I don't know why I have to keep saying this. PG-13. What do you expect from Ant-Man? A hard R? No, sir or madam! It's a story about a guy who gets tiny. Now, I can possibly see a PG in this one. There's a little language holding it back, but we did have a very similar movie in terms of content with the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Like, ants really big get kind of creepy. There's a whole bunch of huge ants. Also, one of the major things about making a shrinking movie is that things that are innocent at our size get to be absolutely terrifying when they are huge. That still holds true in this one. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Peyton Reed
Ending my binge on this one before watching Infinity War kinda stings (kinda pun not intended). I have a tumultuous relationship with Ant-Man. For a while, I thought it was my least favorite movie in the MCU because I still enjoyed The Incredible Hulk. Now, The Incredible Hulk is my least favorite, but this is my second least favorite. This was supposed to be the movie. I was supposed to be talking about this movie until my dying day. This was going to be Edgar Wright's Marvel movie. Honestly, this was in the pipeline forever. When the news broke that this movie was getting made, I had a healthy dose of skepticism. After all, Guillermo del Toro announces a million movies and only makes one of them. For those not in the know, Edgar Wright is my favorite contemporary director. I seriously get obsessed with every Edgar Wright movie. They are tight and well thought out. They turn left when everyone else turns right. They also make me belly laugh. Then Paul Rudd was going to be the Scott Lang version of Ant-Man (admittedly, I would have preferred Hank Pym, but whatever) and I thought that was brilliant. A great comic presence in an Edgar Wright version of a fairly underrated superhero. I was all on board. Then he quit. Like, I knew the movie wouldn't happen. But it got well into the movie before he quit. We're talking about years of updates. I read every news article about how great the movie was coming along. I knew Wright's schedule and the movie kept getting pushed back because he wanted to get the visuals right. I watched the proof of concept stuff that he shot and I got really excited. But immediately before production, he dropped out. After years of talking about it, he was no longer involved with the movie. Come. On.
I know that his name is all over this movie. They used the framework for his script, but not his script. That is disappointing. I heard he hasn't even watched the movie. That's how removed from this film he is. So I had to go in and watch Peyton Reed and Adam McKay's Ant-Man. Adam McKay can be a rock star sometimes, but this felt like he was brought in as a patchwork punch-up writer. I know that I have to take it from face value and I think I did a pretty good job of that, but the movie is one of the weaker movies in the franchise. I do own an Ant-Man shirt because the concept here is somewhat solid. But this movie is fairly weak overall. I've kind of come around on it a little bit. I went in watching it as kind of a travesty. Now I somewhat enjoy it, but also know that it isn't all that great. In fact, I've probably watched Ant-Man more times than the other movies in the franchise besides Guardians of the Galaxy Parts 1 and 2. I want the movie to be better than it is. I will also say that it is the most easy to watch because the movie requires almost no investment whatsoever. So the thing that makes the movie watchable is also kind of the most damning thing about it. Because it is such fluff, I can just put it on and not think critically about it. I fully know my thoughts about why it works and why it doesn't work. It's a fun movie and fun movies need to exist. I say this with full confidence because I'm really jazzed for Ant-Man and the Wasp. Why am I jazzed? I think Ant-Man needs to work. Ant-Man does work. My favorite parts of Captain America: Civil War were the Ant-Man things. There is something about the character that is really great and it isn't really in this movie.
