New (ant-sized) Life to the MCU Formula

THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR ANT-MAN HERE! If you haven’t seen this movie yet, then what are you waiting for? Go see it already! I’ll wait…

Did you go and see it? Good! Let’s get started.

Movie: Ant-Man
Release: July 17, 2015
Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, Paul Rudd
Stars: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Abby Ryder Fortson, Michael Pen͂a, David Dastmalchian, T.I.

This movie has had an interesting reaction from the film-loving (specifically superhero film-loving) crowd. There are those (like myself) who really enjoyed this flick and it is towards the top of their MCU movie list. Then there are others who don’t like it so much, not because they feel like it is not a good movie, but because it is not an Edgar Wright movie. I was bummed (like many others) when Wright dropped out, but I was not going to let that color the way I went to go and see this movie. I think those who were in the latter camp should go and give Ant-Man another chance and see it without the what-could-have-been colored glasses. While some things feel a little flat, this was still one of the stronger outings Marvel has put out since the start of the MCU.

If you are reading this and you don’t know who Wright is, then go see Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and The World’s End. They are super awesome movies.

Just a quick history lesson for those who are confused. Long before the MCU really got itself going, there was an Ant-Man movie in development with the aforementioned screenwriter/director at the helm and the hordes of nerdy comic book lovers were very happy. He was the best fit for the strangeness of a character whose superpower was to shrink down reeeeeeally small. But then Iron Man happened first and the MCU took off. The movies all had to interconnect to one big goal at the end, which meant Ant-Man (like all the other MCU movies) had to have an overall agenda and fit into the whole scheme of things. Wright’s vision did not gel with Marvel’s, so he dropped out a few months before filming commenced. In comes Payton Reed who previously directed the fabulous Bring It On, the interestingly weird Down With Love, and the not so great The Break-Up and Yes Man. Many nerdy comic book lovers were not happy. Despite the not so good follow-up movies, I still very much like Reed because of Bring It On, so I was willing to give things a pass.

The movie was like a breath of fresh air after the last couple of MCU outings. Age of Ultron and The Winter Soldier were intense and full of death and major destruction. The Winter Soldier saw the annihilation of the institution that held the Avengers initiative in the MCU together and Age of Ultron featured an entire city pulled for the earth and nearly turned into an extinction level meteor. Ant-Man is about a heist of a suit and some sciencey stuff. That’s it, no cities leveled, no mass casualties, no city stopping car chases, and it felt like a nice break from the mayhem. The film managed to creatively produce major level destruction on a small scale and keep everything exciting. It felt like a departure from the formula without actually departing from the MCU movie formula.

Scott Lang (Rudd) has just been released from prison where he did a Robin Hood like crime against his former company. How he came to have some mad burglary type skills we never really get to know, but who really cares. He loves his daughter and wants to be a better man for her, so he tries to go on the straight and narrow to please his ex-wife, Maggie (Greer), and her cop husband, Paxton (Cannavale), so he can get some time with his little girl. After realizing he cannot get a job (especially at Baskin Robins cause they always find out) as a former convict, he slips back into his old ways of stealing after his buddy, Luis (Pen͂a), tells him about a sure thing, big money job. Alas, crime does not pay and all they find is a weird looking suit they all hope they can pawn for money. Lang tries one the suit and ends up being taken for a ride as he activates the suit and shrinks down to the size of an ant and goes through his building trying not to get stepped on. The whole ordeal is just an audition for Lang, Hank Pym (Douglas), the owner of the suit, had been watching him this whole time and was setting him up to see what he could do. Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Lilly) recruit him to steal the knock-off version of his suit and the MacGuffin like thing that makes people shrink from Pym’s former protégée, Darren Cross (Stoll) who went crazy building all this stuff and wants to sell everything to Hydra. Yup, Hydra still somehow exists in these movies.

Most of the movie is about planning the big heist and prepping Lang to use the suit and control the ants that will be of help to him. There is one big action moment before we get to the corporate raid involving Lang going to steal a thing Pym desperately needs because it is at the new Avengers facility and there is a need to have Lang interact with the one character (Falcon) that will make sure Ant-Man shows up in Captain America: Civil War. The real details as to why he went there do not matter, all we need to know is that Ant-Man is on Falcon’s radar and will be needed for some Bucky Barnes related drama for the next MCU installation. The final end credit scene explains Cap finally found Barnes trapped somewhere and Cap needs to hide him from Stark and the superhero drama going on. Luckily Falcon just met a guy who can shrink down and steal things. The fight scene between Ant-Man and Falcon was fast paced and fun. It looked like a possible fight between a guy still kinda getting the hang of some tech squaring off against a guy who knew exactly how to use his tech. The only reason Ant-Man came out on top is because Falcon had never seen anyone who could do any of that.

