Warning – Spoilers Ahead!
Whelp, I just saw Marvel’s second movie of 2015: Ant-Man.
Now, I’m not a movie reviewer. The closest I get to even reading reviews is checking out a Rotten Tomatoes score.
Honestly, I don’t even do that myself. Tony gives me reports on which movies are fresh and which are rotten.
But, since I just watched Ant-Man last night and this blog is called Nerdy Living and all, I thought I’d let you know what a real live lady-nerd thought of it.
Some Stars Out of Many
I can easily say that I liked Ant-Man. But I didn’t love it.
It has some funny moments, one sentimental moment that almost made me tear up, and some cool effects and action sequences.
It’s also got weird pacing, bad montages, terrible dialog, and an inconsistent tone.
Overall, it’s a fine action movie with a few scenes that seemed really well directed and at least one actor I haven’t seen before (Michael Peña) that I want to see more of. If you can make it through the first ten or fifteen minutes, you’re in for a movie you won’t regret seeing. Especially if you’re already a comic book movie nerd and you wait for the last Easter egg at the end.
Like Watching A Movie With Five Different Directors
When I say the tone of Ant Man was really inconsistent, I’m not talking about typical Marvel interjection of jokes or sentimental moments.
I’m talking about a weird “getting ready for a heist” montage, a slapstick performance by an otherwise really good actor (I’m looking at you Wood Harris), and a mustache twisting cartoon of a villain.
That “getting ready for a heist” montage was all the more disappointing since it was almost immediately preceded by a really fun sequence that highlighted the comedic powers of Michael Peña.
There are cop-buddies, crook-buddies, and a Mrs. Doubtfire-esque dad needs to get his act together motif all rolled into one two-hour movie. And there are essentially two origin stories going on here at the same time. Three if you count the new Wasp.
If that all sounds like too much for one movie, you heard right. But even with all that happening, the first fifteen minutes of the movie felt slow. It was all so formulaic I didn’t really need the movie to take that long setting up. And the extra time isn’t spent adding to the depth or richness of the characters or their circumstance. It’s just spent.
Paul Rudd Saves the Day
It does get better if you can make it through the first rough patch. The more Paul Rudd is on screen, the better the movie gets.
Rudd is his typical, charming, goofy self as Scott Lang AKA the soon-to-be Ant-Man. I’ve never really thought “super hero” when I’ve thought of Paul Rudd but after seeing the movie I think it was a great casting decision.
Lang is no Thor or even Captain America in terms of bulk and power. But he’s got the right dimensions and athleticism for a Marvel B character – along the lines of Netflix’s Daredevil. It makes sense too, given the scale of this movie.
Ant-Man is much narrower in scope than something like Avengers or Winter Soldier. There are no crumbling cities, no giant spaceships falling from the sky, no zipping across galaxies to find the McGuffin.
Instead, a major battle takes place inside a briefcase. The only building that’s destroyed in the movie has no occupants and it doesn’t even blow up. It’s calmly imploded, reminiscent of a planned demolition job with permits and caution tape.
Ant-Man himself was fun to watch, and Paul Rudd made a silly sounding character seem real in a way few others could.
A Marvel Villain Like Any Other
To be fair to Corey Stoll who played Darren Cross AKA Yellowjacket, Marvel does not have a very good track record with villains. I don’t think the flatness of the character is his fault.
In fact, it’s clear from interviews that Stoll thought the character had a lot more nuance than we see on screen.
Unfortunately, Marvel bad guys are pretty much universally over the top cartoons.
Yes. Even Loki.
I know. We love Loki. But he’s a god from another planet, and I think between that and Tom Hiddleston’s Cheshire cat smile we forgive him for being two-dimensional.
You could make the argument that comic book villains are cartoony because they’re based on, you know, cartoons. But Yellowjacket seems to have been completely re-written for the cinematic version of Ant-Man. There’s really no excuse for this kind of ham-handed villainry in a character that was created from scratch.
Fortunately, after watching every single Avengers related Marvel movie I’ve learned that it’s often best to just ignore the villain (except Loki). If you can, it makes the movie much more fun to watch.
Oh Yeah, Evangeline Lilly Was In This Movie
Hope Pym’s character arch seems to have already happened by the time the movie starts. We only catch glimpses of it through her residual anger toward her father, Hank Pym, and her protests that she would make a better Ant-Man than Scott Lang.
I believed she could make a better Ant-Man, too. Evangeline Lilly did a fine job in the character, and unlike some female heroes, her physicality matches the character she’s playing. She actually has some visible muscle mass, leading me to believe Hope Pym could knock out Scott Lang if she wanted to.
Unfortunately, her character doesn’t really do much in the movie to drive the plot forward. And it’s painful to watch her beg to be Ant-Man, only to be denied by the rich old white guy.
In the end, we’ll eventually have a new female MCU super hero in the form of The Wasp so I guess that’s a step in the right direction. That’s according to the first Post Credit Scene, but it’s made pretty obvious in the rest of the movie too.
I’ve Seen This Somewhere Before
Watching Ant-Man, I kept thinking I’ve seen this mix of fun ideas and bad execution before. Where was that?
Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The First Avenger. That’s where.
They each have under developed villains with even less developed motivations. They’re each kind of all over the place. They try to do too much and be too many things at once.
And all are made watchable – at least once – by a hand-full of skilled actors. These actors made me want to see more of their characters, even if I don’t ever need to see those particular movies again.
Let’s hope Ant-Man 2 can turn this ship around the way Winter Soldier did for the Captain America franchise. The character is really fun, Paul Rudd, Michael Peña, and Evangeline Lilly make a nice ensemble, and the special effects worked really well. I’m eager to see more Ant-Man even if I probably won’t see this film again.
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