“Ant-Man” swarms summer screens with a certain wry charm and wit
Sometimes it seems reviews repeat themselves. This is especially true of franchise films, as Hollywood is nothing if not repetitive. But then, certain things can’t be denied. Certain personality flaws lend themselves to addictive behavior.
Superheroes are my weakness. While I can still separate good storytelling from bad storytelling, point out missed opportunities, and challenge the logic behind choices made by the filmmakers, I will invariable enjoy some part, however small, of any superhero movie I see. We all have our blind spots—it seems that films made by Marvel Studios are mine.
The latest in Marvel’s box office domination blitz is the not-quite-so-well-known hero Ant-Man. At first glance, Ant-Man sounds less like a superhero and more like a 1950s B-movie, or a straight-to-video rip-off of “The Fly.” Ant-Man has never had the appeal of Iron Man or Captain America, and who knows why audiences are more accepting of Spider-man when it comes to spidey-related powers.
Ant-Man was just never an A-lister with The Avengers. But this is why he deserves his own film and ends Marvel’s Phase II of the Cinematic Universe. “Ant-Man” is the beginning of far more esoteric and off-beat superheroes, one that tests the waters of the weird.
The synopsis of Ant-Man and his powers, for the non-true-believers among us, is as follows: Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) developed Pym Particles in the 1960s, which allowed him to shrink himself and other objects to miniscule sizes. While he is tiny, Ant-Man retains the strength of his full-sized self, allowing for his diminutive punches to pack the same wallop as a grown man. For years, Pym operates as an infiltrator for various agencies, SH.I.E.L.D. being one of them.
In addition to his shrinking abilities, Pym has developed a way to control a variety of ant species and use them for various purposes, like transportation, shorting out electrical equipment, biting guards, etc. Tony Stark’s father wants to use Pym’s technology to create an army of tiny super soldiers, but Pym objects and the technology is lost.
Cut to many years later, and Pym has been voted out of his company by his daughter and his protégé is on the cusp of recreating Pym’s work. Pym must find a way to stop his creation from falling into the wrong hands.
What sets Marvel films apart from other superhero franchises is the way that they occupy separate genres within the genre. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is a Cold War drama. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a space opera. “Ant-Man” is a heist film. However, it’s not a very good one. At no point is the audience tricked; the plan is too straightforward for an “Ocean’s 11”-style bait and switch. This is no “The Sting” and Paul Rudd is no Paul Newman.
However, because it is backed up by the superhero aspects, “Ant-Man” has enough action and fun to make up for those shortcomings. Rudd, who has taken the mantle of “Ant-Man” from an aging Pym, is his typical charming and affable self. Much of the fun is derived from the less-than-serious nature of the screenplay, penned in part by Edgar Wright, who left the project early due to “creative differences.”
I’d like to see Wright’s version of the film, without notes from Marvel, because the more absurd the circumstances, the better. However, Marvel has an image to maintain, and while they allow a certain amount of levity, they still require something a serious tone.
There is not much to say about the villain in the film. Corey Stoll plays a scheming scientist (of which the Marvel Universe has no shortage) and does so as well as the screenplay allows. Stoll is much more capable than we see in his performance, but then many of the Marvel villains have been frustratingly one-sided.
(Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin in the Netflix Original Series “Daredevil” has so far been the only truly complex character, although Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is a close second.)
Villains need a chance to show their humanity in order to appear monstrous, and often the Marvel films just don’t have the time to devote real development. Given that we are now 12 films in, this is unlikely to change.
And there we have it. “Ant-Man” is a perfectly fine addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with enough action and wit to entertain an audience for two hours. If you love Marvel movies, you’ll likely love this one. If you haven’t seen a Marvel movie before, you’ll probably enjoy it as well.
Theere are plenty of Marvel movies and shows on the way—we’ll meet here again for “Captain America: Civil War.” Until then, we should try to branch out some. I hear there’s a new Adam Sandler movie soon...