Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: "And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves."
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three Joan Collinses out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Disenchanted thief wants off the slant, finds jobs scant, grows frantic when his wife's new husband threatens to supplant him as father to his descend...ant.
Tagline: "Heroes don't come any bigger."
Better Tagline: "You'll believe an ant can ... cripple a highly fortified research installation."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: It's hard out there for an ex-cat burglar, even one who happens to have a Masters in electrical engineering, like Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Paroled after three years for a Robin Hood-style B&E, Lang desperately wants to go straight so he won't lose custody of his daughter Cassie. Naturally, he's pulled in for One Last Job by his buddy Luis (Michael Peña), whereLang makes the unexpected acquaintance of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who wants Lang to use his shrinking suit to break into Pym Technologies and steal his "Pym particles" back from his former protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll).
"Critical" Analysis: Ant-Man doesn't feel like an MCU movie. Don't get me wrong, it hits all the same beats: ostensible threat to mankind/world pleace/Xandar; mid- and end-credits scenes, S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra, cameos both secret ([REDACTED]!) and not so much (Peggy Carter! Howard Stark!); and of course the movie is based on a Marvel Comics character. In this case, it's the Scott Lang Ant-Man, though we get a glimpse of Pym's version in a flashback.
But for all of his importance to Marvel Comics history (well, Pym's: he co-founded the Avengers), the character of Ant-Man seems like it's getting short shrift in the movie department. Maybe it's our collective hangover from the "peak Marvel" year of 2014 and Age of Ultron, which lumbered into theaters a mere two months ago, maybe it's the unceremonious departure last year of Ant-Man's original director Edgar Wright, who was attached to the project since 2003. Ant-Man had virtually no presence at this year' Comic-Con and the marketing leading up to release could charitably be described as "adequate."
Admittedly, I didn't expect much. Ant-Man shrinks; woo hoo. He can also control ants, a skill that sounds useful if your arch-nemesis is Yogi Bear, but seems a little lacking if your character is inhabiting the same universe as Thor and Iron Man. Fortunately, director Peyton Reed — working largely off Wright and Joe Cornish's script (with contributions from Adam McKay and Rudd) — subverts the MCU formula somewhat.
The result is a lighter, more overtly comedic effort than most Marvel films, Guardians of the Galaxy notwithstanding, and Wright's influence is still all over the finished product. This is good news (whatever your feelings about The World's End), because the movie feels more like a '60s heist flick than the usual, occasionally ham-fisted MCU product. Indeed, many of the scenes building up to Lang's breaking into Pym's home and the final caper are clearly Wright's handiwork. Staging the final epic (if miniature) battle between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket (Cross' version) in a little girl's bedroom is also an inspired touch.
Having said that, Ant-Man is more cartoon than film. All of these superhero movies are necessarily heavy on the green screen, but even given the necessity here (modern cinematic technology not having advanced sufficiently to actually shrink Paul Rudd to insect size), the CGI approaches Star Wars prequel levels of saturation. So while it's cute and all watching Lang learn the ropes and master flying on an ant (he names it "Anthony," a pun I would mock if I hadn't just done the same thing), it's hard to get drawn in.
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Similarly, it's difficult to dredge up an emotional investment when his trusty steed is killed in the line of duty, in spite of Lang's tortured "Anthonyyyyy!" Dude, he's an ant. He'd be dead in a month anyway.
Marvel also continues to marginalize its female characters in the most annoying ways possible. Pym's estranged daughter Hope is played by Evangeline Lilly. She's Cross' Number Two at Pym Technologies and is actually working in secret with Dad to bring him down. Nevertheless, She isn't allowed to wear the suit, despite being more skilled than Lang and knowing the facility's layout, because Hank is worried about losing her (Daddy issues abound in Ant-Man). As a result, she's relegated to endangered damsel status until the mid-credits scene, where the prospect of a new, heroic future is dangled before her.
Why is this annoying? I'm glad you asked. It's because a sequel has yet to be announced, and yet we're supposed to applaud this bold new direction. Meanwhile, the other big female Marvel superheroes (Black Widow, Gamora) still can't get a standalone movie. Or even, in the case of the former, their own action figures.
Ant-Man is a trifle. Trapped in a nether world (he never made!) between the MCU's impending doom and irrelevance born of no one knowing where to fit it in, it entertains sufficiently, but never really satisfies.