When we get to the big throw down between the crazy villain and the hero, the destruction is made to look huge and devastating, even though they only destroy a model of the corporate office Cross wants to build and part of a house. The use of the stupid power like shrinking is made to look interesting and actually impactful in a world where there are superheroes that invent super cool suits that do everything and guys with super soldier serums making them practically invincible amongst other things. Setting the movie and San Francisco, which has been destroyed countless times in movies over the last few years, almost felt like a giant middle finger to those movies. Telling them “we are going to take your stupid cliché and make you look completely stupid by creating big destruction of small things.” Like I said earlier, breath of fresh air.

The cast had great chemistry together. Pen͂a took every scene he was in, put them in his pocket, and just ran far and away with them. I have always been a big fan of his, but this movie showed the rest of the movie going population why he should be in everything. The humor at times felt a little shoved into various moments, like they were trying too hard to do what Joss Whedon does. The only savior for it was Rudd and Pen͂a were so charming, you didn’t mind the joke thrown in there. The big weakness for the movie was the villain. This seems to be a weakness most of the MCU movies suffer from. With the exception of Loki and Ultron, the villains our heroes face are nothing more than guys who go crazy for the sake of crazy and want to take over the world. It almost feels a little Pinky and the Brain esc. Cross is no different, but there is a quickie explanation (shoehorned in there) that the particles that make him crazy and Pym was experiencing the same thing which is why he hid his tech away and does not don the suit anymore. Also, he knew there were going to be those in places like S.H.I.E.L.D. who would eventually use his tech for very bad things (did Pym feel the Hydra take over coming?), which gives us the convenient explanation as to why the Avengers are not called upon to help.

Watching you tube channels like Emergency Awesome, I have come to find out that Hank Pym is actually a very dark character and is a bit closer to Cross’s level of crazy than the Pym we got on screen. Knowing all that, I do wish we had a darker Pym going nuttso on the power and just eliminated Cross all together. The story would have been more interesting and there would have been a much better villain.

There is a bit of a love story between Hope and Lang thrown in there, but it is saved for the end. It isn’t completely earned, but not a surprise when they are caught kissing. The real love story in the movie is between Lang and his daughter, Cassie (played beautifully by Forston). Everything he does, he does it for the love of his daughter. In his own way, Pym is the same. The whole plot of the strained relationship between him and Hope could have been solved long before we got to the big shebang. At the same time, I do understand the complicated relationship that is between a father and his daughter. My dad and I spent most of my formative years butting heads and not seeing eye to eye, but that is what you get when two very stubborn people living under the same roof, and one of them is a parent. But eventually, the daughter has to grow up and get some distance to understand that parents are human and they are going to make some mistakes, but they do the best they can. The moment when he explains her mother’s, Janet van Dyne’s, death and his attempts to find her felt like a real moment when a daughter finally grasps that her father is just a normal man who has his faults. It is one of the better love stories Marvel has done in some time. The first end credit scene we get is when Pym shows Hope the suit he and Janet had been working on prior to her disappearance and he wanted Hope to finish it and wear it. Hope’s exclamation of “It is about damn time,” was a good moment for her to be recognized as a hero in her own right, but also a shout out for us fans who have been asking for more badass women to be a part of this universe.

I hope to see more Ant-Man in the future, and not in just Civil War. The concept is new and interesting much like the way Guardians of the Galaxy was something different from the norm. Hey, maybe Wright will come back for the sequel and the fans will stop bitching about what could have been.

What did you guys think of Ant-Man? Did you enjoy the small scale fighting? How much do you love Michael Pen͂a? The theater I saw the movie in cheered when there was a reference to Spider-Man, did you catch it and were you happy for the shout out? Let me know in the comments section.

To read UberApe’s review of Ant-Man click here.

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About Nerdling

The Nerdling has an unhealthy obsession with books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars. She finds hockey to be the best sport in the world (Go Dallas Stars!) and is working on her first novel, but mostly glowers at a blank screen. You can find her on Twitter @nerdlingstale on Facebook @NerdlingTales or Instagram @nerdling_tales

1 comment on “New (ant-sized) Life to the MCU Formula

  1. I absolutely agree with you that this film was totally refreshing after the oversized destruction and world-ending threats of the most recent MCU films. I enjoyed the more relaxed feeling of this one. I didn’t even realize I needed the break from the over-the-top stuff until I watched this movie and was grateful at the end for the change of pace. I also liked the heist element of it. I thought that was a lot of fun. Great article!

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