How is this movie real? Seriously. My mind was blown at the fact that what I witnessed was funded by a major film studio, since it took a lot of risks. Just over a year ago, DG expressed concern about Edgar Wright backing down from what had been his passion project due to creative differences. That combined with the apparent fridging of a major female from the Marvel comicsverse made for what most thought was a doomed film.
Truthfully, I went in not entirely certain of what to expect besides Paul Rudd being quip-y. I got so much more than I bargained for. If you want a superhero flick with a lot of laughs, I implore you to consider Ant-Man. The special effects were great; I loved the use of macro photography to achieve the unique look of the ant-level scenes. Although framed by serious scientific implications for the MCU, the movie didn’t take itself too seriously. Much the same approach of the first Captain America film, but on larger scale (size pun unintended). While CA: TFA took countless punches at Nazis, Ant-man is a heist story with science-based hijinks. Surely by now you’ve glimpsed the simultaneously epic and hilarious Thomas the Tank Engine fight scene from the trailer?
Despite its weaknesses (which I wouldn’t be surprised were a result of rewriting Edgar Wright’s screenplay), I enjoyed Ant-Man, and I’ll give it a B-.
Obligatory Spoiler Warning!
It wasn’t until the first trailer came out and I saw the name “Pym” on a company sign that I realized we were technically getting two Ant-men (Ant-mans?): Scott Lang AND Hank Pym. Weaving both of them into the MCU was actually well done: Hank (Michael Douglas) once worked with S.H.I.E.L.D. doing covert operative work with his unique shrinking technology. After years of hiding his research to keep it from the wrong hands, Pym’s former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) seeks to recreate it and profit. Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) plot to stop him by stealing the new tech with the help of ex-con Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).
If anything, I think the pacing was exceedingly different from any of the previous Marvel movies, and it didn’t always work. When Scott’s training montage was interrupted for a gruff exchange between Hope and Pym about her mother’s death, the dialogue felt stilted and predictable.
At least the truth about Janet Van Dyne was treated with appropriate gravitas, largely thanks to the acting chops of Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly. Of course, Rudd-as-Scott Lang had to ruin the moment because, hey, technically it’s his movie. I’m still not sure how I feel about MCU Scott Lang. He’s charming, but how much of that is actually the character, and not just Paul Rudd being Paul Rudd? I mean, I walked out of the theater loving Hope, Cassie, Luis, and even Hank Pym more than I did Scott. Rudd’s superhero wasn’t the sole protagonist to me, it seemed more of a trio of protagonists in Scott, Hope, and Hank.
While Scott’s criminal associates are endearing, more often than not they fell into the shared role of Comic Relief when Paul Rudd wasn’t an option. Of the three, the more fully fleshed out one was Luis (Michael Pena). He actually gets a bit of heroic sidekick screen-time. And while it was great to see so many people of color in this film (including the police), most of Scott’s crew was scraped off an outdated Board O’ Stereotypes. That time could’ve been better used to flesh out some of the consequences of the Pym Particle, rather than just seeing what comedy comes out of it. Hank’s physical and possibly mental condition after years of wearing the suit, plus Darren Cross’s unprotected exposure to the particle altering his brain was hinted at but never delivered upon. Instead we get the wackiest version of Chekhov’s Gun I’ve ever seen, in the guise of a keychain that busts open a building.
I loved Hope Van Dyne and I would actually be totally okay with her getting a larger role in the MCU. Her character arc actually works really well as a metaphor for the experience of female superheroes in the current film industry: she’s sidelined on countless occasions despite being the stronger, smarter choice. Which is probably why I loved the mid-credits scene so much. Hope saying “It’s about damn time” echoes the same words of Hayley Atwell when Agent Carter was announced.
I feel bad for saying this, but I almost hope that Scott IS expendable and that Hope comes to the forefront as a possible Avenger. Mid- and post-credits scenes are used to tease significant upcoming events, so Hope getting her own suit can’t have been put in on a whim. We didn’t get Janet Van Dyne, but maybe Hope will be the Wasp we deserve.