Monday, 27 July 2015

Ant-Man (2015)

Is there anyone out there who isn't even a little bit excited for the upcoming phase of Marvel films? It's a fucking great time to be a Marvel fan and it's set to only get better. There are so many exciting new faces set to make their first appearance and it's bloody brilliant... even if some people won't have as much knowledge of them. Ant-Man  is one of those superheroes that means a lot to people in the know but isn't exactly one of the mainstream. Whilst waiting for the film's release I've had to suffer the mocking tone of several colleagues who think it's just some silly parody. Forgive the fucking awful pun but he's simply too small to stand out against the likes of Thor, Captain America and the Hulk. He was the underdog, which made him the perfect focus for a writer/director like Edgar Wright. Shame that dream died a fucking horrible mess then. So, despite my unquenching excitement to see Paul Rudd take up the costume, I found myself sceptical that I would enjoy this film as much as I would have enjoyed the first one.

Ant-Man has done for Paul Rudd what Guardians of the Galaxy did for Chris Pratt. That is to say, it made him fucking jacked. It's incredible and I was sure that, even if this turned out to be the worst Marvel film since Iron Man 3, I would have something to rave about. It was something of a genius move to cast Rudd in the role of Scott Lang. Rudd knows he's not the typical action hero and plays the part with this in mind. Instead he has that lovable quality that was necessary for telling the story of a thief turned costumed hero. He may have fucked up in the past but his love for his daughter makes my fucking heart melt. It's a great strategy and Rudd gives the role enough heart and humour to make an audience fall in love with him. Does he convince as an action man, though? He's not too disappointing when it comes to the crunch and handles some of the more fast-paced scenes well enough.

Of course, without a great mentor Scott Lang wouldn't be able to recreate himself in such a way. Michael Douglas doesn't necessarily get a lot of wiggle room playing Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man turned recluse, but he does a great job delivering several of Pym's dramatic speeches about doing the right thing. Pym calls on the talents of Scott when his protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) threatens to crack the Ant-Man technology and utilise it for evil. With the help of Pym and his angry daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily), Scott must drag himself away from his life as a thief in order to steal from Cross.

Ant-Man is a fairly simple premise when it comes down to it. You set up your future hero, give him a training montage and set him off on his merry way. Every cliché in the fucking book is on display in this origin story and Peyton Reed's direction does nothing to help this. It's the same kind of shit we've seen time and again but it's being presented in a slightly inferior way. Ant-Man has a sense of awareness about how unoriginal it is and, rather than playing up to it, it lets it weigh it down. Despite it's comic script, the film never manages to decide whether its serious or not. For every Paul Rudd quip there is an Evangeline Lily reminder of everyone's impending doom.

There are many problems that become glaringly obvious within this format. Evangeline Lily looks set to be another Black Widow badass but she is relegated to the sidelines. She's the bitchy wannabe that has to swallow her jealousy in order to let the inferior candidate take her place. It won't help Marvel with feminists and it feels like a massive cop-out to leave such a great actress to a bland bit-part and rushed love interest. Even the villain of the piece never gets the chance to really shine. Stoll, who was so successful in House of Cards, could have been the perfect foil for everyman Paul Rudd. Instead, he is a substandard caricature who poses very little real threat and whose motivations were given less thought than Michael Douglas' beard.

Ant-Man has been favourably compared to Guardians of the Galaxy thanks to it's light-hearted feel and ultimate sense of fun. I agree that Ant-Man is, on a basic level, one of the easiest Marvel films to enjoy: there are some superb visuals jokes and Paul Rudd plays for humour as often as he can. However, plenty of the jokes actually fall flat. Reed is by no means an abysmal director but he has been caught under the shadow of his predecessor. There are so many hints of Edgar Wright left within the script and you can't help but think he would have helped the jokes land better than Reed. I lost count of the amount of times a joke is glossed over instead of being indulged.

Although that's not to say I didn't like Ant-Man. Critics may believe the concept is too small to justify but that's exactly what makes it so appealing. There is a sense of nostalgia surrounding a man whose superpower is to shrink. Compared to the recent Age of Ultron and Winter Soldier, it feels more like a B movie than a Blockbuster. It could have been a perfect second-class Marvel film if it hadn't pushed towards being more. It was never going to compete with the bigger films so it should have accepted its fate. There is plenty of potential in Ant-Man going further but, based on his debut, it looks doubtful that he'll get another solo outing any time soon. So we must all sit here and mourn for the movie that Edgar Wright should have been allowed to make.. whilst still appreciating Paul Rudd's abs obviously.

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