David’s Review: ANT-MAN

David Reddish
Image source: Red Carpet Report, Flickr.

The ant is one of Earth’s most industrious insects, capable of running a classist society of workers, soldiers and queens, able to build tunnels, structures and work together toward common goals.  Maybe they should start making movies.

Ant-Man, Marvel Studios latest cinematic outing, feels like it was crafted by a committee not unlike an ant colony.  Of course, ant colonies have a common leader in the form of a queen ant.  Peyton Reed, director of Ant-Man, has no discernible voice or style, falling into the chorus of other chirping voices under the Disney-Marvel regime.  The story follows Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a petty thief who, upon his release from prison, sets out to win back the affections of his young daughter.  His prison record confines him to working in Baskin-Robbins for the first fifteen minutes of the movie, during which no less than two images of the Baskin-Robbins logo are on screen at a time, lest the audience forget where they can find ice cream at the end of this already too sugary tale.  Lang loses his job because of his criminal past, and decides instead of going down the street to work at Cold Stone Creamery, to break into the basement vault of the mysterious Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas).

Pym’s vault houses a prototype secret agent suit with the ability to shrink to sub-atomic size.  See, in the 1980s, Pym and his late wife operated as secret agents who could shrink down to complete difficult missions.  Whatever it says about Pym that rather than solve the food shortage or energy crisis he uses his suit to diffuse missiles, I’m not sure.  Pym has kept the operations of his suit a secret all these years, though his work is about to be duplicated by the maniacal bald billionaire Darren Cross (Corey Stoll).  Afraid Cross will weaponize his shrinking powers, Pym decides to train Lang in use of his suit to sabotage Cross’s own.

From there the movie collapses into standard Marvel Cinema fare, with extended, tedious sequences of Lang training to use the Ant-Man suit, and cameos from other Marvel staples like Anthony Mackie and Hayley Atwell.  Oh, and Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), a woman with extensive hand-to-hand combat training but no visible personality joins in the game too, teaching Lang how to control armies of ants with his thoughts.  In one sequence, as she teaches Lang to concentrate and command the ants, I half expected her to tell him to use the Force.  In fact if she had, it might have been more interesting.

Rudd approaches his role as Lang with his usual panache, but even he can’t save a leaden script or escape the confines of the formulaic Marvel approach. Douglas has some good moments, and the production values are first rate, but the whole thing is, well, boring.  Lang doesn’t grow or change much, nor does Pym, and the most interesting thing about Hope is her helmet-like wig bob, already seen this summer sported by Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World.  Let 2015 be known as the summer of the Zombie Bob Wigs, and if either actress is sporting her own hair, I’m very, very worried.  Less fortunate are Wood Harris, TI, and Michael Pena who play a trio of ethnic best friends to Lang, and are burdened with jokes so unfunny and corny the movie had me wincing by the end.

The biggest problem, I think, is that director Reed isn’t allowed to give a fresh take on the material.  The great superhero films–Superman, The Dark Knight trilogy, X-Men–all had strong directors who could mold the material into a greater statement about life.  The Marvel films started that way with Jon Faverau’s wonderful take on Iron Man, but since the crossover event of The Avengers, the films have fallen into a stale rut of one liners and pixelated CGI.  Ant-Man fulfills that formula, and as such cannot elevate itself beyond tedium.  It might provide a fun diversion to superhero fans excited to see yet another jokey, suit-clad character, but really it’s just a diversion until the next Marvel launch, and the one after that, and the one after that.

Directed by Peyton Reed
Produced by Kevin Feige
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Edgar Wright
  • Joe Cornish
Based on Ant-Man
by Stan Lee
Larry Lieber
Jack Kirby