Marvel Studios’ newest movie, Ant-Man, was one of my most anticipated films of the year. Being a huge fan of both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Paul Rudd, the announcement of this movie was a dream come true to me. What enhanced my excitement was, during my pre-viewing research, finding out about the major role that the character Ant-Man plays in the Marvel comics universe. However, despite it not being a bad movie, I was somewhat disappointed with Ant-Man.
Before everyone reading this review flips out and spams me with hate, I want to point out the things I did enjoy about this film. Michael Douglas’ performance as Hank Pym was one of the best feats of acting from a primary character in a Marvel CU film to date. The emotion in his performance seemed, comparatively to the rest of the cast, more genuine. I really look forward to seeing his contributions in the future of the overarching Marvel CU narrative.
The character Paxton, played by Bobby Cannavale, was hands down the most genuine, and the overall best character in the movie. He defies all of the tropes of the ass-hole step dad/new husband character template. Instead, he provides us with a character that doesn’t hate or antagonize our protagonist, but cares about his family so much that the two come at odds. In fact, Paxton even tries to help Scott throughout the film, trying to help him transition into a functioning member of society. The only factor that makes him antagonizing in any way is the fact that he sees different plot events than Scott Lang. They are both characters in the same story, but they witness and experience different pieces of it. Therefore, they don’t have matching behavioral patterns in any way. They do, however, carry the same goal of protecting the people that matter to them at all costs. For a minor character in a Marvel CU movie, Paxton is hands down the best.
I also enjoyed the connections this movie makes to the rest of the Marvel CU. Trying to spoil as little as possible, there was an interesting encounter between Scott and another Avenger around halfway through the movie. This battle was very rewarding for hardcore fans of the Marvel CU. I also enjoyed the occasional dialogue references to the rest of the Avengers team, as well as a conversation drop of a character we have not yet seen on screen (COUGH COUGH someone swinging around in New York City COUGH COUGH). There is also a clear sense that the characters in this movie are living in a world that is dealing with the aftermath of the climax of Avengers: Age of Ultron. All of these factors helped to ground the movie as a piece of a larger narrative, rather than just a stand alone story.
However, a couple of strong performances and a plethora easter eggs alone are not enough to carry an entire film. A story that is part of a larger franchise needs to be able to work as a stand alone story as well. Therefore, I had some major problems with this movie that most critics and fans seem to be ignoring. In the scope of the entire Marvel CU, this movie is an excellent addition to the larger saga. However, as a stand-alone story, this movie isn’t very strong. The plot seems heavily rushed, certain key plot points are contrived, and the story is riddled with lack of explanation and plot holes. This is exemplified in the movie’s climax, particularly by a rushed connection between the antagonists of this movie, and a major enemy force throughout the entire Marvel CU. However, that is just one example; there are plenty more to choose from.
I also found the CG to be very unconvincing for a Marvel Studios film made in 2015. Every time there was a scene involving Scott changing his size, or a multitude of ants appearing on screen at once, I was instantly taken out of my immersion. It was very jarring, and definitely detracted from the overall viewing experience.
Despite killer performances from Douglas and Cannavale, some of the acting wasn’t very strong. Evangeline Lilly’s performance as Hope van Dyne was surprisingly stale, and the chemistry between her and the protagonist was nearly non-existent. Her emotional moments felt very forced, causing her contributions to the narrative to fall flat. As she is clearly going to be a very important character in the future of the Marvel CU, I hope she improves her performance quickly. I also found both the performances and plot contributions of Scott’s friend group to be weak. They could have been removed from the movie altogether, and almost nothing would have changed. In fact, it may have improved the film in some ways.
I feel like the majority of the problems I had with this movie can be summed up with one name, Edgar Wright. Wright is one of my favorite filmmakers and storytellers of all time. He was the original filmmaker behind this movie, but quit after Marvel Studios forced him to make drastic changes to his screenplay. There are clear remnants of Wright’s filmmaking style and writing present throughout this movie. However, it feels more like failed emulation of his ideas than his ideas actually coming across effectively. I wish Marvel Studios and Wright could have come to more of a compromise, which would have potentially made Ant-Man one of, if not my favorite, Marvel CU movie.
Overall, Ant-Man was not a bad movie. It just simply did not live up to its potential. Multiple flaws that could have easily been improved upon during the filmmaking process were not fixed for the final product. Further, the screenplay relies on being part of an overarching cinematic universe as a crutch for lazy storytelling. Therefore, while still being a decent movie, it comes in second to last (just above Iron Man 3) in my ranking of all of the Marvel CU films.