The long awaited Ant-Man movie was released in theaters this past weekend and film-goers worldwide stood up and said enthusiastically, “Hey, that wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be.” And actually it was quite good.
Very good if you consider the difficulties in getting this thing made in the first place. Plagued with delays and pushed back in the schedule; not to mention a high profile director leaving just a few weeks before filming was to start – it’s a wonder that it even was filmed let alone that it turned out half decent.
Incredibly a superhero film about a guy who shrinks and talks to ants turned out to be a really entertaining time. Its funny, the acting is good and at times it is kinda touching. I for one was not expecting this, hoping yes, but not expecting. So a pleasant surprise for sure.
Minor spoilers from here on out so stop reading if you care about such things
Okay, so its not a perfect film by any stretch. And its not something we haven’t seen before. Essentially its Iron Man with insects. First off there is the suit that gives the hero his power. And the hero is a flawed hero who learns to do the right thing because love or responsibility or some such. There’s the plucky love interest who is more than capable of holding her own with the hero. There’s the mentor who helps the hero along. And the obligatory business partner who goes insane in the last reel and who happens to have the exact same power set as the hero. Its all the Marvel tropes and story beats we’ve seen before in every other film in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). But the thing is they work, and they work really well. You have to give it up to Marvel, they know how to make an entertaining, exciting movie. And at this point they have the formula down pat.
So if you are expecting to see something different and experimental you will be disappointed. But if you’re expecting to just have fun watching a well executed cinematic formula, you are in luck. And I suspect that this will be the demarcation point between the people who praise the movie and those who negatively criticize it. Because there was some indication that originally Ant-Man might have been a more cutting edge film than what we eventually got.
Edgar Wright, the director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, was set to be the director and by all accounts this was his baby. Wright is a highly stylized director with a unique look and unique take on how a film is composed and stories are told. At the last minute he pulled out of the project siting “creative differences” and this was taken as he didn’t want to put in content tying Ant-Man to the larger MCU. As a result we are left with a movie that will always have an asterisk; a what if scenario, what was this movie supposed to be?
Aspects of Wright’s style can be seen throughout the film. The scenes where Michael Peña’s character Luis tells a story and the flashbacks quick cut from person to person speaking in his voice is completely Wright’s style. Another example is when Ant-Man and Yellowjacket fight shrunken in a briefcase while The Cure plays on an iPhone. And there are a few other examples throughout the film; but the rest of the movie is strictly by-the-numbers Marvel. And this is not bad – it just gives you a taste of what a different movie this could have been. There was a time in my life when I would have obsessed with what could have been instead of simply enjoying what is so for me this is just an interesting thought experiment; but I foresee a swath of internet forums dedicated to this subject. And so I believe Ant-Man will become the Roger Maris of the MCU.
I don’t think this is entirely fair. There are many unique things going on here that, despite the fact I just said it was a by-the-numbers Marvel movie, need to be praised. Like many of the Marvel films this is a genre movie posing as a superhero flick. Iron Man 3 was a techno thriller, Captain America: First Avenger was a war film, Captain America: Winter Soldier was a 70s-style espionage movie and Thor: Dark World was straight up fantasy. Similarly Ant-Man at its heart is a heist film. And that is where its strengths lie.
And it should be mentioned that this is a funny movie. I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise with Paul Rudd as the lead, an actor with wonderful comedic timing. But the entire cast gets to have some funny lines and there are some definite laugh out loud moments. I mention this because Marvel so far has shied away from “dark and gritty” which has been the comic book movie fall back option and one that I, personally, don’t care for. Dark and gritty is fine when you’re Batman but I like my superheros in bright colors and a smile.
In the end Ant-Man isn’t a great movie, it won’t change your life. But it is a good movie and it will entertain the hell out of you. I didn’t go into the theater expecting much but came out with a smile. What more can you ask really?