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New Release Review - ANT-MAN

Marvel's microscopic hero makes his screen debut.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Peyton Reed

Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Hayley Atwell, Judy Greer, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, John Slattery, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena



"Why you should be asked to wear 3D glasses for a movie that consists overwhelmingly of close-ups of talking heads is beyond me. Ant-Man isn't Marvel's worst movie (it'll take some doing to beat Thor: The Dark World in that regard), but it's certainly its least cinematic."



Here we go again for yet another spin on the Marvel merry-go-round. I had been tempted to post this review in a font size so small you would have required a microscope to read it, but figured that would be taking a joke too far. Marvel, on the other hand, seem to be pulling a size related gag of their own by shooting their latest movie in a manner far more befitting the small screen. Why you should be asked to wear 3D glasses for a movie that consists overwhelmingly of close-ups of talking heads is beyond me. Ant-Man isn't Marvel's worst movie (it'll take some doing to beat Thor: The Dark World in that regard), but it's certainly its least cinematic.
As this is the first screen outing for Ant-Man and his alter-ego Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), we're forced to suffer the obligatory origin story. It's a while since a new superhero was introduced to viewers, so I had forgotten just how tedious the origin story format is. In this sense, Ant-Man has more in common with the comic book adaptations of a decade ago than the many sequels and spin-offs we've become accustomed to lately.
This origin story introduces us to Lang as he leaves the world's friendliest prison having served time thanks to his cat burglar past. In the most offensive piece of product placement I've ever witnessed, Lang takes a job at Baskin Robbins, which the film implies is pretty much the lowest form of employment imaginable. So let me get this straight; Baskin Robbins shelled out a lot of money to ridicule their employees? I can only imagine how their staff will feel upon watching this. Lang is fired when his boss discovers his criminal past, an act which contradicts the company's inclusion on the US Felon Friendly Employers List. What were they thinking?
Meanwhile, the latest dull Marvel villain, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), is in the process of developing a suit - labelled 'Yellowjacket' - that can shrink its wearer down to the size of an ant. Of course, he plans to use it for nefarious purposes, with the big bad of the Marvel universe, Hydra, lined up to purchase the finished article. Yellowjacket is actually a ripoff of a previous version successfully developed by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, his image expertly manipulated to appear as his '80s Gordon Gekko self in a pre-credits flashback). Knowing Cross's evil intentions, Pym slyly enlists Lang (along with his 'comic' ethnic stereotype buddies) to combine his cat burgling skills with the original suit - thus becoming Ant-Man - and infiltrate Cross's lair to steal Yellowjacket. You would imagine Cross would have a few backups, but apparently not.
Much was made of original director Edgar Wright being kicked off this film and replaced by the less singular of vision Peyton Reed, and the result is a visually dull movie that resembles an expensive network TV show. The idea of a shrinking protagonist opens the door to a world of cinematic possibilities, as anyone who has seen Jack Arnold's wonderful 1957 The Incredible Shrinking Man (which used its fantasy concept to explore perceived post-war emasculation) will attest to, but the potential is squandered, with Lang spending as much time at full size in the suit as in miniature form. As with so many of these films, it's all headed for a fight between a hero in a suit and a villain decked in a variation of same. Having Ant-Man face off against someone his own size kind of ruins the point of it all, don't you think?
On the plus side, the small scale (I really didn't intend that pun, honest!) means Marvel have to veer away from their customary climax of a city being destroyed, though they do sneak in a nice piece of self-mockery by having their hero flee through a model city as it's riddled by gunfire.
Considering four writers associated with comedy - Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Rudd himself - are credited, the film is low on laughs, and Rudd is given little in the way of exercise for his comedic chops. But the film's biggest issue is just how over-written it all is. Ironically, the latino criminal stereotype played, of course, by Michael Pena, is constantly mocked for his overly verbose storytelling skills; this in a film dominated by dialogue over visuals.
A decade ago I suspect an Ant-Man movie would have been a flop along the lines of Catwoman, but now that their brand name is burnt into the popular culture, Marvel don't even have to try any more. And with each new release, it seems they try a little less.



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