What I watched: Ant-Man
That’s one of them Marvel Universe Movies, right? Well we like to call it a “Malibu Comics Spin-Off Movie,” but whatever.
Does it have one of those scenes where a guy invites a lot of VIPs to his big tech company to reveal the weapon he’ll use at the end to fight the hero? Yeah, and it takes a few minutes. Like, “fly all the way here, our presentation takes 3 minutes, thanks for coming!”
Aside from Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, there’s really not a lot of star power to this one, is there? Well, I don’t know about that, there’s Evangeline Lilly and Haley Atwell makes an appearance and OH MY GOD THAT’S KITTY FROM ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT!
Ant Man is part of the Whatever Happens Next After Avengers phase of the Marvel Comics universe, in the event that they run out of comics ideas or something, I don’t know. I don’t read Variety or CBR or entertainment news sites that want me to believe I’m a participant in how and why these movies are made. Who cares what the long term plan is? Just make the movies good.
I don’t really care that these movies are connected. That they are, sure it’s fun, but it kind of ruins the potential for the movie to be a great thing by itself. These stories already are less about stories and more about the macguffin itself. Two thirds of each one of these are entertaining and fun, with fresh takes on the characters played by actors giving them outsized personalities. Then the last third is the big laser light show. Get the cube! Or the sphere! Or the other suit! Whatever! We did it. We saved the world, but we did it for ourselves and not for Samuel L. Jackson, but wait he’s at the end of the movie and he’s introducing someone after the credits. DID YOU STAY FOR THE CREDITS?
Ant Man starts off with the movie introducing Michael Douglas as someone upset with other characters from the Marvel U, to remind you that it’s part of Marvel. Douglas is Hank Pym, Marvel’s original Ant-Man character. He doesn’t want anyone using his magical Ant-Man formula. Then we cut to Paul Rudd, who is leaving prison. He moves in with Wacky Minority Criminal gang. He wants to go straight so he can see his daughter, being raised by Kitty from Arrested Development and her boyfriend who is a cop. Uh oh! Contrasts!
Rudd is described as a convict guilty of robbing from the rich and powerful and giving to the powerless, but his break in into Pym’s home suggests he has extensive background in being an amazing 2nd story man (of which is a neat heist, by the way). I don’t know if this was something that was going to be played up, that he’s a misunderstood guy who did one thing wrong but REALLY he’s been a career criminal his whole life. The former is what nearly everyone but his Wacky Minority Criminal gang seems to believe. The latter is potentially far funnier, and more fitting to the Eric O’Grady character from Robert Kirkman’s Irredeemable Ant-Man series. Did the filmmakers think that a total jerk who stumbles upon the suit wouldn’t be relatable or interesting?
Well, regardless, Paul Rudd is a guy who looks like he could be the male lead in more serious action flicks but he’s played a lot of ridiculous characters in screwball comedies. This is a movie begging to go screwball comedy but has to fit into the Serious Marvel Adventure. So there’s a middle section of this movie where he just stands to the side and Mike Douglas and Evangeline Lilly have moments while explaining things to him, plus training montages. This goes on for what seems like forever, with so many scenes of Douglas & Lilly staring at TV screens (ugh, the worst action movie bit. Stop with that).
Oh, Falcon from Cap America 2 shows up and they have the patented comic book superheroes-meet-for-the-first-time-and-they-fight and it’s just as boring as it is in the comics. It showcases Ant-Man’s suit and fighting abilities that he had learned in the “it was just the last 10 minutes ago” montage. It felt like they were squeezing this in to remind you that it’s part of the other movies. I don’t mind forgetting that there’s other superheroes for a few movies. Skip the training, have Ant-Man fuddle with his suit while he tries to break into the Avengers storage room as the test run.
Oh, then there’s the villain. Yellowjacket. It’s this bald guy who wears dark suits. I seriously think he’s supposed to be Brian Michael Bendis. He’s the one who invites the VIPs to Pym’s former company to brag about the Yellowjacket suit, even though the tech is unfinished. Because he’s still testing it. This is like Norman Osborn in Spider-Man 1 corporate incompetence. If there was a board of directors he could convince to oust Pym from Pym’s own company, there must be a board of directors that could see how unhinged and unprofessional Yellowjacket is to kick him out as well.
There’s also some story about Pym & Yellowjacket’s teacher student bond but it’s just talk. You know what would be interesting? Showing that, beyond Yellowjacket just showing up to Pym’s place to basically say “I’m unhinged, I’m plotting something, what happened to us, why aren’t we friends?” Why not have that be the story, Yellowjacket kicks Pym out of the company and then Pym discovers Paul Rudd burglarizing things.
