Ant-Man Review

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, ANT-MAN!

Paul Rudd lives the dream of every ’80s kid – one of their dreams anyway – in becoming the central character of a Honey I Shrunk the [Thing] spin-off. It works too. Miniature worlds of toy trains, carpet, grass, and lots of ants (lots) strikes a convincing world of scientific implausibility.

Exhaustively deep as this Marvel catalog has come, Ant-Man still feels different. Maybe it was (partial) writer Edgar Wright, maybe it’s director Peyton Reed. Whatever the cause, Ant-Man’s splendid, even raucous humor situates Paul Rudd into a sarcastic comfort zone, with enough shared disbelief to bring on rolling hordes of sonically programmed ants. It’s an odd one for sure, except the villain. Corey Stoll as Darren Cross is zero fun in this otherwise fun movie. Marvel has yet to master pure villainy. Baddies come and go as if on episodic network television. Ant-Man just falls in line.

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Ant-Man is only odd though coming from a universe now financially indebted to talking racoons and wormy space aliens. Ants of all scales do not seem so out of place. This is a movie about families in suburbia too, where Marvel has gained its most developed everyman origin story – not a billionaire or a Norse god. Scott Lang (Rudd) is a thieving shyster, sure, but a human sans any super powers when lacking his lavish red and black suit. He only wants to spend time with his daughter.

Ant-Man comes across as the fluffiest of the group. Ignoring the daddy/daughter angle, the film has limited interest in exploring the perils and allegories which have enriched the likes of Winter Soldier or Avengers. Some dim material on technology’s exploitation and Ant-Man is in full narrative sprint. It’s a small film, the smallest ironically and un-ironically, concentrated in residential areas instead of airship meeting rooms cloaked with science-y scenery.

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While Ant-Man is the first to charge at the logic gap caught in the universe concept – “Why don’t we call the Avengers?” – it’s reasonable enough they don’t show. Ant-Man’s finale (aside from the tremendously oversized Thomas the Tank Engine used to grand comedic effect) is a personal melee contained to one room. In comparison to city-wide destruction displayed in Captain America or the Iron Man solo features, Cross’ sniveling Yellowjacket has tiny aspirations. Ironically.

Even if the movie is slipping away into a predictable rut of training montages, it’s Rudd who can elevate the stale material.

Ant-Man becomes the lazy Saturday afternoon, “Oh look, it’s on TV” couch catcher – a quality shared with similar films of an irresistible nature – like every film in this canon, for example. Side characters, Michael Pena particularly, are pure joy. And Rudd too. Lacking the muscle of Thor or the swagger of Tony Stark, Rudd’s Scott Lang is a pure goofball. Even if the movie is slipping away into a predictable rut of training montages, it’s Rudd who can elevate the stale material.

But shouldn’t this all be stale? A man grows to accept his newly discovered powers and defeat the evil which surrounds him. Ho-hum. Audiences have seen Spider-Man do it twice, let alone the others. Ant-Man uses diversion tactics, from the startling, digitally young Michael Douglas to countless dazzling scenes of ants rummaging through computers or flying through… stuff, Ant-Man is an array of color, saturation, creativeness, and energy. It’s visibly excited. Such enthusiasm transfers, safe story structure or not.

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Marvel’s approach has the capability of showcasing individual personality despite being series of interconnected products created by committee. There is a sense of letting writers bleed ideas into their work even in this case where original screenwriter/director Edgar Wright chose to leave over creative decisions.

Maybe the scuffle was over a rather superfluous action cameo by Falcon (Anthony Mackie), a B-level match-up to ensure Ant-Man is one with the Avengers for future narrative concerns. Even still, their conflict is feisty. Ant-Man is close to being an out-of-place loner – way late into the saga – were it not for that brawl and necessary (albeit minimal) joints into the realm of Stark and SHIELD (their remnants, anyway). That’s refreshing. That’s sort of new. Importantly, that too is a summer blockbuster which hardly feels pinched by its surroundings, a cute comic book movie tchotchke which is what this studio’s brand needed to break itself of recurring bad habits.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

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