Film Review | Ant-Man (2015)

ant man paul rudd evangeline lily michael douglas peyton reed edgar wright poster review marvel cinematic universe

I watched this today! It was a rather excellent movie. Lots and lots to like about it. Very funny; I think one my favourite jokes was towards the end, when Michael Peña’s character was giving the second tip, and he started talking about the art he liked. It amused me, because normally the joke would be “this guy doesn’t get art”, but it’s subverted when he goes off on a tangent about how he prefers one artist over another. Very good. Lots of excellent jokes.

Also! I particularly liked the shift to the legacy orientated way of looking at things. One of the more interesting superhero concepts, which isn’t really explored so much, is the fact that mantles often are passed on. Because the movies tend to start with the “original” character, rather than their successors, we haven’t seen that yet – it’s entirely possible, though, we might yet see Anthony Mackie or Sebastian Stan becoming Captain America at some point in the future.

Anyway, though, I digress. (Wasn’t Anthony Mackie very cool as Falcon?) I quite liked the fact that we saw Hank Pym passing on the mantle of the Ant-Man to Scott Lang – it wasn’t perfectly done, but it was quite well handled, I felt. I’m hoping that, eventually, whenever we next see Ant-Man, we see Hank and Scott, to further this mentor relationship.

But, on the other hand, the flaws were very much apparent in the film. I’m not sure whether this is because of the films troubled development, or just some general flaws, but whatever.

First up is going to be Darren Cross, AKA Yellowjacket. In the run up to this film, the question of weak/underdeveloped Marvel villains has been floating around a fair bit, so the question was closer to the forefront of my mind while I was watching this than usual. Aaand… I mean, I understand the basic idea of wanting to focus on the hero, rather than the villain, especially in the first movie, and especially one in which you’re trying to set up essentially three main characters – Scott, Hank, and Hope.

But I really do think that Cross could have been much, much better. He was a rather two dimensional character, I felt; acting like a megalomaniacal villain simply for the sake of it. For consideration: What if Cross didn’t want to militarise the Pym Particles, but to use them for altruistic purposes? That sort of shrinking/growing technology could solve more than a few food shortages with relative ease. I always think that the best villains are the ones you can entirely understand the motives of, and perhaps even agree with. You’ve got a very easy set up here – Cross wants to use the technology to help as many people as he can, but Pym is reticent, selfish even, about sharing the technology, because of what happened to Janet. The conflict comes from that – it’s far more morally grey, because both parties are technically “right”, yet neither will compromise. It’s a little bit different, it’s more nuanced, and wouldn’t even require much more screentime for Cross. Just a few tweaks, and the film is likely a lot stronger, in terms of it’s narrative. You can still have Cross suit up to fight Scott, because he wants to stop Scott from, as he sees it, hurting a lot of people.

(Oh, and, hey, there’s another angle for the mentor thing – because Cross was once Hank’s protegee, he could have been the Ant-Man. Differing views split them apart though. Is that correct? Who deserves to be the hero? Etc etc etc.)

Second problem, or noticeable error, would be in the treatment of Hope van Dyne. And that’s… difficult. I mean, it’s already been extensively discussed about the fridging of Janet (though it seems like she’ll be back eventually), but that’s not quite what I wanted to talk about.

Ant-Man does arguably have some similarities to this comic here, which did stand out as I was watching it. Hope was essentially already far more competent than Scott, and probably a better choice for the job than he was, yet Hank was making choices for her (Hope: “Don’t blame yourself for mum’s death, it was her choice”). And… Well, to be honest, I think it was actually “okay” here, insofar as this sort of trope can be okay. It’s obvious that Hank is grieving, and he’s determined to keep her safe – the movie straight up says that Scott is expendable. (Which made me feel validated, albeit less smart, because I’d been sat there going “oh yeah this is obviously because Hank thinks Scott is expendable, wow I am so great at picking up on this admittedly quite obvious subtext”)

But then at the end, Hope does get the Wasp suit, which is a culmination of the arc between her and Hank, so I think this is probably not going to be much of an issue should the characters ever return. I mean, taken on it’s own, I think this film actually doesn’t do so badly – it’s just that in context of everything else, it’s a little difficult to completely give this film the all clear.

Though, you know, those are both fairly mild concerns. It really really was an excellent film, that was really enjoyable to watch – it was refreshing to meet a new character, but I appreciated the inclusion of other MCU elements to give a bit of texture to the film and it’s world. I thought Paul Rudd was brilliant, I thought Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lily were brilliant – the whole cast did really well. Fantastic visual style to it all as well – the shrinking elements worked excellently throughout. They were one of the most important things to get right, and this film absolutely got it note perfect.

I enjoyed Ant-Man very much, and I am really looking forward to seeing him return.

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