Ant-Man: Teeny Little Super Guy

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Movie Review:  Ant-Man

Growing Pains

Remind me again why we need a third sciencey guy?
Remind me again why we need a third sciencey guy?

To be honest I was not entirely excited about an Ant-Man movie when I heard it was on the roster of films announced way back in 2006. In the Marvel Universe Hank Pym(Ant-Man) had his place, but lets face it, a scientist that could turn himself small is not as nearly exciting as the Hulk or Iron Man (who are coincidentally the two current scientists on the team that Marvel has tapped to eat Pym’s lunch.)

Then comes the developmental hell that Ant-Man went through, including the very public break up of original director Edgar Wright before production even started. When a movie goes through script overhauls and personnel changes like Ant-Man has, usually the film doesn’t see the light of day (or it’s an unmitigated disaster.) I was all but certain that Ant-Man would be Marvel’s first black eye.

Off Track or Game Changer?

Then I heard the plot strayed from the original Marvel Universe canon. Now for the casual movie-goer that may be no big deal, however ask any fan-boy how they felt about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Or ask about how Deadpool was unceremoniously ruined in X-men Origins, causing Ryan Reynolds to have to all but beg Marvel to give him a second chance at the fan-favorite character.  When you’re dealing with comic books (and a fan-base with access to every vile message board on the internet) screwing with canon can lead to some very dark places.

Want to hear about that time I created Ultron, wiped out humanity, and still had time to beat my wife?  No?  Anyone?
Want to hear about that time I created Ultron, wiped out humanity, and still had time to beat my wife? No? Anyone?

In my opinion California stood a better chance of flooding than Ant-Man continuing Marvel’s #1 opening streak alive…and then the Marvel execs pulled out another flawless victory Mortal Kombat-style with that one decision to ditch canon. Because Ant-Man is a weak hero, Hank Pym was not  lead character material, and Marvel correctly saw that they had to go another direction with the film.

Passing the Torch

Who would have thought:  a likable Ant-Man!
Who would have thought: a likable Ant-Man!

The movie re-imagines Pym (Michael Douglas) as an operative for S.H.I.E.L.D., a scientist turned spy who has all but retired, leaving his tech company in the hands of his protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) and Pym’s daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), with whom Pym has at best a strained relationship. But when Cross decides he is going to use the Pym Particles (which allow all of Ant-Man’s silly powers to exist) to create a new kind of miniaturized soldier, Pym decides he must intervene – and that is where Scott Lang comes in.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is an ex-con, a professional cat burglar, and a devoted dad, who has just been released from a long prison stint and is determined to go straight.

After no luck finding a job, Lang lapses back into his old ways and finds a mysterious suit that can make him turn super-small at the press of a  button, this is when he is approached by Pym, who offers him a much better escape.

Honey I Shrank The Kid

When things get small, things get interesting.
When things get small, things get interesting.

When Scott Lang/Ant-Man shrinks to his half-inch size, the audience gets a whole new perspective on the world around him. While none of this is really new (check out our See It Instead!) it is something new for the MCU, where the action tends to be over-sized.  More Importantly, it works.

Ant-Man may have the most believable shrinking-movie set pieces you’ll ever see. Scale, lighting, textures and movement etc. were painstakingly crafted here. Very few movies benefit from 3D (OK, just Gravity really) but Ant-Man really justified every dollar they spent on the post production 3D. It not only had the wow factor, but made the film that much more Immersive

Laugh It Off

That's for trying to add a family drama to my shrinking wise-ass film!
That’s for trying to add a family drama to my shrinking wise-ass film!

Ant-Man becomes a better than average heist movie inter-cut with a lame relationship drama, The family scenes are completely flat. A single dad wants his daughter to love him, shows up at her birthday party unannounced, puts her in harm’s way — it’s all been done to death.

Paul Rudd saves this film.  While Ant-Man can be a bit formulaic as superhero films go, Rudd, who is laughably unheroic, utilizes his low key sardonic sense of humor, sarcastic wit and deadpan delivery to really bring out a comedic presence that is lacking (outside of one-liners) in other Marvel films. That is what makes Ant-Man stand out in the Marvel Universe.

Come for the shrinking, stay for the snark.
Come for the shrinking, stay for the snark.

Ultimately what you’re left with is another Marvel movie that just barely manages to differentiate itself. It’s enough to continue to develop the universe and satisfy the casuals and fan boys, but you won’t be screaming for a follow up.  While Guardian’s of the Galaxy genuinely took the MCU in a new direction (space!) Ant-Man is largely more of the same.  It will be nice to have Rudd’s charm and comedic flair in the next big team up film, but Ant-Man 2 had better take more risks unless the franchise (because of course it’s getting a sequel despite being only marginally successful) wants to remain in the shadow of fan favorites like Iron Man and Captain America.

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