By James Hancock July 16th, 2015
For those of you who don’t like spoilers, I’ll simply say that for the first third of this movie I worked myself up unnecessarily that Edgar Wright’s departure from the film had doomed it to mediocrity. But then either I or the movie turned a corner and suddenly I was no longer analyzing what worked or what didn’t and I found myself completely surrendering to one of the most entertaining movies of the summer. So if you’re a fan of all things Marvel, exhale, relax, and prepare to enjoy yourself. If you’re not a fan of Marvel you’re probably not interested in reading this, so I can cease and desist with the official part of my duties and begin writing what I really want to write about. Game on. **Mild Spoilers Ahead**
A lot of hardcore film fans bemoan the fact that we’re inundated with so many superhero movies these days. Their lot in life is about to get much worse because as we learned at San Diego Comic Con, Disney, Warner Bros and Fox collectively have dozens of superhero movies coming our way over the next few years not to mention whatever movies based on non-superhero comics that I’m not aware of yet. For me, getting upset over this makes about as much sense as getting upset during any period of film history where we saw the production of a lot of gangster movies, musicals or westerns. Superhero movies are here, they’re popular, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so I’d rather focus on celebrating the fact that the world I wished for as a kid has become a reality. A few decades from now, some of these movies will be celebrated as classics and the rest will fade into obscurity with no harm done. For me, the shared universes being constructed from these comic book properties are like watching the birth of a modern day mythology. Any fan of narrative storytelling should be celebrating this incredible experiment. When I go back and read Greek mythology I don’t obsess over which tales ‘hurt the franchise’ so to speak but instead I marvel, no pun intended, at the incredible intricacy of the heroic tales that evolved over centuries starting as far back as the oral tradition before people even bothered to write them down. Rather than yearning for standalone films, I completely embrace the continuity between the different movies and I’m crossing my fingers that eventually Fox and Disney figure out a way to get the X-Men and the Fantastic Four back in the Marvel sandbox where they belong.
So where does Ant-Man fit into the mix? I think it is the best introduction of a new standalone Marvel franchise since Iron Man (2008). Granted, several established Marvel characters pop up (more on that later) but in the end this movie does an amazing job of seamlessly integrating Ant-Man into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. As I said in my introduction, the movie has a rocky start. If you’re still with me at this point you likely already know the premise where an aging Henry Pym recruits Scott Lang to stop his greatest invention from being sold as a weapon. The premise is relatively simple but the film really struggles at first to find its footing tonally as the characters are being introduced. That said, as soon as Paul Rudd puts on the Ant-Man suit, the movie kicks into high gear. Every hardcore fan of comics eventually gets tired of seeing muscle bound oafs in spandex punching each other. In answer to this superhero fatigue Marvel has given us the most visually interesting power set for a hero in a superhero movie yet. In an amazing departure from the comics, Scott Lang uses his power to shrink and return to normal size in surprising combinations where he essentially develops his own unique martial art. That skill combined with his incredibly imaginative use of five different species of ants as his allies leads to some of the best action sequences of the year. The ants are so damn cute and Paul Rudd does an outstanding job of selling the idea that he is in control of his horde and forming a bond with each and very one of them. I don’t think I’ll ever look at ants the same way again. What really makes these scenes work is seeing the world from Ant-Man’s small perspective, a perspective which gets genuinely trippy when dealing with sub-atomic concepts later in the film. I could watch a highlight reel of the various action sequences on a loop for hours.
**Major Spoilers Ahead**
So I never read the original script by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. I have no idea what has changed but my understanding is that Wright was resistant to the idea of weaving the narrative into the larger tapestry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If I have my facts wrong, I apologize but I have to say that the scene where Ant-Man suddenly realizes he is about to try breaking and entering into the new base of the Avengers had me howling with laughter. Naturally someone is home and it turns out to be one of the newest members, the Falcon. While Anthony Mackie did not get much screen time in Avengers: Age of Ultron his cameo in Ant-Man is outstanding especially since he and Ant-Man honor the superhero tradition of throwing down in a brawl before eventually becoming pals. It is a scenario that has been played out countless times in the comics, cartoons and movies and I never grow tired of it. Even better, is the second post-credits scene where we see Falcon and Captain America after they have finally succeeded in tracking down the Winter Soldier. I didn’t fully catch the dialogue because of people leaving the theater but the movie ends with Falcon calling in Ant-Man to help with the situation. It will be very interesting to see how Ant-Man fits in with the team dynamics as all hell breaks loose in Captain America: Civil War next year.
I can’t end this review without a major shout out to Michael Douglas as Henry Pym. I first started reading comics in the late 1970s (before I could actually read) and Henry Pym, who was wearing the Yellowjacket outfit, was at that time a fully active member of the Avengers. I soon picked up a reprint of the Kree-Skrull War where I got to read the greatest Ant-Man story ever written, ‘The Avengers’ #93 (1971) illustrated by the legendary Neal Adams, where Ant-Man goes inside the body of the comatose Vision in order to try and find out what ails him. So when I say I have sentimental love for Hank Pym, these feelings go back to the very roots of my love for comics. I totally buy Michael Douglas as Henry Pym. Seeing him in a flashback working side by side with the Wasp had me grinning from ear to ear. They look so badass. The fact that the Ant-Man suit is several decades old gives it a really cool retro look in stark contrast to the high tech Yellowjacket suit worn by Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll. I was thrilled to no end when Evangeline Lilly’s character, Hope van Dyne, receives her own Wasp suit in the first post-credit sequence. I would be extremely fired up if Marvel were to announce a film starring Ant-Man and the Wasp. The Marvel Cinematic Universe officially has another cool female superhero.
So it is time to bring this rant to a close. I’m definitely going to be returning to the movie for seconds and I hope you’ll check back on our site in a few days for our next episode of Wrong Reel where we’ll be reviewing Ant-Man as well as discussing all the major superhero announcements that came out of Comic Con. It is an awesome time to be a fan of comics and superheroes. The kid in me that never fully grew up is a very happy boy seeing the world he always wanted officially become a reality.
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