by Mark Greig
For a long time now, ever since Edgar Wright famously left the project over creative differences with Marvel Studios, Ant-Man has been a film that many were expecting to fail and fail spectacularly.
Well, Ant-Man is by no means a massive failure, nor would I say it's a great success. It is simply what it is; a fun, entertaining superhero movie with the same flaws that plague most Marvel movies. Ant-Man has the feel of a Phase One film, in the sense that it is a well told origin story -- something Marvel can do exceptionally well even for their lesser known characters -- that is strong on character, humour, heart, and thanks to its heist structure, has a lean plot that doesn't outstay its welcome. The film's two-hour runtime whizzes by.
Perhaps one reason there is so much negativity directed towards the film is the name itself. Many can't seem to get past the name Ant-Man, because a movie about an insect-based superhero is clearly a ridiculous idea that no one would ever pay to see *cough* Spider-Man *cough*. Many have bemoaned that shrinking isn't as cool a superpower as flight. Which is true, it isn't. But, as this film goes to great lengths to show, it is far from a useless power. Also, the shrinking capabilities of the hero and villain lead to some great action sequences, like a fight in a suitcase while an iPhone knocks out 'Disintegration' by The Cure and a climatic showdown on a little girl's Thomas the Tank Engine toy set.
While he's not going to win an abs-off with the Chrises any time soon, Paul Rudd is a likeable enough lead as Scott Lang -- a thief with a heart of gold who just want to be a good father to his daughter -- but the film's strongest emotional arc belongs to Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly as estranged father and daughter Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne. But it is Michael Peña who almost walks away with the entire film as Scott's prison buddy Luis. I say almost because he is given a run for his money by Abby Ryder Fortson as Scott's daughter Cassie. She is just so adorable.
As enjoyable as Ant-Man is, it is still handicapped by some of Marvel Studio's recurring issues. Despite Corey Stoll's best efforts, Darren Cross is another underwhelming, underwritten villain who is there simply so there is someone for the hero to fight at the end. This is also the latest Marvel film to fail the Bechdel test. Hope, Cassie and her mother are the only female characters with prominent speaking roles, and the only time two of them speak to each other (which is once) it is to talk about a man. Come on, Marvel, you need to get your act together on this one. Yes, you have some fantastic female characters, but it would be nice if there was more than just one per movie.
Notes and Quotes
--The FX that make Michael Douglas look 25 years younger at the start of the film are exceptional. We've come a long way since the horrors of X-Men: The Last Stand.
--There are many references to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, but they don't overwhelm the film or throw off its momentum like they did in Age of Ultron... although, one mid-film clash with an Avenger does feel a little tacked on.
Scott: "My days of breaking into places and stealing shit are over! What do you need me to do?"
Hank: "I want you to break into a place and steal some shit."
Scott: "Wait, I didn't steal anything! I was returning something I stole!"
Three out of four albums by The Cure.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.