ANT-astic New World!


Who else has a sudden urge to pet an ant? I do! Man, ants are cool! (You know, when they’re not creeping up my leg and munching on my delicate skin.)

Ant-Man is the latest Marvel hero to get an on-screen adaptation. He’s a relatively unknown character to non-comic book fans, but then that’s what Marvel does best – turning B characters awesome!

The movie follows the same genetic make-up of other Marvel movies – the unexpected hero, the human undertone, the levity, and the unapologetically comic book-y flair. But while they succeeded in introducing a cool, engaging new superhero into the MCU, I wouldn’t say it was my favorite movie. Ant-Man struck me as just being…sufficient. (This is SO not going to bode well with the fandom.)

Tub man.

I have 3 main problems with the movie: the underdeveloped characters, the uninteresting first half and some forced humor.

It was a story about redemption. Scott Lang was a criminal in search for a second chance (that in itself was a bit trite). But Scott (and in huge part, Paul Rudd) was a generally likeable guy. His past is alluded to, but it was never shown. We never established how “bad” of a guy he was, and in turn, I couldn’t completely buy that he was someone that needed any redemption in the first place.

This wasn’t the only case of ‘show, don’t tell’ this movie makes. Darren Cross, the movie’s big bad, was supposed to be crazy. But it was only communicated through exposition and never concretely presented. When you watch Corey Stoll (Cross), he just comes off as a driven, albeit murderous, businessman. His mind doesn’t seem all that altered, he was just being a prick! Darren Cross was incredibly underwhelming as the movie’s antagonist and is probably the least interesting Marvel villain to date! He was a generic bad guy. I was half expecting him to let out a ‘MUWAHAHA’ at some point.

worst villain ever
The worst Marvel villain ever.

Even the jarring last minute inclusion of Hydra didn’t help. The lack of a well-formed and imposing villain, along with all just exposition of how evil Cross is and how dangerous the Pym particles are, made the central conflict to lose some of its urgency as it feels more like a business squabble than a world threat (as Hank keeps insinuating it is).

As much as I love Paul Rudd, it wasn’t Scott that captured my interest but Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). His past with SHIELD and with Janet is what I actually cared enough to know more about. I was glad they were able to show some brief but cool moments from his past but hopefully we find out more in the sequel, now that we’re done with the mandatory Scott Lang backstory.

Hank Pym
More Ant-Man prime, please!

Speaking of Scott’s backstory, I know had to be told, but it took a tad longer than I cared for. The whole first half of the movie was practically an extended version of the trailer. It dragged and felt sluggish. We already knew most of it, so the movie might have benefited from a bit of streamlining. It was past the midway mark that things really kicked off (when Scott finally wears the Ant-Man suit). And for a movie called ‘Ant-Man’, it sure took a while for him to show up!

Was in my seat going, "Finally."

The best Marvel movies find that delicate balance between heart and humor. Ant-Man largely leaned towards the later. I’m all for making a movie fun, but without some of the relationship drama, it’s hard to invest in the characters. The father-daughter relationship was a big part of the movie but there wasn’t a lot of heavy material for Rudd to work with. His connection with his Cassie felt shallow. Whereas Michael Douglas, who thrives in this sort of thing, had some good somber moments with Hope, but would immediately be injected with more humor. It’s as if the movie was actively trying to avoid the drama.

The mentor-mentee relationship could have used a bit more tension too, similar to the Bruce-Terry relationship in Batman Beyond, or the Anthony Hopkins-Antonio Banderas one in Zorro. It’s a shame they couldn’t push the emotion further, given the talent of the cast. The most heartfelt moment I got was with Anthony…and he isn’t even human!

But even the humor wasn’t all on point. Paul Rudd was in his element, but TI’s, David Dastmalchian’s and even Michael Douglas’ one-liners felt awkward. Michael Pena is a funny guy, but his fast-talking shtick grew weary, especially when it becomes incomprehensible. Still gave me a few chuckles but nothing memorably funny.
Nevertheless, Ant-Man was still a fun watch. As slow-moving as the first act may have been, it made up for it in the second when Ant-Man finally shows up and the action and momentum comes rolling in.

Ant-Man has the ability to shrink and enlarge himself and any object. I thought it would be a boring ability to have, but turns out, it was the most visually rewarding ability to be depicted in live-action! There was a lot of playful camera work, transitioning from the regular world view to Ant-Man’s micro world in seamless fashion. It was a treat to see mundane things in refreshing new perspectives. The one true innovative thing Ant-Man brings to the Marvel U is this unique ‘world within our world’ spectacle.

Props to Peyton Reed for the wonderful visualization of Ant-Man's world.

The fight scenes were equally dynamic. Ant-Man pops in and out of the screen, attacking bad guys seemingly out of nowhere. It’s a spectacular style of brawling we’ve never before! Even though the logic of changing from ant to human size when fighting a guy with a gun still eludes me (since you can pretty much just hide from his sight the whole time), it still made for some stylish and kinetic ass-whooping!

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Aside from its cinematic beauty, it would be amiss of me not to mention that glorious cameo and how Ant-Man ties in to the rest of the MCU. Without getting into spoiler territory, just know that there’s a pretty epic way that Scott’s story overlaps with the rest of the Avengers. It’s probably the most effective use of a cameo Marvel’s come up with. (Not even sure if you can still consider it a cameo!)

ant man and avengers
Just some cross promotion Marvel released a few weeks back.

Ant-Man was certainly not the best in the Marvel franchise but it still manages to give audiences a good time. What Ant-Man lacked in plot and character development, it certainly made up for in the gorgeous visuals and strong action beats. Watching the titular hero traverse his miniature world and brawl in the regular one was awe-inspiring. Compared to its recent predecessors, Ant-Man is more modest in scale, but it still proves that even smaller characters can pack a big, big punch!


* First seen on The Philippine Online Chronicles!

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