If you are a hardcore comic book movie fan, by now you will have seen the new Ant-Man movie by Marvel or read or watched more than enough reviews to figure out if this film is good enough and ranks to the same level as past Marvel fare. Thus you probably do not need to read my take on this whole circus to make up your mind. What else can I say that has not been said yet? This is why I call this review a non-review. Well, I kind of wrote my own review of Ant-Man based on the trailer back in January 2015. If you want a review that almost gets all the details right, read that!
Ant-Man features the stories of two men with parallel journeys. Scott Lang is a master thief who has spent time in prison for a big heist and done his time. He has a daughter to support but is still a bum looking for a job to do. Enter Hank Pym, the second man of this film, and the original Ant-Man. He offers Lang an opportunity to become a hero and redeem himself in the eyes of his daughter. All Lang has to do is steal the new Yellow Jacket suit being produced by Pym’s former protégé, Darren Cross. Cross wants to sell the Yellow Jacket suit to the highest bidder, after having attempted to reconstitute the secret Ant-Man technology fueled by Pym particles. Will Cross succeed or will Scott Lang, reprising the role of Ant-Man stop the villain in time?
It’s often funny to see all the reviews about these so-called comic book film. Everybody is an expert now. Everybody knows the history of these characters based on a few Wikipedia entries and a few exchanges in a public forum. The most adventurous have watched a few cartoons or opened a few trade-paperbacks collecting so stories about the characters being adapted to film I tend to come to these movies from a different angle. I actually know Ant-Man inside out having read his comics as for the last 30 years of my life. Yeah, my knowledge of Scott Lang and Hank Pym comes from having read their adventures in various comic books when both characters were considered lame, expect by yours truly.
I’ve known Scott Lang longer. I first read about him when Tony Stark recruited him to interrogate a villain Whiplash on Ryker’s Island. Scott Lang appeared in the villain’s jail cell to perform his interrogation for Tony Stark. I encountered Hank Pym when I became a big fan of the West Coast Avengers and went back several years in the past to search for back issues featuring various Avengers. Back then, Pym was just known as Doctor Pym. He only wore a red jump suit. It was after he had hit his wife Janet Van Dyne was thus considered a wife-beater. The character had to be reinvented, salvaged from the corner that he had been written into. I read about him and Egg Head and his various breakdowns.
You will see none of that in the Ant-Man movie. You will see nothing about Cassie, Lang’s daughter being sick and him needing to commit his crime to get just enough money to save her life. This is no longer part of the official narrative about Ant-Man. Neither is the stuff about Hank Pym experimenting on his wife to give her some bio-engineered wings and antennas. Of course, the wife beating which was a big part of the character up to the character’s reinvention in the early 2000s The Ultimates has been washed away by Disney. Hank Pym has no evil wrinkles. He’s no longer the misunderstood genius who felt overshadowed by Tony Stark and Reed Richards. This Hank Pym is a man of honour and has never created Ultron or any other technology that has cause great harm to the world.
The Ant-Man movie we get is a sanitized version of Scott Lang who is very funny, and a Hank Pym who does the right thing and probably is smarter than Tony Stark. It’s made for movie drama and both men are redeemed for any wrong they might have dared commit a thousand times. At this point, I was asking myself if I was watching a movie about a Marvel character or one about one of the saints that DC Comics has created. It’s surprising that in a weird twist of fate, Marvel Comics characters who used to be more flawed than their DC Comics counter parts in comic books are now cleaner than anything over at Warner. I mean, Superman kills Zod. Ant-Man grieves over his dead ant army.
It’s a good film, except that I knew all the lines and the jokes that the actors were going to make before I even saw the film. I knew where the whole movie was going before it even started. I like the trio of thieving sidekicks, but they were predictable. I wasn’t surprised once in this movie. Marvel made a safe movie with Ant-Man that did not dare break any ground for fear that it would break the Guardians of the Galaxy’s formula which proved such to be a winning formula in 2014.
Scott Lang never had much personality before the last few years. The most striking thing he did was falling in love with some of the Avengers. I don’t remember which one. It was a big soap opera and it didn’t matter in the end. He was expandable and killed but brought back as soon as Marvel needed to feature him in a film. As for Hank Pym, I don’t recognize anything about him in Michael Douglas. What about the smart guy with problems containing dealing with his emotions? What about the obsessive man who once picked up the debris from the West Coast Avengers and tried to rebuild his team? What about the man who longed for his wife and wanted to prove that he was good enough for her all these years?
Well, there is a bit of that man in the character that Douglas portrayed. The missing Janet Van Dyne is a big reason why he will not let his daughter become the new Wasp. One thing I liked about this film is how Ant-Man, having been removed by Marvel and Disney from his status as one of the original Avengers, was retroactively made one of the first Silver Age super hero before there were Avengers. I like this. They gave him some of his dues after all, even if they did not show Janet Van Dyne’s face at all.
The plot was eerily reminiscent of the first and second Iron Man films. Evil business associate attempts to take over the company of the hero and steal its technology. Hero and his surrogate fight back and the film ends in a big brouhaha where the evil guy dons a similar suit created from cloned technology to defeat the hero. The film even included a whole training part where the hero attempts to control his new suit to the best of his abilities.
This is the Marvel movie formula. It will not surprise you. But it will make you laugh, entertain you. And you will feel great about this movie and if you wait past the two-post credits movie inserts, want to continue watching the story of the continuing Avenger’s saga. I’ll say it here. The special effects for the ants and the mouse that we see in the film were poor-looking. They looked like big plastic things. There was a gigantic plot hole with Cross’s mind having being somewhat affected by Pym particles. It wasn’t explained why or how.