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"Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

~Ephesians 5:16

Saturday, August 1, 2015

ANT-MAN Review

Many people were surprised when ANT-MAN was announced for 2015. It was not because of the character, but the release date. The most famous thing the character is known for in the comics is the creation of Ultron. But, this doesn't happen in the Cinematic Universe. It was decided that Tony Stark would be the creator, which isn't the first time Marvel has toyed around with the idea. (Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow for example.) Another shocking thing was that instead of having the well-known Henry Pym as the title character, it was going to be Scott Lang. Marvel has been quite on a roll lately with quality installments one after another. While Ant-Man  doesn't reach the greatness of the previous three movies, it's nonetheless a solid entry in the series.
The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man.” Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
Interestingly, one of the most well-known things about this movie is more on the controversial side. Originally Edgar Wright of Scott Pilgrim fame was set to direct. Infamously, he left due to creative differences. (Marvel loves to keep a tight knot on their films.) Peyton Reed replaced him. How Wright's version of the film would have gone is an interesting thought, but now completely irrelevant. So, how does Reed deal with all these script rewrites? The film does suffer from a few problems, one of which we'll address now.

Near the beginning is the Baskin-Robbin's scene, which I couldn't stop thinking about throughout my viewing. A customer literally comes in and asks for a burger. After being told the place doesn't sell them, he then asks for "whatever is hot and fresh." I've never seen such bad writing in a high budget summer film. It was so unrealistic I had to question whether or not it was real. Then the scene following where the cashier (Scott Lang) talks to his boss afterward is so unrealistic it's like "Huh?" Marvel loves comedy, but this goes to some pretty cringe-worthy levels.

Thankfully, the rest of the film never goes that low. Paul Rudd as Scott Lang portrays a pretty solid protagonist for the most part. The redemption story underneath it all of a man whom wants to be a real father to his daughter is quite touching. Michael Douglas as an older Hank Pym was a highlight, and ironically more engaging than his comic book counterpart for the last ten or so years. (A prequel show with him as the original Ant-Man would actually be welcome!) Evangeline Lilly as his daughter Hope portrayed a believable character whom is angry with her father in regards to the death of her mother. The scene where Pym reveals to her the nature of his wife Janet's death was touching and easily one of the most emotional scenes of the Marvel movies yet.

Unfortunately, the romance between Scott and Hope is poorly established and feels completely tacked on at the end. It would have been far better to have it develop in the next movie. It would have been more organic and realistic, but alas the writing decided to go the generic route with it. Scott is accompanied by a trio of friends, though the only notable one is Luis. (Michael Peña.) He was used mainly for comic relief, and some scenes were definitely cringe-worthy, but in conjunction he did have some of the funnier segments. If the writing can downplay some of his going over the top just for the sake of comedy, I wouldn't mind seeing him brought back for the sequel.

How about Corey Stoll as the antagonist, Darren Cross? Like a good number of Marvel films, this guy is completely and utterly forgettable. The writing tries desperately to make him sympathetic and gives some pretty generic antagonist lines to help. (It doesn't help.) The fact that we just saw the amazingly written Ultron a few months ago also doesn't help matters. This guy is basically a poorer version of Obadiah Stane from the first Iron Man. At the very least, the Yellowjacket design is quite impressive and a treat to see in action. If only the wearer was at least a bit engaging.

The usage of Ant-Man's shrinking ability was definitely something intriguing to behold going into the film, but I never thought just how smartly utilized it would be. Lang is able to turn little then big again in a flash, which made for some pretty unique and awesome fights scenes. I've never seen the comics utilize his ability like this. In fact, usually in the comics the shrinking is treated as a slow process, which makes the film's usage a refreshing change of pace. (I wouldn't be surprised if the books started using this more prominently now.)

Every scene with Lang turning small offers very unique imagery and engagement we haven't seen since the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids days. Not only that, but seeing ants up close and personal was a lot fun. In fact, after watching this movie the viewer may like ants so much that he/she may reconsider stomping on one next time. The core of the story is the "heist" on Pym industries, and it's a blast to watch. The final battle against Yellowjacket was one of the most innovative of Marvel showdowns. We have the characters battling in a suitcase and even next to a Thomas the Tank Engine. (Whom deserves an Oscar by the way.) The soundtrack is pretty solid. There aren't many truly standout themes, though the one which played during the suitcase fight scene at least deserves praise.

Overall, ANT-MAN is a solid solo film introducing a character whom actually proves to be one of the most interesting with his shrinking ability. There is some mediocre writing which stops it from being called "amazing" like Winter Solider and Guardians and Galaxy, but there's more things to praise than there are negative. The action is a lot of fun and just different than what we're used to seeing. Also, the film takes some great advantage of being part of a shared universe. Unlike Iron Man 2, this film knows how to incorporate itself into the bigger picture while at the same time being a standalone story. I personally look forward to seeing the character again in Captain America: Civil War next year.


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