Movie Review: ANT MAN (2015)
Last night I saw Ant Man with some of my church friends after an illness-induced delay. So here's my review, a few days behind schedule...
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has just been released from three years in prison for stealing from an unethical former employer. Unable to find a job to pay child support for his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) due to his record, he slips back into crime alongside his motormouthed former cellmate Luis (Michael Pena). Luckily for him, he's soon recruited by former superhero Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his estranged daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) to stop the machinations of Pym's former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Cross is on the verge of rediscovering the technology that allowed Pym to become the first Ant-Man, and he has designs on selling it to some...questionable people.
*I didn't have very high expectations for the film because, like many, I viewed the Ant Man concept as kind of ridiculous and not especially effective as a superpower. However, the film proved me wrong. Being able to shrink to insect-size is very useful for breaking and entering, plus they go with the proportional size/strength thing (like Spider-Man?) to make Ant-Man a very effective combatant. And Cross's modern Yellowjacket suit is even more impressive than the 1980s gear Pym provides Lang.
*In that vein, the scenes where Lang is shrunk to approximately insect-size are incredibly entertaining. Rats, dancing club denizens, a friend of yours taking a shower, and ants become a lot more dangerous when you're that small. And when Lang and Cross do battle, environments like the inside of a suitcase or a toy train set prove to be fascinating battlegrounds.
*The film shows the ability to integrate different genres into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although most of the films so far have been superhero movies, Ant Man is a heist film in the way that Guardians of the Galaxy is a space opera and Agents of SHIELD is a spy show.
*The acting is great. I liked Rudd as the well-meaning Lang and Douglas as the sometimes cranky Pym. Stoll does a good job as the ambitious, resentful Cross and I liked Lilly's Hope. But the best one of them all is Michael Pena, who steals the show as Luis. Luis is absolutely hilarious and I definitely like how the climax worked him and his other small-time crook buddies into the film. I do hope we end up seeing him again.
*There's a lot of good humor in the film, and not just from Luis. Thomas the Tank Engine gets put to some interesting uses, while let's just say there's more to a particular keychain than meets the eye.
*Although I initially thought the tie-in with the Avengers was kind of forced, it did lead to an entertaining battle between Lang and Falcon (Anthony Mackie). If you're going to send somebody to an old building to retrieve something you left, always, always make sure your maps are up to date. :)
*A possible Fate Worse Than Death for those who end up "shrinking uncontrollably" is foreshadowed, but it ends up happening to two completely different characters than what I expected. Good job at misdirection. And according to different sources, it might have happened to a third character as well. That's a good thing, because it allows the character to potentially be brought back for a later movie.
*There are two credits scenes to watch for, a mid-credits scene foreshadowing later developments in the Ant Man series and a post-credits scene that sets up Avengers: Civil War. Knowing what I know about the fate of Tony Stark's parents in-universe, I think I know what will trigger the conflict between Captain America and Iron Man.
*Like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the film touches on serious political issues, but not in a ham-handed way. Winter Soldier discussed the dangers of excessive government surveillance and trying to pre-empt every possible threat (something that was hijacked by some very dangerous people), while Ant-Man shows how easy it is for an ex-con who can't get a job to slide back into crime. Had Lang not encountered Pym, odds are he would have become a full-time criminal and likely come to a stickier fate.
*I liked the historical tie-ins in the flashbacks to the 1980s at the beginning of the film. SHIELD is meeting at the Triskelion building we first see in Winter Soldier, which isn't complete. Howard Stark and Peggy Carter of the WWII generation are still in charge and the organization seems more U.S.-centric rather than the one run by the multinational "World Security Council" we see in The Avengers.
*There's a whole subplot that I suspected in hindsight was a product placement for Baskin and Robbins. Given how I like B/R and how it wasn't obvious, that's a plus in my book.
*I saw the movie at a drive-in theater and for the first part was sitting farther away from the radio. Although some actors' voices were easy to understand even with that, some I couldn't really hear until I moved. Obviously some actors/characters are softer-spoken than others, but that could also indicate issues with the sound mixing. After all, I don't think the characters who were harder to hear were this way for reasons of plot/character (think Roose Bolton in A Song of Ice and Fire, where being very soft-spoken is a major part of his characterization).
*There's some continuity issues with the television series Agents of SHIELD, also part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The show depicts a certain criminal organization as largely gutted, with its dregs controlled by a former low-level agent intent on using it to further his personal grudges ("closure"). Given the nature of the group it could be that the villains in Ant Man are independent of the ones in Agents and they might not be aware of each other or are even at war. However, some throwaway line like, "These suits will be useful in dealing with so-and-so" could explain the internal situation within the group.
*There was a bit later in the film where I remember checking Facebook on my phone, which could indicate a dull moment.
A delightful end to Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 9.0 out of 10.