So, I saw Ant-Man yesterday…
Let’s talk about it, shall we?
I’m not going to rehash the plot here, or go into the behind the scenes rumor-mongering about the script and director issues. You can find that anywhere on the internet. I want to talk about the movie in front of us.
First, when I first heard about Ant-Man, I immediately thought it was going to be awesome. I love Ant-Man. Hank Pym was one of my favorites back when I was heavy into the comics scene, and I always felt that he was a bit under-appreciated.
Then, I thought: “What if it sucks? What if it turns into some sort of weird, Honey, I Shrunk the Avengers kind of turd of a movie?
Then I heard Paul Rudd would be playing Scott Lang (Ant-Man #2 in the comics world). They hadn’t announced Michael Douglas as Hank Pym yet, so I thought, okay, maybe they’re going to play with the identity/origin a little bit. No big deal, no need to panic. Paul Rudd is a funny guy…
But can Paul Rudd be a superhero and be funny? Or are they going to try to make him play the straight man the whole film?
Worse, are they going to let him play funny the whole movie?
Seriously, I was of about 8 minds going into this thing.
How did I come out of it?
Well, let’s start by saying that I understand why some Marvel Comic Universe purists might be not entirely satisfied with Ant-Man. I really do. He’s still a fairly fringe character for the general public, and so one might think that their dissatisfaction with the movie is that the studio has tried to make it more “accessable” to a wider audience.
And that’s partly true, I suppose. Has any comicbook property turned movie been 100% faithful to the source material yet? Hardly.
So, sure, there’s probably some of the standard, “they didn’t do it right” to the whole thing.
But here’s my take on it.
Ant-Man, whatever flaws fans might see in it, suffers from the same love-it or hate-it problem that another recent film got caught up in: Kingsman.
Let me remind everyone that I loved Kingsman. Really. Read my review HERE.
The problem some people had with that movie was its unusual mix of comedy and drama. It didn’t take itself too (or at all) seriously, while simultaneously being (at times) very violent and dark.
Ant-Man, though not to the degree of violence in Kingsman, suffers from the same problem. It takes what should be a ridiculous concept–that a man can shrink down to a teeny-tiny size–and treats it 100% straight. Then it brings in Paul Rudd in an attempt to lighten the mood. (“I’m going to call him Ant-ony.”)
And he succeeds, for the most part. Rudd is believable as a sort of every-man, do-gooder, whistle-blower, trying to put his life back together after his Robin Hood antics got him put in prison. But sometimes, it feels like what could have been–maybe should have been(?)–darker moments get lost behind that goofy guy who drives around in his ex-cellmate’s van, with its “La Cucaracha” horn, while flopping on a couch in an apartment he shares with three other (ex-)criminals.
[As an aside, I loved the fact that Scott, ever the good guy, brought in his “team” to help with the central job of the film, seeing beyond what they appeared to be to what they were capable of.
Much like Hank Pym (opposed to bringing them onboard) claimed to have seen in Scott when he recruited him.]
Unlike last year’s surprise Marvel offering of lesser-known heroes, The Guardians of the Galaxy, though, there was no anthropomorphic raccoon running around to calm everyone down.
It has Rudd, Michael Douglas, and Evangeline Lilly.
In the Marvel Comics Universe, the success of a film has hinged on its casting. As was made abundantly clear after Robert Downey, Jr, perfectly personified the character of Tony Stark, the actor has to be able to become, completely, who the character is in the minds of the fans. Maybe not physically, maybe not in the completely karmic way RDJ did, but they have to be able to bring that thing that makes that character, that character, in the minds of the fans.
Chris Pratt did it with a character maybe less well-known than Ant-man. Chris Evans possibly does it even better than RDJ. ScarJo is Black Widow…
…but it took us two reboots and an Avengers movie to find Bruce Banner/The Hulk living inside Mark Ruffalo.
People weren’t–and maybe still aren’t–sold on Rudd as Ant-Man. Maybe that’s why the box-office numbers weren’t quite so big on opening weekend. But truth be told, word-of-mouth should be good enough to ensure that Ant-Man finds his place in the Marvel Pantheon.
Maybe once the hard-core crowd has time to really consider this movie on its merits, they’ll realize that it belongs there.
Because in the end, Ant-Man isn’t about shrinking.
It is, at its core, about growing. Scott grows as a father. The relationship between Hope and Hank re-grows into what it once was.
And the Marvel Universe has grown a little bit more, too.
Thumbs up. 4/5 stars.