“Ant-Man” is another successful addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, albeit a slightly overrated one. Paul Rudd is well cast as the titular character, and it seems as though traces of Edgar Wright’s original script impacted upon the film, but in my opinion the supporting cast was pretty average. A lot of the talk surrounding this film has focused on how isolated it is from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in a time when each new Marvel movie feels like an “Avengers : Infinity War” set-up, but that isn’t completely true. One of the best features of this film is how it deals with other characters that are present in the Universe, particularly Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and by extension The Avengers, and also how it places Ant-Man as a future member of everyone’s favourite superhero team.
“Ant-Man” follows Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) as he attempts to get back on his feet following a spell in prison. Lang initially attempts to go straight and turn a new leaf, but he slips back into his old ways as he is swayed by his verbose friend Luis (Michael Peña) into ‘burgling’ a strange suit which the audience knows belongs to Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). The audience knows that the suit belongs to Pym because the film has been alternating between Pym’s story and Lang’s, with the former looking for someone to don the Ant-Man suit in order to stop his former protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), from selling his Yellowjacket suit to Hydra (which uses the same technology as the Ant-Man suit – the Pym Particle). From there Lang becomes the Ant-Man under the guidance of Pym and his daughter Hope, played by Evangeline Lilly, who predictably becomes a love interest for Lang by the end of the movie.
The story is small in scale; in essence this is a heist film with the main narrative focusing on Pym and Lang trying to stop Cross. It worked well and it was refreshing to see a Marvel film without any extra-terrestrial elements after “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Avengers : Age of Ultron”. However, this is something of a superhero origin story, even if that is eased by the fact that there are references to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, and so it basically consists in a series of trials for Lang as he attempts to learn the ins and outs of being the Ant-Man.
The film did a good job of keeping its story focused and avoiding too many subplots, but there were issues, particularly in the fact that backstories were hardly touched on, yet they were made to seem extremely significant to character development.
Hank Pym was Darren Cross’ mentor, something which we are constantly reminded of, and this is one of the main reasons why Cross develops the Yellowjacket suit… yet we know nothing about their relationship. We know that Pym lied about the Ant-Man suit to Cross, but that’s no reason for Cross to hate him, after all, Cross is clearly intelligent and should be able to understand that there are some things that people don’t want to relive, and that if Pym was unwilling to tell him about the suit then there must have been a good reason for that.
We have to assume that Cross is simply a bad person, a villain, and this is why he hates Pym and acts like such a mad man in the film – he resents him and he wants revenge. But I don’t buy that, and I actually think it’s pretty lazy. If we knew a little bit more about the dynamic between the two then maybe it would’ve been more believable, but from where I’m standing it seemed like a pretty cheap plot device only used to make us like Pym and hate Cross, continuing Marvel’s problem with creating compelling villains.
Along with this, we are told that wearing the Yellowjacket suit causes issues with Cross’ mental stability, and it seems like this could be one reason for his lunacy. Still, we are given no indication as to what he was like before, and from the way that Hope acts around him it seems like he must’ve been pretty nasty to begin with. As a result, it felt like this illness was thrown into the script to make Cross more believable given the issue that I’ve already mentioned, not because it had a significant role to play.
Another problem I had was that a key factor in Scott Lang’s becoming the Ant-Man was to stay out of prison, and the reason why that was so important to him was that he had a young daughter, who he supposedly loved very much, but this child is barely on screen. We see no real substance in their relationship, and while Lang is a funny and likeable protagonist he doesn’t come across as a great father. Lang doesn’t pay child support, he gives up on trying to find a job, and he reverts to burglary when times are tough knowing that this could lead to his arrest and separation from his daughter. Lang’s daughter felt like a plot device and nothing more, designed to make Lang’s safety seem important to us and make us invested in the character.
The performances were okay, but none of them are going to set the world alight. Personally, I didn’t like Evangeline Lilly or Michael Douglas, because no matter what role they are playing I find their performances very artificial. I loved Lilly in “Lost” but I’ve never enjoyed a performance from her in anything else, and I think here she completely overacts and her character’s feelings are very transparent and dull as a result. Douglas isn’t quite so awful, but when he speaks I feel like he’s reading lines rather than believing and feeling what he’s saying, at least in his less emotional scenes. Paul Rudd is great, but I’m not sure if I will get on with him when he’s alongside the rest of The Avengers.
T.I. and Michael Peña were entertaining and unexpected additions to the film, and they brought a lot of comedy to proceedings. The audience definitely responded positively to Peña, and although his idiocy got old fast for me, I think he played his part well.
The script was decent, but at certain points I was frustrated by contrived and frankly stupid dialogue. I hated how Scott’s talking to the ants was explained, because we were lead to believe that he had to clear his mind and really feel what he was thinking, but that’s very vague and I think it was unnecessary.
The film had a lot of silly moments and odd things going on, so I don’t think that we needed to know the mechanics behind the human-to-ant communication. I also didn’t like how the writers thought it was necessary to have dialogue that was just for the audience, like when Scott said he needed to shrink down to the molecular level towards the end of the film, because we knew that that was what he needed to do and Scott wouldn’t have said that out loud, so it felt a bit like an insult to my intelligence. Those kinds of lines are only there to explain what should already be clear, which really frustrates me because it takes everyone paying attention out of the film at a crucial moment.
Finally, I should say that this film is very funny, even if the humour is forced at times. There were some fantastic gags, most notably a scene in which Scott and Darren are battling in a briefcase, and a lot of the dialogue was really quite clever, like when Scott advised Hank to call The Avengers. Although this film would’ve worked on its own, I did enjoy how The Avengers were brought in, and I felt that it connected Ant-Man to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in an intelligent and subtle way.
“Ant-Man” has a lot of issues that I think have been wrongly ignored because people didn’t know exactly what to expect going in. From a pure enjoyment perspective “Ant-Man” is up there with the best films that this year has had to offer, but it is also flawed in a number of areas and could’ve been a really great movie if the writing was a little better. Still, given the fact that the cast is (in my opinion) very average, the first trailer was all over the place, the production had significant issues, and Ant-Man is a crazy character, it was a pretty fun way to end Marvel’s second phase.