Dissecting Ant-Man

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Lauren: As someone who strongly questioned why Ant-Man deserved his own movie as a seemingly “bottom of the barrel” superhero, I can now say I’m glad Marvel felt much differently than I did. Turns out this little guy comfortably swimming outside the mainstream can pack quite a big punch.

For those of you who don’t know, which is probably most of you who aren’t somewhat immersed in the comics of the Marvel Universe, Ant-Man is a character who can shrink his size.  No, I didn’t make a mistake typing that, his suit-activated superpower is getting small.  You’re not wrong, reader, this DOES sound stupid.  What would be the point of this?  Sure, he can take advantage of the space underneath a door, but other than that his power just seems to be exponentially increasing the time it will take for him to travel distances.  Take that, villains!  You don’t stand a chance!

Turns out there is a little more to the character, but that still didn’t stop my questioning on how this could make a good action film, or superhero in general.  The trailer did little to assuage my disappointment that this was the next installment in the Marvel cinematic universe.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Honey, I Shrunk the Kids as much as the next person, but I was also a child when I first saw that.  Now I am a partially developed grownup, so I am more capable of recognizing ridiculous when I see it.  I just didn’t see it here.  Turns out Ant-Man deserved a movie after all.

***Warning: spoilers ahead!***

Zac: I wasn’t as skeptical of Ant-Man as most people were. Any skepticism came only when Edgar Wright was forced to exit the film over those pesky creative differences. But knowing that Wright’s vision was still an influential element on this film gave me hope.

The premise is silly, but Ant-Man‘s tone is handled about as well as one could hope. It knows how ridiculous its premise is while never really poking all that much fun at itself. Every bit of meta-humor feels just right, not like the film is ashamed of itself, and I honestly wish the film had a bit more of this or embraced humor a bit more than it does. The expectations of comedy are my own, but with everyone that worked on the film I have to say my biggest disappointment was the film wasn’t funnier. What I wouldn’t have done for one more story telling sequence from Michael Pena’s Luis.

Lauren: I was definitely expecting something slightly more comical as well.  Had the film taken itself too seriously I would have shut down in a way that would allow me to believe my preformed opinions going in were warranted, but this isn’t the case.  It doesn’t go too far in the other direction, it doesn’t reach for Avengers levels of laughter, but Ant-Man finds a tone that works for it.  It has its slick Ocean’s 11 bits, Pena’s storytelling flashbacks are definitely a highlight in this regard, along with Lang attempting to assimilate himself into the ant community in Pym’s backyard, but it is still firmly immersed in being a superhero film, even if it isn’t quite the typical superhero film.  In other words, it’s not a large scale film like some of the other Marvel films, it’s a large scale film tightly packed into the comfortable body of something smaller.  Just like the protagonist!

One thing I did miss in the tone was a snarkier Paul Rudd.  There are hints of a more confident man underneath someone figuring out their life post prison, and I can’t wait to see where Lang goes from here now that he’s past being kicked while he’s down.  I think he and Spider-Man could have some fun back and forths together, and he already has a foundation with The Falcon to grow on.

Zac: Actually, I do have another disappointment to throw out there. All of the characters and plot that didn’t involve someone who wore the Ant-Man suit at some point were way too under cooked. A lot of the character motivations are told to us instead of being shown and thus feel merely thrown in on top. The most egregious example was the stuff surrounding Cross’ villainous ways, which I think we’re supposed to believe are motivated by his years of exposure to his not quite right version of the Pym particle? Why did they try and save his morality at all with Evangeline Lilly’s throw away line about how he is a good man who has gone mad due to his science? Was it to justify her dating him? I thought that was all merely a spy tactic, and would have been fine with that. Cross being driven mad by corporate greed and a lust for power is plenty of motivation, and one that Ant-Man sets up perfectly. We didn’t need the mad scientist angle nonchalantly thrown on top. Plus, I really liked and bought into Corey Stoll’s diabolical corporate psycho performance well before they try to “save” his humanity a bit at the end.