I guess then you wouldn’t get the convoluted set up, that he had pegged Rudd as the perfect pawn-ant in his game of bug chess (wait, Pym is a sub-atomic scientist AND bug biologist? What?). You also wouldn’t get Michael Pena’s description of how they get the info about Pym’s safe in his home.
The rest of the movie is both illuminated by and distracts you with shiny special effects. Wacky Minority Team helps both Ant-Man and Pym break into Yellowjacket’s lab. Yellowjacket is prepared to sell Pym’s formula to Hydra and from there it’s Rudd vs. some ridiculous situations. The fight between Falcon & Ant-Man feels even more wedged in. The effects of Ant-Man riding around on the ants in zooming camera shots of fake giant computer rooms to typical swelling superhero orchestral soundtracks, meh. Ant-Man taking on guards and (especially) fleeing bullets on a scale model of the corporate headquarters? Brilliant. I hope viewers appreciated not just the effect of Ant-Man running around on that model, but how it parodies every serious full scale carpet bombing aimed at one guy running through a city street in other action movies.
Obviously what still sets these Marvel movies apart from the grim DC (and non-Disney Marvel) movies is, well, that they’re not grim or serious. Maybe ten years from now these won’t be as fun, the witty dialog won’t hold up as well, the whole experience will be just as disposable as their competitors and will get their reboots. But I would LOVE for there to be a scene where Bruce Wayne has to work at a Baskin Robbins. Maybe The Dark Knight would have been cheapened with “Baskin Robbins always finds out” especially in five or ten years.
Look at Pulp Fiction (watch it several times). Filming a movie is expensive, right? So why have conversations about Quarter Pounders With Cheese? Why does it not start out with “we’re criminals, we should always be talking in exposition about our crimes”? Because those discussions about nothing related to anything else in the movie (other than the Big Brain On Brett) draw you in. They’re talking about something you know about, you’re practically part of the conversation now.
There’s still scenes that are clearly a giant computer cartoon with Ant-Man & Yellowjacket duking it out inside a briefcase, but it’s fitting because their powers are surreal and that’s the realm where the fight keeps taking them. This might have been another crossroads to see where Rudd’s character would go, from misunderstood criminal by default or he’s chaotic neutral; he fights Yellowjacket with his daughter in near danger, and the cop boyfriend from earlier is the one who shows up to actually protect her. Is this the point where he realizes he IS a bad person, and has no business in being part of her life? Or will he later be hanging around recapping with the nuclear family who respects what he had just sacrificed for them in his attempt to redeem himself? Even if it’s the latter, cop boyfriend is still like “Well, I was happy to go the extra mile for YOU, guy who endangered my family.” Sheesus. Rudd plays a fun character and I’m pulling for him, but you shouldn’t forgive him that quickly. Do your job, officer! At least tell Rudd to grow up. You know, with great power etc…
Well, I laughed plenty of times during the, now that I think about it, very long fight. You could have cut so much of the exposition and montages (plus, Hank Pym is introduced as a character being basically RETIRED from the Marvel Universe, so thanks key character from Marvel’s Silver Age, here’s your gold watch) and focused more on either Rudd’s douchebaggery or Pym’s relationship with Yellowjacket that drives both men to stop the other, taking advantage of Rudd while Rudd figures out who he is.
So what it a zany Marvel movie or a self important DC superhero movie? Um, it’s like there was this wacky slapstick adventure, about these goofball criminals granted high tech powers, wanting to get out from the grasp of the heavy drama about men and women arguing over who deserves to wear a special suit and save the day. They even have their own separate soundtracks, with the original score letting you know how serious this is, and some jazzy poppy songs following people practically winking at the camera while up to no good.
Wow, that fight with Falcon seemed really tacked on. I know. It looked bad too. Maybe that and Ant-Man trying to escape the dance floor scene were for 3D, but both looked kinda terrible.
Was it good? The wacky slapstick adventure, yes. The rest, no. I fulfilled my obligation as a fan of comic books to see this movie, so can I go now?
There’s a bad guy at the beginning of the movie that Pym punches, and then he’s there when Yellowjacket gives his presentation in front of Pym, and then he’s there at the end when Yellowjacket tries to sell Pym’s formula to Hydra. Why is Pym surprised to see this guy for the 3rd time in the movie? I don’t know, Pym hasn’t seen movies before.