(During quarantine my girlfriend and I are going through the Marvel movies chronologically. Surprisingly, she is really enjoying them, maybe even more than me. We are already a couple down and I’m gunna do write-ups for all of ‘em, the good and the bad.)
There hasn’t been an entry in this series that I’ve been excited to watch as much as Ant-Man, nor will there be. This is a personal favourite and most likely the MCU movie I’ve seen the most. It’s exactly what I want from a Marvel movie.
Paul Rudd was perfectly cast, well, maybe he wasn’t. Maybe you coulda got any 40 year old funny man ripped and in a suit, but Rudd totally made the role his own. The stakes are low, but there are actually stakes. Rudd is torn, he wants to do everything to get his daughter back, but he has also been roped in to this mission, which he can’t afford not to do. Though the villain is basically the bad-guy version of Ant-Man, It was believably and I bought into his reasoning. Then you’ve got Michael Douglas, whose voice is so soothing, I want him to read me bed time stories.
The big pitch for this movie is, “it’s a heist movie, guys! Like Ocean’s Eleven.” Well, not quite. It’s not the most clever heist movie, it’s barely even a heist movie. The attempts it make to be like its influences are half baked – the gang of ex-cons are like caricatures, and the heist entails breaking in to rooms, getting caught, and fighting henchmen.
One of the ex-cons does make a big splash and even steals the movie. Michael Pena plays the greatest minority side-kick in the MCU, and there are a lot of them! Give Pena a suit. I don’t care which one, just make him a superhero, dammit. Pena is a treat and has a hand in one of the greatest movie montages to date – The voiceover montage. Patton Reed uses the screen to his advantage as there are so many creative ways of telling the story that can only be done through cinema. Ant-Man uses the medium to create something visually unique.
The most humour in this film comes from the editing. The final fight scene is on a toy train set, and from Ant-Man’s perspective it’s a war zone, then it cuts to the perspective of a human – it’s just a toy train falling off the rails. There is a fight scene inside a briefcase (shout out to Disintegration by the Cure.) There are red lazer beams, it’s loud and chaotic. Again, from the human perspective, it’s just a briefcase with red lights coming out of it. Being batted away by a ping pong paddle. The great moments in Ant-Man are endlessly enjoyable.
There are so many genius scenes that follow the same formula, either scaling up – like a tank key-chain becoming the size of an actual tank, or Ant-Man, struggling to operate the suit, shooting out of the ground – or scaling down, like the first time Rudd puts on the suit, he’s so out of his element, falling through drains, hanging on to the grooves in a record, trying not to get stepped on by platform boots in a club. You really get a sense of the scale, especially the physics of being so small.
The movie isn’t perfect. Sometime the plot unfolds all too conveniently. The scene with The Falcon, though great, makes no sense. Ant-Man kicks his ass, breaks in to the Avengers compound, and steals some tech. The Falcon embarrassingly wants nobody to find out about the brawl. Based on everything the Avengers have been through, would The Falcon really just brush off a successful break-in with a one liner? That Baskin-Robbins scene is weird too. The whole thing, from Rudd insulting customers, to the creepy manager, to the free ice-cream, is just… strange.
I’m 11 movies in to watching the MCU from start to finish, and Ant-Man is the best one yet. A lot of people don’t agree, but the set pieces, the editing, the characters, the whole cast and crew have taken a lot of care and Ant-Man knows exactly what kind of movie it is.
Also, the movie is based in San Francisco, and as that’s my favourite city in the world, I love this movie based on the location alone. Props to the writers for not feeling the need to destroy the Golden Gate Bridge (see: every single movie based in San Francisco.)