows the smart path. She’s actually much better prepared to be a super-hero than Scott is and this is a key thread to the story. I would have liked to have seen more of the relationship between Hope and Cross. It doesn’t seem to be romance, something closer to familial, but it’s underdeveloped.
Cross, our bad guy, and, believe me, that’s apparent from the second you see him, is another problem with the movie. Not that Corey Stoll does a bad job with it, its more of a script problem than anything else. Cross aka Yellowjacket is one of those villains who actually has the law 100% on his side but just can’t help being eeeeeeevil even though it’s actually making things harder for himself. The reason given in the movie is that Pym particles are making him bonkers but, again, it would have been nice to have seen that more than just being told.
But enough about all these daddy issues. The movie is, at it’s heart, a fun caper movie and it is best when it is living in that space. A big part of what makes the caper aspect so much fun are Scott’s gang of criminal pals: Luis, Dave and Kurt. Michael Pena’s Luis is especially delightful. He is a surprisingly well rounded chatterbox, skilled actor, master of disguise, lands a solid punch, and he also has a heart of gold going out of his way to rescue a security guard he’d konked earlier. Michael Pena pretty much steals every scene he’s in.
Which brings us back to the meta problems with this movie. Namely, the meta problem of having to be a big budget blockbuster tied into the other Marvel films. If this had been a film just about Scott Lang and his gang of delightful goobers stealing the suit, having wacky adventures learning how to use it, and then pulling off some caper together amid cute musical puns (BTW, be alert for musical puns) and running gags, it would have been a much better movie. This film doesn’t suffer from the need to tie into the other Marvel movies nearly as badly as Age of Ultron, but it still drags the film away from being the best version of itself.
The Ant-Man effects are everything you’d expect. They do a very good job showing how effective and powerful the size change abilities can be. And Ant-Man brings a variety of ants to the party, each with their own specialty, including the fire ants making a raft. But, again, it might have been a better movie if it had been smaller (ha!) and had more character moments and humor instead of flashly effects and explosions.
So, overall, Ant-Man is a pretty good movie, with a lot of fun moments, but it would have been better served as a more niche release instead of being weighed down by the big budget and big expectations of being a Marvel summer blockbuster.
And remember, Baskin Robbins always finds out.