Tuesday, July 21, 2015


If you haven’t already read my re-review of Avengers: Age of Ultron I’ll sum it up by saying that Marvel didn’t make a movie, they made a Phase 3 commercial. I was so enthralled by all the craziness when I saw it for the first time that I didn’t see what was plainly obvious, but it took a second viewing for me to catch on. I wasn’t pleased and I would say that the kick ass one-two punch of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy was certainly soured in my eyes. 

Ant-Man, the final film in Phase 2 of the MCU, was released this past week and you have to believe that I was not looking forward to it and was extremely cautious. With all the trouble the production of this film went through, from original writer/director Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Shaun of the Dead, The World’s End) quitting over creative differences to the extensive rewrites (some by star Paul Rudd), I was expecting this to be a clusterfuck of epic proportions that would serve as yet another “Here’s what you can look forward to seeing in Phase 3” scenario instead of a complete film.

I was wrong.
Recently paroled thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is recruited by the brilliant scientist Hank Pym (Michael Dougles) to don a suit of his design that will allow him to shrink to the size of an ant to assist his daughter (Evangeline Lily) in stopping his protégé (Corey Stoll) from selling the technology to HYDRA.

Ant-Man is not a top tier character. In fact, the very concept of being able to shrink and talk to ants is kind of a bad idea for a superhero film. Especially when you have characters like Thor, Captain America and The Hulk already in the mix. It’s underwhelming on paper. Thankfully the execution exceeded my expectations completely. I am now firmly in the Ant-Man camp.
The main reasons why I thoroughly enjoyed this fast and fun, yet flawed film is that:
A) It does set up some Phase 3 storylines, but only in a way that would directly affect the characters of this film.
B) It’s not about property damage like the other films. When an epic battle takes place it happens within a 10’x10’ space and not a thriving metropolis like most of the films before it.
C) It takes its time to not only develop the characters properly, but gives interesting backstories to some that have previously been developed in earlier films.
D) It’s genuinely funny.

Paul Rudd (The 40 Year-Old Virgin, This is 40, Role Models) wouldn’t have been my first choice to play a superhero, but he absolutely kills it as an expert thief who resorts to crime in order to take care of his young daughter. He gives a sincere and enthusiastic performance that goes to show that judging a book by its cover isn’t the way to go with these films (and is a theme within the film as well). Marvel knows how to cast their movies perfectly. Well, almost perfectly. By this I refer to Evangeline Lily (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Real Steel) as Hope van Dyne. While I did enjoy her on Lost (the one and a half seasons that I saw of it) she is totally miscast here. She shares no chemistry with Rudd and shows very little interest in the part (except in one particular scene in the end). She looks bored and her hairstyle is atrocious. Corey Stoll (The Strain, Non-Stop) plays a decent, slimy villain as Darren Cross, aka Yellowjacket. He looks a little benign when trying to be menacing every once in a while, but for the most part he works in the part. Michael Douglas (Romancing the Stone, Wall Street) absolutely slays as Hank Pym! You can tell he is having the time of his life being a part of the MCU and he lends the film a touch of old school Hollywood class. Michael Peña (Gracepoint), who is an actor I am not too fond of, is hilarious as Rudd’s thieving sidekick and provides much of the laughter that fills the film.
Director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Down With Love) may not be someone you’d expect to be the one calling the shots behind the scenes of a superhero film, but like Kenneth Branagh and the Russo Brothers before him, he somehow makes it all work. He’s not exactly the flashiest visual stylist out there, but he gives the Ant-Man scenes a very cool look that puts the backgrounds into a trippy haze in order to focus on the details of the miniature world the main character runs around in. It works wonders to separate the large form the small worlds so if we don’t see Scott shrink onscreen the audience will automatically know if he has or not by the visual cues. He also gets Rudd and Douglas to give some sensational and fun performances, but failed miserably when it comes to Lily. But I absolutely heart how he tackled the exposition scenes involving Michael Peña's character. So. Effing. Funny!

Adam McKay (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Step Brothers) and Paul Rudd’s doctored screenplay, which still includes a handful of material written by Edgar Wright as well as a pass by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), is a standard superhero origin story that isn’t concerned with histrionic action scenes or world ending apocalypses that need to be averted. It’s a small scale film that focuses on the characters and how their choices affect them and those around them. Sure there are a couple of rad CGI filled explodathons, but as I said before this film isn’t about property damage. The action scenes mostly take place in the miniature world where a table covered with a child’s toys is a massive battleground filled with the same hazards you might encounter while normal size. These scenes are incredibly creative and enjoyable on multiple levels. But if we didn’t give a rat’s ass about the characters it’s all meaningless. Thankfully that’s not the case.
However, there are a couple of major issues. The villain, Cross, perfects his miniaturization process at around the halfway point. Instead of doing anything with it he sits around waiting for Scott to finish his hero training before making his move. It makes little sense and really ruins a good portion of the film. Additionally, Scott goes from someone who can barely throw a punch to a martial arts master in what seems like less than a week. Lame.

As the final film in Phase 2 of the MCU I have to say that Ant-Man sends it off with a healthy dose of laughter and enthusiasm with what is to come. It’s nice to come off a movie that was as busy and unfocused as Avengers: Age of Ultron to something more intimate and flat out fun. I’d compare it to last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy in that it features a character or characters you might not know too much about going in, but by the end you want to see more of them instantly. While it’s not as flat out amazing as Guardians was, Ant-Man is a must-see all the same. And with where the movie leaves the characters I can’t wait to see what the MCU has in store for them next!

4 out of 5

P.S. Stay until the credits are completely over for a second bonus scene!

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