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Ant-Man – Movie Review

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Ant-Man – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

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After successfully making a feature film with a talking tree and machine gun-toting raccoon in starring roles, Marvel Studios now appears able to make a film based on any character, no matter how ridiculous. The key is on figuring out how to properly translate that comic property into a live-action film with the appropriate dosage of drama and humour. Ant-Man is a solid take on a man whose primary powers are communicating with ants and shrinking down to their size. Director Peyton Reed, along with the four credited screenwriters (including the film’s original auteur Edgar Wright, who infamously left the project only last year), have fashioned a different sort of superhero film. This is more along the lines of a heist caper, feeling closer in spirit to The Italian Job rather than Iron Man.

In addition to being a heist film, Ant-Man is mostly about the role of the mentor and how one can shape us in our decisions. While Scott Lang is the lead character and dons the shrinking suit, Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man in the comic books) serves as the heart and centre of the film. He’s the guiding force for not only Scott, but also his daughter and the film’s main antagonist. The script effectively conveys Hank’s inner struggle and expectations for all of the young people whose taken under his wing. Most of the emotion comes through with his relationship with his daughter Hope and the film solidly showcases his disappointment with main villain Darren Cross’s descend into selfishness. Most of the villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been dull obstacles with an extremely simple desire for world domination. While Corey Stoll plays the role a sneer away from twisting his metaphorical moustache, there is at least a small dimension to his motivations. His villainy feels genuine and from a place of actual character growth and that past history heightens the threat and the need for our heroes to succeed.

Paul Rudd seems like an atypical choice to play a superhero, yet he fits the role perfectly. When Rudd wants to be reunited with his young daughter, he sells it and he helps make Scott’s quips amusing. Serving as a co-writer (alongside Adam McKay and the original screenwriters Wright and Joe Cornish) probably played a role in how he carefully makes the character his own, but we also believe him as an action hero. The jokes never come across as corny and forced and the character feels believable and unique, even among the other snarkey Marvel superheroes. Michael Douglas is the MVP of the cast, managing to show Hank Pym’s pain, sometimes with only a facial expression.

Peyton Reed directs the dialogue scenes ordinarily, but that’s hardly a major criticism as it allows those scenes to differentiate from the action sequences and training montages that abound. Reed, the visual effects team and director of photography Russell Carpenter amp the wow factor when Scott shrinks to ant-size and the audience is taken along with him. In Scott’s first tiny adventure, the camera flies from location to location and thankfully not resulting in motion sickness (regardless of the dull and useless 3D). It appears the appropriate research has been undertaken to capture the right scale. The best and funniest action scene is one that takes the most advantage of the diminutive proportions of Ant-Man and Yellow Jacket as the two fight on a toy tabletop, with Reed jumping back and forth between their point-of-view and that of a normal-sized person. Who would have guessed one of the most memorable blockbuster scenes of the summer would feature Thomas the Tank Engine as a recurring prop?

Yet, even with the exciting action sequences and well-rendered and animated ants, the most impressive special effect appears in the opening sequence. Visual effects companies have been experimenting for a long time in making actors appear much younger through digital techniques. There have been some successful experiments, but the way Ant-Man de-ages Michael Douglas to 45 is extraordinary. It almost looks like the production team actually time-traveled back to 1989 to film this scene. Like any Marvel Studios production, the script includes little references to the other films, including an appearance from one notable character. They are more like cute references, though, and don’t detract from the plot. This is more self-contained than most of the other Phase 2 films and can be watched and enjoyed by those still not versed in the MCU. The script also addresses in a humourous dialogue exchange why this mission, in particular, doesn’t need the Avengers to come in to save the day.

Ant-Man refreshingly takes a small departure from some of the formula normally associated with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even down to a climax that is more small-scale and doesn’t have a villain destroying the entire city. The heist angle sets this superhero origin story apart from many others, with the action sequences being far more interesting than what Marvel gave us earlier this summer in Age of Ultron. There’s a genuine gleefulness through most of Ant-Man, probably owing to a pedigree that includes Paul Rudd, Edgar Wright and a director who brought us the delightfully retro rom-com Down with Love and was behind the camera on multiple Weird Al Show episodes. However, the drama works and Scott Lang becomes possibly the most likeable hero in the Marvel ‘Verse. When he does eventually join his fellow heroes, he should fit right in with their charms and heroic bravado.

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Review By: Stefan Ellison

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