Movie Review: Ant-Man

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Ex-con Scott Lang is recruited by millionaire scientist Dr. Hank Pym to put on a shrinking suit and steal technology from Pym’s old company.

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Peyton Reed, 2015

When his sentence is over and he’s released from prison, cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finds it hard to fit into society again. He can’t hold down a job in spite of his electrical engineering degree, and his ex-wife Maggie (poor Judy Greer) won’t allow him to see his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) until he has a job and some stability. He’s living with his former prison roommate Luis (effervescent Michael Pena), who keeps trying to bring him back into his old life. Finally he takes a job, breaking into the safe of a rich, retired millionaire scientist. The job puts him in the middle of a plot by said scientist, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), to steal from his old company. Pym invented a suit that can shrink a person to the size of an ant, but with all the strength of a human; the perfect super soldier. Now his former protege and current sociopath Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has discovered the technology and wants to sell it to the highest bidder. With the reluctant help of his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), who wants to use the suit herself, Pym trains Lang to be able to use the suit in order to pull off a heist on Pym Industries.

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I feel like this accurately sums up my feelings about Ant-Man.

Marvel, we need to talk. Ant-Man seems to bend over backwards to ensure that straight white men continue to be the central characters in your movies, and it’s getting REALLY FUCKING OLD. This movie has a terrific cast of supporting characters, but they’re all supporting an incredibly boring, subdued Paul Rudd as the aimless Scott Lang. He has a few moments of humour, but for the most part Rudd seems to be heavily reigned in. Meanwhile, Evangeline Lilly does her level best to express the utter frustration of Hope Van Dyne, to which I relate whole-heartedly. Hope is a badass of the highest order being relegated to the “mentor/love interest to the Special” role that we need a trope name for. I hate this trope. As she mentions repeatedly to her jerk of a father, Hope is perfectly capable of putting on the suit and carrying the movie. Instead she just gets to be angry while teaching Scott everything she knows, and then breaks down and forgives her father after Scott mansplains at her. It’s infuriating. It doesn’t help that Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym is super slimy (which probably works for the character, but I found it hard to care about or like him at all). Don’t even talk to be about Hope’s mother Janet, who didn’t even get a FACE or a LINE but was still fridged for Hank’s story. Meanwhile, Anthony Mackie provides the story with a lift as my fave, Falcon, and Bobby Cannavale brings a lot of heart and humour to a thankless role as Cassie’s stepfather (though he still gets more to do than poor Judy Greer, whose recent career is the ultimate example of what women over 40 get stuck with in Hollywood). The real discoveries of the film are little Abby Fortson, who makes Cassie cute and fierce without being precocious, and Michael Pena’s hilarious turn as sidekick Luis. He gets the film’s best scenes.

Perhaps due to the problems during production and Edgar Wright’s departure, this movie has a slapdash feel to it. It seems like it was all pulled together at the last minute. It doesn’t ever seem to know what its tone is, from the marketing through to the finished film. There are some anvil-like moments of foreshadowing (see: Chekhov’s tank, Chekhov’s quantum realm) that actually took me out of the film. The last act pulls together pretty effectively for a heist/final battle that has a lot of humour and cleverness in it. The visual humour gags are terrific at this point, and there’s a liveliness that was missing for a big chunk of the movie, in spite of Corey Stoll’s weirdly unhinged performance. Darren Cross/Yellowjacket is just a boring baddie, never really sympathetic or threatening, who demonstrates the film’s terrible tendency to tell us about things rather than showing them. There’s an inherent silliness to the Ant-Man suit that the film struggles through in the beginning (I couldn’t help but laugh at Cross’s “We can bring peace to the world through tiny super soldiers!” pitch), but when it’s embraced rather than darkened it proves to be a lot more effective. It’s well shot, bright and colourful, and there’s a lot of goodwill won back towards the end (though I still wish Hope could have suited up and gotten in on the action, dammit). It’s an occasionally funny film, but not a laugh-out-loud one, and the balance isn’t handled as well as Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel has shown what it can do with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Now I want to see them live up to that. No more Ant-Men, please.

Ant-Man on IMDb

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