ANT-MAN REVIEW:One Reed Doesn’t Make a Wright
Walking out of Ant-Man, I felt like I had fun. Not as much fun as some of the other MCU movies, like Age of Ultron, Guardians or Cap: Winter Soldier – but I had fun. And after walking out of what is almost assuredly Marvel’s most family friendly film to date, I understand why Edgar Wright and Marvel had their differences. Because Edgar Wright is funny, but he isn’t family friendly. And after the massive shakeup that Age of Ultron brought, Marvel wanted a family friendly palate cleanser to serve as their epilogue to Phase Two and intro to Phase 3. So let’s take a look at MCU’s Phase Two Epilogue: Ant-Man.
The scope of the story is pretty small – going back to about the size of what Iron Man was. In fact, it’s probably just a little smaller than that! Paul Rudd is a cat-burglar down on his luck just trying to get his shit together so that he can see his daughter, when he’s recruited by Hank Pym to stop his former protege. In terms of story, that’s about as complicated as it gets – which is kind of nice considering how even a few of the recent standalone Marvel films had the whole world in peril before Age of Ultron decided to “help” humanity evolve.
While this movie is small in scope, it’s big on heart, with Rudd’s Scott Lang trying to live up to the hero image his daughter, Cassie, has for him. There’s also the disapproving ex-wife and her fiancee, who happens to be a cop, that help him in his motivations as they want to see him straighten up, but won’t hesitate to demonstrate tough love to protect Cassie. It’s a cute little dynamic that makes for some funny moments. There’s also a subplot involving Evangeline Lily’s Hope and her father, Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym, as they drag Scott into their family squabbles that end up giving us a small peek at Hank’s past as The Ant-Man.
One of my bigger pet peeves of the film was how Corey Stoll’s character, Darren Cross was handled. He takes on the mantle of scorned protege who tries to outdo his mentor and becomes that evil mad scientist. He’s played a bit cartoonishly, for my taste – overly charismatic, yet deeply sociopathic. Perhaps if Patrick Bateman had been a money-grubbing scientist instead of a Wall Street yuppie… Thinking on it now, I kind of feel like an interesting story opportunity was missed by showing how Cross became so obsessed with his quest that he eventually drove himself mad. I don’t know, maybe it would have humanized him a bit more.
Pet peeves aside, it’s a pretty solid movie, though, there are times where it does feel like it’s a little undecided with its tone – as it goes from slapstick funny to deadly serious in a snap from time to time. That could have something to do with who sat in the director’s chair, since director Peyton Reed has said that they worked pretty closely with Edgar Wright’s original script – even though Paul Rudd and Adam McKay did some touch ups after Wright departed the project. I think it takes Wright in the chair to make what he writes work the way it’s supposed to, and Reed seems to showcase that with this tonality issue. And that’s not to say that Peyton Reed is a bad director, or that he does a bad job, because he doesn’t. But I can’t think of anything in the film that stood out to me as being one of his films. He didn’t seem to put his stamp on it, so to speak. He did his job, and he did it pretty well. But that’s it.
As I said in the beginning, Ant-Man serves to not only close off Phase 2, but to also intro Phase 3. Mainly the intro to Phase 3 is done with the introduction of the Pym particle and the technology surrounding it, as Kevin Feige has said that the Pym Particle and the quantum realm will end playing huge parts in Phase 3. Obviously, there’s more of the Pym Particle in the narrative, but the Quantum Realm plays a key role – and I’d be interested to see what they do with the Quantum Realm in the upcoming movies (most probably Infinity War).
One other thing before I cap this off: the supporting cast who play Scott’s team are incredible – as more than half of this movie’s laughs are because of them! David Dastmalchian, whom you might recognize from The Dark Knight, plays a Russian hacker who always seems to have a quip for something. Tip “T.I.” Harris is the wheelman for Lang’s little Ocean’s… Four crew, and he gets a few great comedic moments. But the real star of the show is Michael Pena, who’s dopey and laughably lovable Luis seems to steal the show every time he’s on screen. From his first scene to his last, Luis is smiling his weirdly insane grin and saying something that has you laughing your ass off. Maybe the next Ant-Man should just be Pena and Rudd – and the entire thing is improv! What? It could work.
So, closing thoughts: Marvel’s Ant-Man is a fun movie that works well enough at what it does, but doesn’t do anything too spectacular. You’ll have fun with it, and if you have little ones, definitely bring them. Now that Lang’s origin story is out of the way, and Marvel got its palate cleanser, why don’t we give the reigns to Edgar Wright one more time and let him just do his thing – whether it’s a straight up sequel to Lang’s story, or a prequel that goes back and explores Hank Pym’s early days as the Cold War Ant-Man – as seems to be a rumored possibility. Though I think Rudd’s comedic talent would work better with Wright style. In the end, it’s a movie worth your time and money. Go see it, go have some fun.