director: Peyton Reed
writers: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd
starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly
genre: Action | Comics | Sci-Fi
released: July 16, 2015 (Australia), July 23, 2015 (Germany), July 17, 2015 (U.S.), September 17, 2015 (Greece)
Stating the obvious that "Ant-Man" was a risky property to adapt is pointless. More important is if the film succeeded in convincing audiences that it was something more than a silly concept and title. Which for the most part it did, sadly though it fell short entirely in overcoming the "Marvel" movie trademark of having an uninspiring lead villain in an overall entertaining and hilarious blockbuster family film.
Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) had his transformative formula hidden for decades in order for it to never be turned into a weapon of mass destruction. What he never anticipated was that his young and eager protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) would get very close to recreating it himself and with ulterior motives.
Years later when Pym finds out with the help of his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) how far Cross has fast tracked the serum's development. He will look to a rather clumsy but highly skilled ex-con cat burglar by the name of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to help them in their efforts to destroy it. In return Pym will grant Scott the chance to be a true hero to his young daughter and all with the help of a shrinking suit and some trusty ants.
When the film's original-writer director Edgar Wright departed the project over creatives differences, I was worried what would become of this film. Would it end up a mediocre failure as with "Thor 2" or would it be ridiculed like the recent "Fantastic Four" reboot. Neither of the two ended up happening and despite all the bad omens that came with its director re-shuffle, rushed production schedule and many rewrites. It actually cultivated into a film with a distinct charm and incidentally felt very much well put together.
One reason for this is the added focus to most of the supporting cast. From the primary players to the smaller more insignificant periphery characters. A contrast from the original script that was said to be more drama heavy and less of an ensemble piece. How much of this is true we might never know, however the characters in this version feel like they all play an integral part to the story and play off of each other very smoothly. Also some of the rewrites made by Rudd and comedic director Adam Mckay seem to have beefed up the content of the jokes. Leading to significant areas of great comedy in conjunction to the decent redemption plot and cool effects. Though it must be said, that I could be jumping to some rather specific conclusions. As all this is based off of insider reports and interviews.
In general the film does feel nicely melded together and a perfect flick for a family to see. Nevertheless, there are moments that were mishandled and at times aspects of the film that could have been enhanced further. Although these are minor issues and are nothing in comparison to the villain problem that Marvel continues to have in each of their latest films.
This is an issue that the Marvel think tank and its head honcho Kevin Feige have to get onto pronto. Its impossible that this stupendous production team can be able to create marvelous worlds with inspiring heroes on death defying adventures, but then are unable to craft a villain that has a full backstory, some mystery to him or her and a commendable arc. Furthermore and maybe most important of all is that these villains don't all die! I know SPOILER! But did anyone really think that was out of the realm of possibility in a Marvel film? Just have a look at their track record and you will see for yourself. And its not so much the issue that they die here and there, but all the time? Didn't Marvel/Kevin Feige ever think of the possible revenge plots, do overs or behind the scenes scheming in one of their next films by one of their villain creations? It seems at least to me very disturbing how the "House of Ideas" never attempts do these kind of shenanigans in the comics, but in their film universe they just can't help themselves.
Moreover and in regards to the main villain Darren Cross. We only ever get snippets of how evil he is and not of who he is. Also there isn't any real build up or secrecy in order to find out his true nature or to understand his contemplations. Whereas the Hank Pym subplot that he has with his daughter Hope of their rekindled relationship is handled inspiring well. With the little sub notes of Pym choosing first Darren and then Scott over Hope as his protege and also the hidden family history Pym has kept away from his daughter for years. Making it the most important emotional arc of the film. Something that could have also been accomplished with Cross and Pym's professional history and with Cross's rage over Pym's decisions. Undeniably a hugely missed opportunity that could have led to some intense drama and rage in the film. But alas this was never explored further.
Though truth be told not every element of film feels mishandled and disappointing. One part that can't be criticized is the action and effects of the film that are rather top notch. With the ants being the surprise with how greatly detailed and expressive they look. As well as not being as cheesy as most of us had initially expected. As they not only look good, but enough time is also spent in describing their usage, meaning and variety. It addition to them never feeling too geeky or disgusting as well. Something else that can't be forgotten is the Ant-Man suit and the shrinking effects. Really efficiently utilized in the story, in the action scenes and for comedic effects. While also being an visual effect that will be heavily emulated in media in the years to come.
Last but not the least is Michael Pena's character and his analysis of how he gets heist gigs. This part of the film should truly be proclaimed as pure comedic genius. From the timing to the choice of the "Coffy" music in the background and also the fake mouthing of the words by Pena and the other actors in the scenes. It is just a sight to see and worth every second of it.
"Ant-Man" proves once more that "Marvel" knows what they're doing most of the time. They are still making very much the same little mistakes that they should get a handle on, but should be commended nonetheless for giving lesser known characters a chance to shine. Because this could have easily turned into a goofball fest that would have made "Batman and Robin" look good and nobody would have wanted something like that to happen.