Lauren:  This is my biggest complaint! I wasn’t quite sure where Cross was in his story.  Hope (Lilly) makes a comment about him being affected by the particle, but there are no scenes that hint at this exposure in the slightest.  As far as the movie is concerned, Hope is around it just as much as he is, all the while standing behind a glass barrier, and she isn’t turning people into goop in the bathroom.  The way I see it, most of his story happens off screen.  That would be the only explanation for this, as well as how he adapts to the abilities of the Yellowjacket suit after we’ve just watched a large portion of the film dedicated to Rudd learning how to become Ant-Man.  It’s not like he has to develop a language to control insects, but his suit can fly! That’s not something you master on the first try.

Zac:  Speaking of Lilly, I liked her a lot in the film (I usually do), but she has got absolutely nothing to do here. I hope she suits up to be Wasp in a future Marvel movie, but her whole sphere of relationships here feel entirely surface. Her history with her dad gets the most lip service, but I would’ve loved to have had her emotional high point not be at the expense of Pym’s back story, which is also serving as a major plot point around the Quantum Realm. I still am not entirely sure if her and Stoll were dating, and the relationship with Rudd’s Lang that’s revealed at the end was totally unearned and out of left field.

 

Lauren:  I don’t know if it’s because of the other female characters we have to compare this to (*cough* Thor’s Natalie Portman *cough*), but I actually didn’t have a problem with the female lead this time around.  It was definitely better than what she was given in The Hobbit films, anyway.  There were a couple of cold, snapping moments for Lilly that seemed a little much (I’ll also blame the sharp haircut for that), but maybe she was affected just like Cross after all!  She was blotting out the light with ants, and that’s some pretty devious behavior right there.

Speaking of Cross, I didn’t think Hope was in a romantic, albeit faked, relationship with him. Cross is just too focused on the job, plus he would make comments about how Pym was his mentor and how they were both betrayed by Pym, which all put off more of a sibling relationship vibe to me, if that makes any sense.  Who knows, there could be some awkward kissing bits that show up in the deleted scenes, but until those come out I just didn’t see it that way.  And I actually didn’t mind when she did kiss Rudd.  Their relationship development could have been stronger, sure, but I’m glad it wasn’t a central storyline because the romance is always a central storyline when it comes to superhero movies, even if they aren’t actually given the treatment that a central storyline deserved.  So instead of forcing these romances that seem unwarranted and unrealistic, they managed to do something that had me buying into it.  I don’t know what it is that they did, but they did it.

All I know is I am excited for when she suits up.

Zac: I didn’t mind the two getting together, I just was pointing out the lack of work they put in.

Speaking of stuff not put in, I heard that they filmed and cut an opening sequence that showcased Pym in the suit when he was an agent for shield; and it was something conceived in Wright’s version of the film. Now, I know we can’t judge the movie by something we didn’t get, but I think I would have really loved one more Pym as Ant-Man sequence. The missile bit was all too brief in and of itself, but it was one of my favorite moments in the film. Getting a longer sequence with Pym in the suit could have been a great way to showcase someone using it at peak potential and possibly given them a chance to build the antagonistic relationship between Pym and Mitchell Carson (the bad guy looking dude who was on the Shield board with Howard Stark and Peggy Carter). Still, the film works well as it is, but I can’t help but wonder what a more fleshed out and full blown origin for the Ant-Man suit itself might have looked like here.

Lauren: I can see that, but this was more about Rudd’s character than the superhero Ant-Man as the torch is passed to a new generation. It was actually the inclusion of pre-Rudd stuff that felt off to me, specifically the intro of the past S.H.I.E.L.D. meeting. Granted the real reason it felt separate from the rest of the movie to me could be more to do with how it was basically an excuse to show other characters from this world (which I also felt somewhat with The Falcon fight).  All I know is Pym reiterates what this scene is about later in the film, so it could have been scratched all together had it not been for the callback to the bad guy when he’s back and ready to buy Cross’ tech.  Actually, can we get rid of this guy while we’re at it too?

