To Steal an Ant-Man

I’ve always never wondered how the hell an Edgar Wright picture would look as directed by anyone in the world other than Edgar Wright. I’m not sure if Ant-Man is the answer to that curiosity, but the possibility is off-putting enough that I don’t want to see Edgar Wright kicked off of another project he puts development into ever again.

Ok, that’s kind of a bit. Harsh. Ant-Man as directed by Edgar Wright Adam McKay Kevin Feige Peyton Reed is not a bad movie at all and certainly the fact of its quality is impressive in the fact of less troubled developmental projects like The Amazing Spider-Man or evidently Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four. It’s perfectly enjoyable, it’s light, it’s funny at many points…

It’s just also simply the most ordinary of all Marvel Studios’ films to this day. And while I know we can blame many faults on the Studios’ need to fan service up the draft by Wright & Joe Cornish (a task upheld by previous directorial consideration Adam McKay and Paul Rudd, the latter also starring in the film), I’m not quite sure it would have been much better, even without shoehorned moments like the opening of the film where Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) walks into a room filled with characters we already know and get mad for his secret or something or the scene where Scott Lang (Rudd) mentions Tony Stark and Pym gets ever angrier and kills the mood for a good five minutes before making a whiplash shift to smiles. Or just about every appearance by a character already established in the MCU from there on forth, both simply there to herald in the mention that “HEY! THERE’S A CAP’N MURIKAH: CIVIL WAR A-COMIN’!” I swear, when it came to the opening scene, it was so inconsequential that when a character returned later in the movie, Pym had to mention punching him in the nose for me to remember the dude’s fucking face. And I still have to go to Wikipedia to recall the names of MOST of these characters.

I mean, they’re giant bothers and marks against the movie but it’s not like the movie had much material to warrant its 117 minute runtime in the first place. The simple gist of it is that there was already an Ant-Man in the universe well before we’ve arrived here (something that – for once – would have been welcome in the previous films would have been hints or moments where something happened that makes no sense up until the reveal of Hank Pym’s WWII work. The closest we got is a reference in Thor so obscure Feige had to point it out). Ever since Pym retired his work as Ant-Man around the same time as the apparent separation from his wife (obviously obscured so that Marvel can cast her for a bigger role in the franchise), he’s been entirely touchy on anybody even asking about his Pym Particle – which allows him to shrink to the size of an… ant, man.

When his former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll continuing the line of MCU villains being extremely two-dimensional and arbitrary; also his name is way too close to Darren Criss for me not to have made that mistake at first) finally discovers video evidence of Ant-Man’s existence in the form of his former mentor (you’d think that video would have been unearthed, like, a long while ago), he vows to emulate the original formula in a more powerful form.

Pym isn’t down with that almost as much as he’s not down with his own capable daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly being the only feet-on-the-ground performance and unfortunately witnessing that job becoming especially thankless with this particular cast) taking on the mantle of Ant-Man for reasons which, even after Pym explains, kind of feel patriarchal. So, he figures to steal an Ant-Man, you’d need an Ant-Man that steals and so he recruits Scott Lang straight out of prison to take back whatever progress Cross has made to recreating Pym’s formula.

And then we throw in some background about Lang’s family and everything and the claim that Pym can totally reunite Lang with his daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson doing an adorable job of being the single weirdest character in this movie). And some sidekicks, one of which played by David Dastmalchian with another bad Eastern European accent as Marvel Studios has been now obviously wont to do since Iron Man 2 with cartoon lines like “it’s the work of gypsies”.

It’s a very small movie for Marvel to have worked on and well, that’s all well and fine because I did enjoy myself by dismissing its plot. It practically encourages when the only stakes are “Oh I want my suit back” as opposed to “Alien Army coming from another dimension to fuk wit Earth.”

And even without that, there’s still a lot to enjoy about its aesthetic neither taking cares like Thor: The Dark World or Guardians of the Galaxy, but also being able to feel more like our world in a less morose manner than The Incredible Hulk. The production design and cinematography is tempered enough to make the comic book stuff look like comic books and everything else bring us back to Earth and that’s kind of a strongly disciplined approach.

That and basically, to be straightforward, Michael Pena is the single best thing about the movie. Seeing him do wonders with the remnants of Wright’s script (I want to believe the conversation flashback gags are Wright’s but evidence actually leads to it being Reed’s brainchild) and approach the character with a zoned-out ray of smiles never ceased to give me a big grin, even with the dark humor of his very first scene as he recounts all his grievances. Like, I want Michael Pena in an Edgar Wright movie to-fucking-day. That is the biggest thing I took away from the movie. Michael Pena is hilarious and we need him to work with Wright (same for Douglas, but y’know, that’s cause it’d be great to see).

And I feel like it’s fine that Pena was the biggest takeaway from Ant-Man. It’s not anywhere close to an impressive movie and at no point in the development (even with my beloved Wright at the helm) did it feel like it was going to be such an impressive movie, but I guess in the end, that’s what it’s meant to be. Just a brief respite before the bigger messes of the MCU come into play. One hopes for more smaller stand-alone work like Guardians of the Galaxybut we can’t all get what we want.






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