Does Marvel’s Ant-Man successfully shrug off the ridiculous comic book notion and place itself as a worthy film to stand amongst the other Marvel productions? Kind of.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a modern day Robin Hood is eager to reform his past by donning the shrinking Ant-Man suit, entrusted to him by its previous user and huge techie Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Scott must learn to harness the suits powers with the help of Evangeline Lily’s Hope Van Dyne to instigate a heist mission with the aim of preventing deranged Darren Cross (Correy Stoll) harnessing the suit’s powers and raging havoc on the world.
Paul Rudd really lifts the film above what it is. His dry, cocky humour touches down in the universe with surprisingly human satisfaction; he takes the gold medal in terms of most relatable Avenger/super hero in the MCU with ease. His emotional connection with his daughter is played well enough, as is the connection between Lily and Douglas who’s own relationship parallels Lang’s and his daughter’s with surprising narrative drive. Stoll as Cross isn’t bad, he does what he can with the material, but it’s precisely the material that is the problem with the film.
Ant Man’s plot is virtually non existent. It’s never clear why they need to take Cross’ suit away from him other than the fact that he acts and looks like a bad guy – his intentions for the suit aren’t revealed until the last twenty minutes making the quest to remove it from his possession both confusing and an instrument that makes Michael Douglas’ character look like a deranged, cynical old man repeatedly saying ‘this technology will wreak havoc on the world.’ Cross’ anger towards Pym seems to be from an entirely different movie as we never see why he’s so upset (though at least, we can make reasonable assumptions.) However, this many specifically unanswered questions, ironic given the extremely exposition heavy opening 20 minutes, leaves you scratching your head at the point of the film for the most part.
How much you enjoy this film also depends on how much you can suspend your belief that ants can’t carry out weirdly human instructions (think Bug’s life, but the ants can’t talk and have absolutely no anthropomorphic features other than their ability to understand what humans want them to do.) Unfortunately, somewhere amongst the swathes of CGI making the just-about ant looking ants take on the behaviour of puppies, I realised that I just couldn’t get on board, no matter how much Rudd’s humour reminded us of the film’s self awareness of the bizarre concept. It felt very far from Marvel, and not in a Guardians of the Galaxy good way. Then again, if I can get on board with the heaps of aliens in the Marvel universe, perhaps the problem is on me for not accepting that ants cannot electrocute a mainframe and cause a power cut.
The final 30 minutes of the film, though still burdened with the plot’s nonsensical and largely inconsequential nature, is an absolute gem. Though Edgar Wright left the project, his signature fast cutting and witty imagination is in full swing and fully utilises the idea of being small – hilarious fights on a train set and inside a suitcase; making use of the SIRI feature on the iPhone and a particularly menacing Thomas the Tank Engine sound ridiculous on paper, but had the entire screening laughing out loud. The humour is definitely film’s biggest success, with Lang’s friend Luis (Michael Pena) stealing the show in every scene he’s in. You need to see it to believe what he does to this film. The wit is above the script certainly, the plot often fades into the background, only to resurface it’s ugly head in the finale when the threat of the technology is finally revealed… to be not that great really and much more of a background deal to the more important feature of this film; having a laugh. Whatsmore, a great scene involving one of the Avengers confronting Lang was a pleasant surprise, reminding us that Ant Man is firmly a part of the MCU’s plans. The heist scenes are clever and expertly filmed and the though the story is lazy, it’s suitably smaller and more personal than other Marvel efforts, fitting to appreciate these characters somewhat more than others.
Stay for the after credit scenes, they’re quite important for a change.
Overall, Ant man is a fun time. Forget about the ridiculous plot which seems to make it’s own scientific nonsense rules as it goes along and watch it for what it is – one of the funnier, but certainly weaker efforts to come out of the Marvel backlog. I look forward to seeing more of Paul Rudd in this arc though.
Hilarious, heartfelt, but half-baked, Ant man shows glimpses of what it could of been; at least it did that. An ant-sized blimp along the MCU’s road to Thanos’ arrival.