“Heroes don’t come any bigger”
Directed by Peyton Reed
Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas
Dr Henry Pym (Douglas), genius and pre-Avengers SHIELD super-soldier, resigns when he discovers the Division is trying to replicate his atomic compression research, but years later learns that his protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) – having taken control of his company – is on the verge of releasing the same technology onto the world.
Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Lilly) are intent on preventing the release of the shrinking technology and its ‘Yellowjacket’ delivery suit, but clash when Pym refuses to let Hope don his old Ant-Man suit, instead recruiting Robin Hood-style con Scott Lang (Rudd) by offering him a chance to redeem himself and be a true hero to his daughter.
Trained by Pym and Hope, Rudd also recruits his former cellmate Luis (Michael Pena) and two fellow cons, Dave and Kurt, to form a heist crew, and together with an army of ants sets out to destroy the Yellowjacket and all the research data on the Pym/Cross particles. When Cross threatens his own family, however, Scott’s mission becomes personal.
What’s wrong with it?
Ant-Man‘s main problem is the rod it creates for its own back in the form of Hope van Dyne, a character who is vastly more competent than Lang, but is repeatedly refused access to the suit for what are valid reasons, but in the current cultural milieu still carry sexist overtones.
Pym refers to the mission as ‘saving the world’, but there isn’t really a sense of that scale; possibly because no-one is dropping a city on anything and threatening a global winter.
The heist crew is disturbingly comedy ethnic. Luis is a gabby Hispanic, Dave a sort of casual-angry black man, and Kurt a laconic Eastern European. I’ll give Kurt a pass if he turns out to be Latverian.
The timing of the movie means that HYDRA’s appearance is probably in a Grant Ward-led version, and everything to do with Grant Ward is insufferable.
If the regulator is what stops you vanishing into the quantum universe, what halts the shrinking and growth of things hit by Scott’s Antarangs?
What’s right with it?
Oh, hey; it’s older Howard Stark and HOLY FUCKING SHIT IT’S HALEY ATWELL! I may be enjoying Agent Carter, okay. This cameo also neatly explains Pym’s refusal to involve the Avengers.
The film’s core story is of redemption and the power of father/daughter relationships, and the Hope problem comes into focus when you recognise that it is the story of Hank Pym’s redemption as much as Lang’s. He thinks that he needs to make up for failing to protect his wife, Janet ‘the Wasp’ van Dyne, where in fact what he needs to do is accept that he can not, and does not need to, protect Hope. It takes the mid-credit scene, but the film does nail this.
Father-daughter dynamics hit me right in the feels. Having established him as an essentially idealistic criminal, the film did a good job of creating a dilemma which forced him to risk losing all access to his daughter in order to secure visitation.
The shrinking is done well, and I applaud the film for going balls to the wall with the any control. I won’t say it could have been silly, because frankly it is silly, and a little creepy, but the film never lets up and winks at the camera. “You have to commit,” Hope tells Lang when he is struggling to master ant control, and this is as much true of its inclusion in the movie.
The Ant-Man vs. Falcon fight is superbly done, and in addition to setting up the ending, Falcon is precisely the right Avenger for this job. His coolness is that he is a regular Joe with a wing pack, and as well as making him all the more heroic, it also means he can get beat without losing all his cred.
I strongly approve of the fact that while Hope is training Scott, he never beats her. He gets better, but the one time he lands a square blow she responds by knocking him on his ass. This plus the fact that she never needs to be rescued saves the film from a faux action girl tag. I also thought her little smile when he used one of her moves on Falcon was adorable, and what sold me on a romantic relationship between the two.
I also approve of the Wasp’s costume, which was basically an Ant-Man suit with wings.
It was very nice to see Lang reintegrating with his family without feeling it necessary for his ex-wife’s fiance to be humiliated or dumped or for him to rekindle the romantic connection with Maggie.
How bad is it really?
Not bad at all; certainly much better than an Ant-Man film has any right to be. As with other MCU films, it has the advantage of jettisoning all of the baggage of years of comic book history, including in this case Hank Pym’s history of extreme paranoia, identity crises, manipulative spousal abuse and domestic violence.
It is also good to see an MCU cinematic release that isn’t afraid to go small, not in terms of the shrinking powers, but of the stakes being intimate. This is not to say that there is nothing linking to the larger universe, as on top of the Civil War cameos in the stinger, I would not be surprised if the Pym Tech incident didn’t feed into the question of regulation.
Best bit (if such there is)?
Cassie’s joy at receiving a truly hideous stuffed animal from her father was honestly delightful.
What’s up with…?
- Pym refers to the suit ‘taking a toll’ on him. How come Lang isn’t the least worried about what that is?
Production values – As slick as we are used to, and the shrinking powers allowed for a very different look to the film. 3
Dialogue and performances – The heist crew are questionable stereotypes, but the cast are all excellent and the script pleasantly free of howlers. The real gems are mostly from Pym talking about father-daughter relationships. 8
Plot and execution – By going small, the film plants its stakes in the feel-zone (stakes through the heart?) and is able to pull off a tense plot without needing to go full Ultron. Like many MCU films, it adopts the trappings of genre (in this case a heist) in order to present a masque of depth without stinting on action, and it does it so well that I struggle to begrudge it. 7
Randomness – I’m pretty sure Anthony should have died during training, but it’s pretty decent really. 6
Waste of potential – It’s Ant-Man the movie. From the reasonable expectations, the only real way was up. 4