I do actually show a clip from this movie all of the time. (I know! I'm all over the board with my review this time.) The opening of this film is perfect. After Rogue One brought back Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin (I don't even consider it a spoiler at this point), everyone kept on losing their minds about how good he looked. I didn't think so whatsoever. My wife, in the middle of the movie, said, "That's a digital character, isn't it?" Yup. Yup it was, Lauren. Don't get me started on anime eyes Carrie Fisher. But then there is Michael Douglas at the beginning of Ant-Man. I would say "Young Robert Downey, Jr." in Civil War, but the digital effects on the beginning of Ant-Man are some of the best things I've seen. His digital performance? Also awesome. The rest of Michael Douglas's performance is...not so good? When Robert Redford did Winter Soldier, that dude committed. He's giving his all in every scene. Michael Douglas really looks like this is beneath him. I'm watching trailers for the new one and he looks better. I don't know if he just became aware of what he signed up for and only realized that this is a big career move, but his performance is so much better. It kind of makes me dislike Michael Douglas. I don't know if I was in love with him before, so it's not much of a selling point. But that opening sequence looks like Douglas as a young Gordon Gecko. How cool is that? Then there is Evangeline Lilly. I really liked Lost for a while. (Other things you shouldn't get me started on: my devotion to Lost after everyone told me that it was going to suck and then it did suck.) She was fine in that show and I really wanted to support her other endeavors. She's really bad in this movie. Like, her performance is jilted and weighing heavily on character tropes. I don't know if this is Peyton Reed or if everyone thought that they were on a sinking ship with the exception of Paul Rudd and Michael Peña. But I just got the vibe that Evangeline Lilly might not be a good actress. I try to like everyone. Okay, I couldn't stand Timothy Olyphant and Julia Roberts for the longest times. But then Olyphant was in Justified and Roberts was in Confession of a Dangerous Mind and I started to like them again. But Lilly is completely blah in this movie. There's nothing compelling or interesting about her performance or her character and that's a real bummer. Paul Rudd constantly looks like he's doing all of the heavy lifting in a scene. I don't know. Maybe I'm over-reading into everything I watch, but he looks like he's over doing it in every scene to compensate for the amount of blah going on camera. Was the set a toxic set? I don't know, but Rudd is giving his all. The Pyms are boring as get out.
Then there's the crime of the century. Ant-Man is the biggest step backwards for the MCU. Honestly, Yellowjacket as a villain is the criticism that the franchise has received since the end of Phase One. I can't believe that Feige allowed this to happen. It has to be because the film was delayed far too many times for them to completely come up with something original to move forward with. I learned something about television while reading about the production of Smallville. (No, not that Allison Mack was really creepy. That's a whole new one to me.) It is fairly common for an intern to get an episode every season to write. This episode always sticks out like a sore thumb. It isn't too tied into the mythology. It often harks back on tropes that have been abandoned long ago. It's because this script was being worked and reworked over the course of years to get it up to snuff. Ant-Man feels like that. This script isn't completely devoid of mythology, however. It still has to fit with the current canon, so there's a B-story that's kind of inserted in there that may not tonally match with the rest of the episode. In the case of Ant-Man, it was in development around the same time as Iron Man. Iron Man was really successful and the mythology went forward. Remember how I love the opening sequence? This scene feels like it was added to feel more part of the MCU. The other scene I love is the attack on the Avengers compound. That scene is also great. I'm not saying that there aren't other fun parts to the movie. I think the creativity that comes with battles on a small scale are very clever, but these two parts of the movie stand out as being part of the greater MCU. Also, getting Anthony Mackie to show up as the Falcon seems like just the right amount of preparation needed to feel part of it without blowing their entire budget by having Ant-Man take on the Avengers. This is the setup needed for Civil War. (By the way, the after the credits sequence just being a scene from Civil War feels really weak compared to the stuff they do with the other movies.) It's just that these moments feel fresh and not a step backwards. (OH MY GOSH, I LOST MY TRAIN OF THOUGHT!) I was really complaining about Yellowjacket as a villain. In Phase One, the biggest criticism of the series was that the villains were too much of the same thing. Iron Man fought Iron Monger, a bigger version of himself. Thor fought his brother. Cap fought other super soldier, Red Skull. Having Yellowjacket have the exact same origin story as Iron Monger Obidiah Stane while having an evil version of the suit is just the same thing we've seen before. That's weak. I really like that actor from House of Cards. Corey Stoll's got the acting chops, but there's not much to work with here.
But I did start by saying that this movie was fun. The things that work, and I think are going to be repeated in Part 2, are the things being the wrong size. There's a whole fight sequence in a falling briefcase. I love it. It's hilarious and has solid action and that's what Ant-Man should be. Everyone remembers the Thomas the Tank Engine stuff and that's pretty solid. It is a really memorable joke and that's pretty fun. The Ant-Man suit itself looks awesome. There's really no bad special effects here. Maybe the giant ant, but that's even pretty solid. And Michael Peña is great! I haven't stressed how good his team is. His little burglary team is the anti-Pym to this movie. They are used extremely effectively and Michael Peña just looks like he is having a blast in this movie. I know that the easier job is the comic relief, but they make the movie. If the movie was about the Pyms and Yellowjacket, you could probably hear my eyeballs rolling back into my head. But the heist stuff? That's totally fun. I love that. I laugh at the Baskin Robbins bit, but I kind of wish it wasn't in the movie. Regardless, this movie is solidly more than meh. I'll keep rewatching it in hopes that it gets better.
But it won't. It really won't.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.