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WATCHING THE MOVIES: Ant-Man

Only one movie this week. It's fine.

First off, my most sincere apologies if you’re looking for a How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World review. I was out of town for the whole weekend, and my Sinemia subscription is tapped out for the month. I’m debating whether to see the aforementioned Dragon sequel or Fighting With My Family next weekend. Both look good.

Which movie do you want to hear me blather on about? Let me know in the comments below. I’ll go see the film that gets the most votes.

ANT-MAN

I don’t have much to say about this movie, but it doesn’t have much to say either. It’s a perfectly competent, disposable, medium-grade superhero film. It feels studio-made, rather than guided by a person with a clear vision, like a made-for-TV movie set in the MCU.

And that makes sense: Edgar Wright left the movie over creative differences and was replaced by Peyton Reed, a middling veteran with a few rom-coms and a ton of TV jobs under his belt.

Nothing about Ant-Man stands out as particularly special, even the things that should. I mean, come on, Michael Douglas is playing the mentor character and it never feels like he’s trying.

At least Corey Stoll is having fun with the hokiest, most evil-for-the-heck-of-it villain I’ve seen in these movies since Thor: The Dark World‘s Malekith. And Paul Rudd is funny, sometimes. The best acting comes courtesy of Michael Pena’s Luis, whose jokey moments always land.

The story is full of contrivances early, with little to no deeper narrative theming or focus. Here’s an example. Having young-CGI-faced Michael Douglas punch a SHIELD higher-up in the face in your all-important opening scene does nothing to tell your audience what’s going on, even if you put older Agent Carter and Howard Stark there. It tells us Douglas’s Hank Pym is REALLY protective of the Pym Particle, the Applied Phlebotnium that makes the Ant-Man suit shrink and grow. But that’s not the film’s main point. It’s something we learn again later when Hank recruits Scott.

Also, why did Hank recruit Scott, specifically? How did Hank find him? Why did Hank think recruiting him would work? Why did Hank think Scott would be curious enough to try on the suit once he stole it? This is what I mean by contrivances: the answer to each one of these questions is “the script says so.”

But worse than that, Ant-Man struggles to engage its audience because it doesn’t really have a driving reason to exist.

The main thrust of the story is “will likable criminal Scott succeed at becoming a hero?” Yet the film doesn’t really make him do the work to get there. It’s rare that Scott seems out of his depth or in peril in a way that isn’t at least slightly played for laughs. The best example of this friction occurs during the training montage, where Scott learns to control the ants. Mechanics aside, how in the world does Scott learn to command millions of creepy-crawlies at once so quickly after struggling to command just four a few scenes prior?

Important plot points receive little time or explanation, in favor of fun and games. For instance, why is Hope helping her father? Given the state of her relationship with him and her overall hard-edged DIY persona, this choice seems unique. So why has she made it? We’re never quite told, but hey, that heist sequence at the end of the second act is fun!

It probably feels like I hated this movie. I didn’t. As I said, it’s perfectly fine – a nice little diversion. It’s just not nearly on par with some of the other Marvel films.

RATING: 5/10

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