Hi, I’m Scott
Don’t Tell Cap About This
I Almost Wrote This Review In Tiny Font, but I Didn’t; You’re Welcome
a kindly review of Ant-Man
by David Clemmer
The Marvel Cinematic Universe might just be one of my favorite things right now. What it’s bringing to the filmic potluck in product, monument, and ethos is so cool on my audience-member end of things that I wait with nary a shred of skepticism and ennui for the next installment. Even Dr. Strange and Inhumans and Tina Fey’s Squirrel Girl starring Chloë Grace Moretz
If even one of you readers immediately opened a new tab to google ‘mcu squirrel girl,’ I’ll die happy.
This excitement was applicable to Ant-Man from the moment that tiny trailer came out, and hearing that Paul Rudd was going to be riding ants, getting coached by Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym, shot at by Corey Stoll (a.k.a. the drunk senator from House of Cards, a.k.a. the drunk Ernest Hemingway [is that redundant?] from Midnight In Paris), and punched in the mouth by Evangeline ‘Resting Do-I-Smell-Farts Face’ Lilly. And yes, my excitement waned when Peyton ‘Who?’ Reed stepped in for Edgar Wright, and when I looked Peyton Reed up and went, ‘…oh.’ But it didn’t wane by much. And rightly so. Wrightly so? No. Don’t chuckle at that. I said stop it.
Ant-Man is fun. It’s not Avengers-fun, or Guardians of the Galaxy-fun, but it’s leagues more fun than Thor or Cap’s kickoff movies. You know where I’d put it, if the MCU was laid out on a spectrum? Right there: right next to the best episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., resting quietly above Iron Man 2 and the Squirrel Girl one-shot that you get as an extra when you buy Winter Soldier on iTunes. Oh hey, welcome back from Google! Sorry!
What Ant-Man isn’t, and I apologize profusely for this, is big. Expecting something massive and explosiony and whole-world-at-stakey might be a totally justifiable misstep on the part of Marvel moviegoers, because that’s basically all they’ve put on the big screen thus far. And while the plot of Ant-Man implies massive explosiony whole-world-at-stakey consequences should the antagonist prevail (see? I didn’t even emphasize the prefix ant- in ‘antagonist.’ I’m doing okay here, I’m better, I’m learning), it’s so far down a sequence of events that the focus is entirely on a much smaller story. The tension surrounds whether or not Darren Cross (Stoll) / Yellowjacket (Ernest Hemingway) will even get his technology out of a disastrous testing phase before Ant-Man can put a stop to it.
The movie’s strongest point is that it doesn’t try to be big. I don’t mind disclosing to you that there’s no mention of Thanos or the Infinity Stones or any of the major goings-on in space. There are namedrops of characters and previous events, and a cool, story-related, non-credits scene featuring an Avenger, but the movie doesn’t try to weave Scott Lang and Hank Pym into the overarching…uh…arc. I was worried they would try to connect Hank Pym to Ultron, like in the comics, but it seems like they’re leaving that one to Tony Stark.
This superhero plot is also set against the tried-and-true formula of a fuckup father trying to see his young child, despite the ex-wife and her new husband standing in the way. So this is basically one of the good Tobey Maguire Spider Man movies mashed up with Liar Liar. I can feel your excitement about this movie from here.
You right now.
I won’t say why because it might mean something mildly spoilery, but let me just say that I think the dad-motif works really well in this superhero setting. Something about themes. Like, my heart was warmed during a fight scene between superheroes.
So, the story works, is what I’m saying. The script itself might have needed a bit of work in the first act, vis-à-vis the pacing, but while the setup does take a minute to really catch the chain and get going, it’s at least entertaining while you wait. Much of that is owed to the quaintly awkward charms of Paul Rudd and the well- and efficiently-established Hank Pym, and hardly any of it is owed to the Michael Peña/T.I./David Dastmalchian comic-relief trio. But the first act makes keen work of setting up a decent little story and a decent little tone.
It would seem Edgar Wright, in the inception of this movie, knew Ant-Man was chiefly a secondary character in the grand scheme, and that’s where the character’s film belonged. Much like putting S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage on the teevee, and Squirrel Girl straight to DVD and Blu-ray. You’re not believing the Squirrel Girl thing now; that’s okay. I had to bring it back for balance’s sake.
Okay, quick storytime. I have been at war with a legion of crazy-ants since the day I moved into my house five years ago. The little assfaces are everywhere and they’re getting stronger and smarter. I will massacre thousands more if I have to. I have no mercy. I will pour corrosive poison all over the kitchen, I will set fire to the yard, I will stack their little carcasses to the cot-dang ceiling until I master their attrition and drive them back to the hellmouths from whence they came.
Now, will this movie be your favorite MCU contribution? Maybe not. But let me tell you that I killed a hundred ants this very afternoon, yet I had feels for the ants in this movie. Now that’s effective storytelling.
Last thought here. The fight scenes were terrific. Using the Ant-Man suit and the gadgets that came with it, the choreography of the fights and other action scenes can feel a little dizzying at times, but to a great effect. Like using a quick shrink-unshrink to escape an attacker’s grasp, distract him in the process, and come back full-size for a punch in the face. And they don’t overdo all the Now what would this be like to a really tiny person?! stuff; it doesn’t get gimmicky.
So yeah. Chalk up another success, though not wild, for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But darn, I really wanted to title this review, More Like CAN’T-Man, Am I Right?! AM I?!
8,300,000,000,000/10,000,000,000,000 of the world’s estimated ant population
18/22 petitions for Chloë Grace Moretz to star in a Squirrel Girl movie directed by Tina Fey, no, seriously, she may have beat up Thanos once; she could be the key to all of this
1/1 messed-up lookin’ dog