Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ant Man Review

As Marvel's Phase 2 comes to a close, did it end with a bang or a whimper?

Welcome back to an entire post where I complain about he new renaissance of comic book movies! I know I made this a point in my Age of Ultron review, but now I have a coherent way of saying exactly why I'm not a fan of the new age of superhero movies. The biggest problem I have with the MCU, and soon to be DCCU, is the shared continuity between titles and making some of the more fantastical superhero elements of these characters moot. Look, I love comic books. Hell, I still read comic books. But when I watch these new superhero movies, they just don't feel like comic book movies or like they have the characters I care about. It's Hollywood absorbing an industry and appraising it for its own purposes. It just feels soulless to me. Add on the fact that these movies are being churned out at a huge pace in order to give these movies a sense of cohesion and to milk them for all they're worth. I mean, Marvel's Phase 3 has 9 movies coming out over the span of 4 years. That's insane. And with all of the sharing continuity between each other as well as between the previous dozen or so MCU movies, the entire genre is getting to big for its own britches.

Hell, look at the other movies that came out in Marvel's Phase 2. Iron Man 3, Thor the Dark World, and arguably Age of Ultron were not very good, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was alright, and the only legitimately great movie in Phase 2 was Guardians of the Galaxy. Not only do we have to deal with a massive amount of superhero movies, but we have to deal with the HUGELY variable quality between movies. But we still have to see all of them or else we won't get the full picture, story, or be confused when something insignificant is referenced in Infinity Wars. I'm just tired, plain and simple.

Which leads us to Ant Man, the little Marvel movie that was labeled as being Marvel's first potentially bad movie. There's been a lot of trouble behind the scenes with losing Edgar Wright as the director and how there wasn't really any publicity for the movie until just a days after Age of Ultron. Hell, the only reason I'm aware of the movie is just because of how dedicated I am to following releases. I haven't seen a single ad for this movie anywhere. And yet, while this is probably one of Marvel's least comic book flavored movies, it's also probably the second best Phase 2 movie. Go figure.

Scott Lang is a burglar who's down on his luck. He's been paroled, but can't find a job. He can't see his daughter, and he's struggling just to make ends meet. That is until he decides to have one last heist. He robs a house, but finds only a suit in the home owner's safe. That house belonged to Hank Pym, and that suit was his Ant Man suit, a suit that allows the user to shrink and grow at will. With Scott now in posession of the suit, Hank Pym and his daughter Hope enlists him to stop his protege Darren Cross from using the same formula as the Ant Man suit to make a military version of it called Yellow Jacket. It's a tough heist, but can Scott, Hank, Hope, and Scott's legion of ants pull it off?

Right off the bat, Ant Man attempts to be Marvel's answer to what a MCU heist movie would look like. Superheroes using their powers to do Mission Impossible-esque sequences. On the whole, it's actually pretty solid. The heist itself it fun and enjoyable with a lot of nice ant effects, subterfuge, and espionage that would please any spy fan.

My only real complaint is that for about an hour of the movie, Scott spends it learning how to use his suit, trying to get on Hope's good side since she was denied the Ant Man suit, taking it on test runs, and getting tons of backstory about Hank, Cross, and Hank's dead wife Jan. It's all interesting and whatnot, but let's just be upfront that about a solid half of the movie is pure exposition. This is probably Marvel's most shameless origin story told, because it's not even trying to deny the fact that Ant Man isn't someone most people would know, so there're bringing everyone up to speed as much as possible. However, I can't be mad at them for this because just because I know who Hank Pym and Scott Lang are doesn't mean that everyone else knows who they are. In fact, I kind of applaud Marvel for spending so much time having us get to know our heroes and caring about them.

What I can complain about is that this is also Marvel's most predictable movie yet. While I can safely say I did not expect most of the big plot twists used in Phase 2, or even big character moments, I called most of the major plot points ages before they happened. I knew why Hank isn't Ant Man anymore. I knew who Cross was as soon as he opened his mouth. I even knew what would happen at the climax because Marvel apparently doesn't know what Chekhov's Gun is.

Even though I knew what would happen, I didn't really care honestly. This was probably shocking to me because I realized just how much I enjoyed seeing these characters talk to each other. It wasn't heroes bickering between themselves, acting like assholes, or even acting out of character like in previous MCU movies. Scott, Hank, and Hope were just plain fun to watch. They bantered, they had good conversations with each other, and just made me enjoy the company I was with. They even provided us with some funny moments regarding key chains, sugar cubes, and of course, ants.

Oh the ants of Ant Man. I feel like if Ant Man was trying to do one thing right, it was make ants look cool. Just to be clear, ants are not cool and are still not cool after I've seen this movie. I will say though that ants are vicious little buggers and are apparently really good at taking down advanced technology and security guards. If Ant Man had one huge uphill battle to face, it was trying to make a man that could control ants cool. No one thought that ants were cool, and yet, this movie is able to at least make a man who can control ants cool. I would argue that Scott is much more interesting and cooler just based on his size manipulation alla DC's size altering superhero, The Atom, but ants work too.

Marvel has me in this bind right now with Ant Man. I should dislike this movie because it does everything I dislike about Marvel movies. It reduces the superhero elements. It adds continuity where there didn't need to be any. It spends too much time setting up exposition and origins for the characters. But they're not bad. Yes there are little superhero elements, but it hardly matters because Ant Man isn't trying to be a superhero movie. It's just trying to be a fun heist movie dipped in a superhero coat. Yes the forced continuity is unnecessary, but it delivered a great action scene at the end of the day. And yes there is too much exposition, but it's to get the audience up to speed. It doesn't do anything inherently wrong.

As the closure to Phase 2, I'm kind of curious as to why this movie was the ending. Don't get me wrong, Ant Man was still a fine, movie, but it wasn't exactly final material. It's more confusing than anything else as to why Ant Man ended Phase 2.

Still, I can't deny that even though this movie still has the same elements that made me dislike some MCU movies, I still enjoyed it quite a lot. I think this is probably going to be Marvel's least successful movie, but it's still going to rake in millions upon millions of dollars. It's going to be a success, showing there's no stopping the MCU any time soon. I guess that as long as we're going on this crazy train to hell, I can still watch Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and now, Ant Man.


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