Marvel Studios’ “no-show” at San Diego Comic-Con this year should be unsurprising. Why do they need to be there? They’ve transcended the geekdom that will throw money at anything they bring to the big screen, and they have gained such broad mainstream appeal that it appears anything they turn in to a film will wind up being a blockbuster success.
It’s not a bad formula: write a competent story that strokes comic book geek cocks with fan service but also pays off people that are “invested” in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” cast good actors, budget friendly cameos of other Marvel products, plug in any decent director and things should go smoothly. Oh yeah… don’t forget to jam Stan Lee in there somewhere too! Excelsior…or some shit.
The Glories Of Ant-Man
With recent movies Marvel has just been taking staid genre movies and jamming their superheroes in them. You have your political thriller in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, some space opera via Guardians of the Galaxy, and now Ant-Man brings around the caper movie with a dash of the usual comic book tropes in tow.
Mercifully, Ant-Man continues the trend of being a brief affair like much of “Summer Movie 2015’s” movies have gotten up to. Clocking in at under two hours, it still feels a bit bloated in spots, but that’s probably more to do with it’s plot’s tonal unevenness.
Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a ne’er-do-well trying to do right by his daughter. After spending time in jail for “Robin Hooding” a company he used to work for, Lang finds himself back in the business of robbing after trying to do the whole “go straight and turn things around” turns out to be harder than he thought.
The original Ant-Man, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), strikes out on his own after Howard Stark tries to use his shrinking technology for other purposes. Pym then hides his Ant-Man technology from the world, until he enlists Lang to use his heist powers as the new Ant-Man.
In the recent times, Hank has been driven out of his own company by his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily) and Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Cross, the overly obvious bad guy of the film, is hell bent on selling his own shrinking technology and suit, Yellowjacket, to the highest bidder… which just so happens to be Hydra (who would’ve guessed?)!
In between Hank Pym’s “How I Lost My Wife” tragic back story, Ant-Man training montage, and D-List Avenger cameos, the heist elements come along as Lang, Hank, Hope and his rag-tag group of diverse buddies attempt to steal the Yellowjacket technology from Cross.
The film’s uneven tone pops up more often than you’d like in a movie that spends a lot less time focusing on Ant-Man’s antics than usual comic book movies. We’re given the obligatory montage of Lang learning to use the suit, jammed in amongst Hope showing that she’s actually truly worthy of using the suit. But Pym doesn’t want to lose her, so she has to sit on the sidelines, only to be “allowed” to take up the mantle of Wasp in a mid-credits, gold medal SJW-worthy moment (if only they watched these movies! Dang!).
The unevenness also seems to stem from original director Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish’s script having Paul Rudd and Adam McKay cram some of their elements into the movie. In some scenes, there’s a meta-commentary that will erupt out of Lang that just doesn’t fit. A touching moment in the film is when Hank tells his daughter how her mother truly died and then the two reconciling is bookended by Lang walking in and copping to ruining the moment.
Even with a reported $130 million dollar budget, Ant-Man doesn’t look like it. I was struck how often that it looked like it belonged on television. This especially rings true with the vastly more budget-friendly Anthony Mackie cameoing as Falcom in the middle of the movie.
On top of this, several characters are introduced, such as Lang’s heist buddies, and then are reduced to one dimensional comedic foils for the rest of their screen time. These scenes add an element that they are mostly there to pad out the runtime in a movie whose main plot thrust is thin at best. The stakes are never that high, and we all know that Cross/Yellow Jacket is somehow going to discover who Ant-Man is and then threaten his daughter. Then the good guy prevails… the end.
Ant-Man is a good movie that definitely fits its release towards the end of the summer. It’s not as bombastic, bloated and plodding as Age of Ultron, but it’s also not something that really needs to be neglected to the dust bin of fall releases or the dreaded winter months. It entertains and is competent, and for a Marvel movie that is enough.