Long story short, I’m actually happy we didn’t get more of the previous Ant-Man because I was more invested in Rudd’s character and not Pym.  Plus I enjoyed simply seeing the photos that showed a speck of a man fighting crime when zoomed in to the nth degree.  This keeps more of a mystery to this character that was supposed to be hidden from the public to begin with.  More scenes with him might have somehow put him on the level of Captain America in my mind, and everyone knew about what the Cap was up to.

Zac: Another sequence I enjoyed, even though it barely holds together, was the Falcon fight at the new Avengers HQ. It felt very tacked on to connect Ant-Man to the cinematic universe (did they even use the thing they went to steal?), but Paul Rudd’s endless apologizing and Falcon’s sweet ass goggles had me enjoying the kerfuffle. Plus, who doesn’t love Anthony Mackie?

Lauren: Hope put it in some machine after Pena knocked the guard out, if I am remembering things correctly.  That might be wrong, but I definitely remember it being put to use.

Zac:  Ah, ok.  One more thing: How do you feel about the Quantum Realm stuff, and do you have any insight into how that might fold into the great MCU picture?

Lauren:  I thought the Quantum Realm was fine.  I definitely like the idea of it; not only is it just an interesting concept, but it adds an extra level of danger and sacrifice to what these characters are doing (like going too deep into dream world in Inception or the fear I have for someone like Kitty Pryde if they can’t control falling through surfaces… The danger is real!).  With that said, I definitely had problems with it when it finally makes its way into the story.  It was never a question that this choice would come up for Lang once it was originally brought up, and no matter how important this moment is all I could do was laugh at Rudd floating through a children’s toy seeing as the deeper levels visually present themselves like a kaleidoscope. On top of that, Rudd using that growth disc to make his way back out seemed far too easy since it stopped amplifying his size once he got to his original form.

All that said, I am still happy with the inclusion of it, mostly because of the potential for what could come from this development in future films: there’s no way the original Wasp will be stuck in it forever now that we’ve seen Rudd escape.  They purposefully hid her face in the photo of the Pym family together, and that has to mean they haven’t cast the role yet, they have and don’t want to reveal who it is yet… It has to mean something! I really believe she’ll be back, the question is what state her mind will be in from being stuck in a place where time, space and all that moves differently than what we are used to.

Zac: Oh, she is definitely coming back, and in a young and able form so that she can fight for the Avengers years on end. She can be a New New Avenger. But you were right on the execution of the Quantum Realm itself. It all felt oddly pointless beyond a potential sacrifice Scott had to make for added stakes. And while I get he did it for his daughter, I’m not sure the movie sold it as a very difficult decision at the same time.

But you touched on another weak point of the film for me, in that all the callbacks felt really obvious and we see them coming from a mile away. I felt this way about Inside Out recently, so maybe I’m not getting as absorbed into the movie going experience as much anymore? Then again, in almost all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films I have been mostly swept up in the proceedings. I rarely felt swept up in Ant-Man outside a couple moments in the set pieces, even if I enjoyed myself all the way throughout the movie.

I have been the more negative one in this write up, but I did really enjoy the movie. Is this top tier MCU for me (ie Avengers, Winter Soldier, Guardians and Ultron), no, but it is a fun movie that is delightfully weird at times. I wish we got more of Rudd running around with the ants/insects as their military leader. RIP Anttony. I am excited to see Ant-Man show up in future MCU movies, especially if he starts making himself big and taking on giant enemies, or what have you, in the Infinity War battles.

Lauren: Poor Anttony… That made me about as sad as I am to realize that you think Age of Ultron is top tier Marvel.  Oh, who am I kidding.  Anttony’s death hit me far harder than his wing hit the ground.  But still, I haven’t quite gotten over how disappointing I found Ultron to be.  About as disappointing as the alien design in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Ant-Man is definitely high on the list of MCU films for me, higher than I expected it to be, that’s for sure.  Avengers still holds the #1 spot, but it’s pretty unfair to compare these two films anyway.  So maybe I’ll go with Avengers, Winter Soldier, Guardians, Ant-Man… and so forth.  All I know is I am excited to see Ant-Man hold his own with the rest of the heroes, both in fighting style (which we didn’t really talk about how well his bamfing in and out was handled) and personality, as well as excited to see what could be in store in a future solo story.

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