Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ant-Man

This review is Spoiler-free.

Don't worry; I'll refrain from the size jokes.

Ant-Man is the newest Marvel flick, and it's been a while since we've seen a solo introductory Marvel film. The solo film's style should reflect accurately the character of the hero it features, and it's an important task to get right as it sets the tone for that character for the rest of his movie career. In that, and in many, many other things, Ant-Man knocks it out of the park.

Standing in the tub trying to get the full view in the bathroom mirror. Things we can all relate to.

Scott Lang is a burglar. He very strictly only does non-violent crimes of sneaky thieving and even takes cues from Robin Hood. But he still gets caught. We pick up as he's just finishing his three-year stint in prison, and he's determined to go straight -- for his daughter. That doesn't work so well though, and eventually he decides to take just one last job -- for his daughter. But this job of burgling one Dr. Hank Pym's house gets him way more than he ever asked for, and exactly what he needs; a chance to become the good guy, save the world, and be a good dad -- for his daughter.

"Save the world" sounds exactly like what you'd expect from a Marvel flick, and it's true that the fate of the world hangs in the balance in this plot, but, it hangs in the background. There's no immediate danger of aliens or robots actively destroying the world. I say this not because it features a guy who shrinks, but because it's true; Ant-Man is just plain on a smaller scale than any Marvel film so far. And I love it. 

A smaller scale never means there's any less heart.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a superhero spy movie; Guardians of the Galaxy was a superhero space movie; Ant-Man is a fantastic superhero heist movie. And heist movies, by definition, do not make a lot of noise. It was wonderfully refreshing to not see massive destruction and hordes of casualties in this one; but at the same time, when, say, a suitcase, or a miniature city gets completely obliterated, it gives the impression of the superhero destruction and delivers on all the visual thrills that entails -- just without all those bothersome consequences.

Paul Rudd at the lead of this film is just as cool and charming as you would expect out of the newest Marvel movie superhero, but his Scott Lang has a lot more to him that I did not expect; being a new and determined convert to the ranks of "family man" for one. For Scott it's more about his daughter than anything else, and that's a particularly sweet thing to see in a movie like this. He also gives the impression of just being a regular guy better than any of his super predecessors. His hard work and determination makes him worthy of his superhero status, and his charm and humor makes him a lovable lead for the film.

He was also automatically cool, as a burglar... but he probably would have been cool anyway.

Michael Douglas is the resident movie veteran, so of course he is great. Dr. Pym is the creator of the Ant-Man suit, and is Scott's mentor and trainer, but he has plenty of his own character development to worry about, and some of may be a bit contrived, but he handles it all like the pro he is. Evangeline Lily is Pym's daughter; source of much snark and cynicism, and the general greatness we've come to expect out of her. She is fun and involving and lovely, and a little bit deadly. The villain is Corey Stoll, and he does a fantastic job with what he has, but doesn't get to go quite as crazy as he is capable of and I was hoping for. Still he was a classically sinister kind of villain which was great, and was very well-dressed.

When you look this good, you really should rule the world.

And Judy Greer was there, as Scott's ex-wife and mother of his daughter, and I liked her so much I felt kind of sad that there didn't seem to be any chance of their getting back together. Bobby Cannavale was her fiancé and a cop, so of course there's clashing between him and Scott which helped makes things more personal and closer to home. Hayley Atwell and John Slattery also make appearances as their Peggy Carter and Howard Stark. Plus there's one very fun surprise appearance that I won't ruin.

Evangeline, hard to recognize under that hair.

Scott's team of fellow burglars is Luis (Michael Peña) Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (T.I.) Used mostly for comic relief, they were all funny, and helpful to the plot to boot, but Michael Peña stands out for miles and miles with his scene-stealing and hilarious character. At least a little bit of the credit for his hilarity though, has to go to the writers for writing that one awesome gag and knowing who to give it to for the best effect. There were several writers -- Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, the great Edgar Wright and even Paul Rudd himself -- so I don't know who gets credit for that bit, but I get the feeling it goes to Wright. The director Peyton Reed also certainly deserves props here too.

Three funny dudes.

I knew I'd love this movie, and I was right, but what I couldn't predict was why, and how differently I love it from the way I love other Marvel flicks. This movie reminded me of what I loved about movies as a kid, and made me feel like I was that little kid again; being thrilled by the sheer inventiveness and involved in the classic, old-fashioned-type plot events. I was even slightly more shocked at the little language and slightly disturbing violence than I normally would have been. Things that I would normally find too silly I suddenly found easy to forgive as well, and even sometimes quite easy to accept and enjoy, just because the movie itself embraced and wasn't ashamed of the silliness. I feel sentimental about this movie, like it's a childhood favorite, and I only saw it yesterday.

One cool thing I didn't expect was how much the ants were used. They were totally helpful and unique, and yes, pretty darned cute too.

This film is one of the more family-friendly, and definitely the most family-oriented Marvel films to date, but don't think that means it leaves our more refined adult side bored and wanting. It easily holds its own against the plethora of more obviously enticing and effortlessly marketable superhero flicks already in existence -- with its tongue in its cheek, its head held high, and its sights focused on its own sky-high goals. Goals that are reached with heart and humor and a determined effort. Ant-Man is a fun and fantastic caper that caters to the child in all of us. And let's be honest; if we're watching a superhero movie, we already have a child inside, just waiting to be catered to.

4 comments:

  1. Great review, now I wanna see it xD

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  2. Even though the movie seemed to have a small handful of missed opportunities, overall, it was so good! Rudd really nailed the role, and Douglas added so much experience to the film. I also agree that the small scale heist really worked. Like you said, the movies feel like a kid again, and I was so excited during many of the scenes since I finally got to see Ant-Man on the big screen! I felt like I did when I read Scott Lang’s origin comic when I was a kid. On that note, it adapts the original story surprisingly well; it is probably the second most comic accurate after Captain America.

    Excellent review! It is always great to see other reviewers that are just as enthusiastic about the film as I am. Honestly, after walking out of the theater, I really expected that this would be Marvel’s worst received film since Iron Man 2, and yet almost everyone at least liked it. So I have to say that it is great to see people still enjoying a more lighthearted adventure like Ant-Man! :)

    -James

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    Replies
    1. That's really neat that it was accurate to its comic! I've never thought about that much, but I supposed that helped it with its classic feel.

      Thanks a bunch James! I'm glad we agree that it is a great film. I was worried about it too, with the early critic reviews that it would be generally disliked and forgotten, and I guess many people didn't actually go see it, but I've yet to come across someone who has and didn't like it. I just wish more people would watch it! They don't know what they're missing! It's "lighthearted adventureness" was a great change for Marvel, and a breath of fresh air. :)

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