Directed by Peyton Reed
Some studios end up with a formula for the movies they make, but Marvel Comics has a super formula. Their movies usually have similar stories and even the humor within them can start to feel recycled. Ant-Man follows the Marvel formula to a T.
Peyton Reed's piece of Marvel, originating from a script by Edward Wright (Wright was originally slated to direct Ant-Man), stars Paul Rudd as the titular super hero, Ant-Man a.k.a. Scott Lang, alongside Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly as the Pym father (Hank) and daughter (Hope) team, who square up against Corey Stoll's Yellowjacket. Lang has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for burglary; he's attained a reputation for his good work but wants to go legit. In the process of trying to provide for his daughter he lands in the good graces of Hank Pym, a semi-retired superhero who takes Lang under his wing. Hank needs Lang's help, or else some powerful technology could get into the wrong hands through the work of his protege, Darren Cross, who's a "already a little unstable." With some help and guidance, Lang is trained to take up the mantle of the Ant-Man, Hank's old hero persona utilizing a powered suit that can shrink to the size of an ant and amplify strength and speed in the process.
The story itself is lacking, as pure a product of Marvel's formulaic plots as it can possibly be, but that's bad. Because what we've gotten from Ant-Man is a story packed with information. We get, not one, but two origin stories: one for Hank Pym, and obviously one for Scott Lang. The solution to this is overuse of montage and glossing over some of the background information. For instance, there's a lot of backstory between Hank and his protege and between Hank and his daughter that we never see. For instance, there appears to have been a falling out between Hank and Darren at some point, but we don't know anything about it. That lack of development and character background plagues the film from start to finish, from Hank's past relationship with his daughter to Lang's past with a master's degree and knowledge of parkour.
Reed even tries desperately to force a sympathetic moment by showing us a sad flashback and having Hope literally cry for us...
It's important to know which information to provide and it's almost refreshing to not have to sit through everyone's origins, but Ant-Man is so devoid of character development that everyone seems dull until the climax. And glaring logical fallacies aside (like a detective just running straight into a house where someone's being held hostage) Reed and the production team try to color up the dullness with massive amounts of comic relief. That's actually not bad, and this proves to be one of Marvel's funnier features, but it's a little off-putting when almost every single character has their zingers, puns, and personal shtick. Unfortunately, the closest we get to an emotional connection to any of the characters is comic relief. Reed even tries desperately to force a sympathetic moment by showing us a sad flashback and having Hope literally cry for us, but the moment's merit is mostly as fan fodder and one more chance for Lang to joke around.
Ant-Man is interesting, or at least it could be interesting. The characters have a long history and could fit really well into the MCU, but this entry is so dull that it can't hope to stack up yet. They've given us yet another unoriginal and uninteresting villain and some action whose only real appeal is the design of it. Yes, it's pretty and it's very cool as to how they've choreographed a shrinking and sprouting martial artist (who learned advanced and practical martial arts in a few days) into gunfights, but that doesn't provide any background for the villain, whose only motivation for anything in the movie seems to be the fact that he's crazy and a hurriedly glossed over backstory about his mentor/father figure Hank not paying him enough attention.
So we have a mediocre story without backstories or character development (and what little character development there is happens to be through montages or vain attempts at sympathy), a dusty and dull sheen overlaying almost everything, and many of the film's highlights already spoiled by the trailers and ad campaign. Add to this the fact that a shitload of the dialogue seems recycled and generic and we've got ourselves a mediocre superhero flick bereft of emotion or depth whose most important element is that of a stepping stone to what will hopefully be a better and more interesting sequel.
Marvel's pantheon of heroes and villains is truly vast. Some of the characters are fun, some quirky, some strong, some can fly, but they haven't done a fabulous job of portraying the most interesting traits, at least as far as the villains are concerned. The villains are almost exactly like the movies: paint-by-number.
Marvel's been so concerned with portraying stories with a dark or gritty atmosphere and in a modern and utterly realistic way that they haven't been able to show their villains as the truly interesting and terrifying characters that so many of them can be. At least Ant-Man breaks the mold a teeny tiny bit and lets the comedy out of the pages, letting the movie be more fun than almost all predecessors. In that respect, and in the visual portrayal of a lot of the movie, Ant-Man is a very good comic adaptation, close in many ways to the feeling of reading a comic, but that doesn't necessarily make it a great movie. Ant-Man is definitely entertaining and there are a lot of good things in it, but there are also definitely better superhero films that are more worth a watch.
TL;DR: Marvel has a good track record with their superhero movies, but Ant-Man may just be the end of that record. The story itself isn't up to the familiar standards they've set for themselves and, although there's humor graciously sprinkled throughout, Paul Rudd's turn as a masked superhero winds up trope-like and almost generic. The visuals are great and the action is good if somewhat lacking, like a pulled punch. The story is bereft of much emotion, except for the copious comic relief.
- Acting – 14 / 20
- Story – 11 / 20
- Cinematography – 16 / 20
- Soundtrack – 7 / 10
- Entertainment Factor – 7 / 10
- Action/Drama – 6 / 10
- Other – 8 / 10