And now, following Avengers: Age of Everything and the Kitchen Sink, Marvel Studios enters into its self proclaimed "Phase Three" of its highly profitable movie franchise universe. Ant-Man, the first Phase Three flick released, is another origin story that takes half of its plot directly from Iron Man 1, but then blends it masterfully with a very good heist film with lots of wit, humor, and fun characters (including Michael Douglas playing an elderly Hank Pym, and Paul Rudd playing Paul Rudd).
After the complete bullshit of Age of Ultron (where they just threw way too much shit at the screen in an attempt to include every hero introduced in the Marvel movie pantheon up till this point, along with setting up the Infinity Wars movies [coming soon to a theater near you!!!]), Ant-Man was a breath of fresh air. The plot was fairly small in comparison (PUNZZZZ!), and the cast of characters was kept to a minimum, allowing the fun caper storyline to take center stage. Also, compared to Age of Ultron, the special effects were actually special! The shrinking powers of Paul Rudd's cool super suit were really impressive to see, as was the miniature landscape that he found himself in after scaling down to the world of insects.
Let me tell you of this "Ant-Man" now, and how he fits in with the rest of the Marvel cinematic world.
We start off 25 years ago with young Michael Douglas, old Peggy Carter, and old Howard Stark talking about how Douglas' Ant-Man shrinking suit would really help SHIELD stop people from hurting other people, by using the duds to hurt bad people first. Douglas realizes that they just want a weapon, and so he leaves SHIELD and takes his miniaturization abilities with him to a new company that he's starting, Pym Tech, or Pym Corp, or whatever it was called.
25 years later we find that Douglas is rich and retired, but was forced out of his company by the board (and his own daughter, who's played by Kate from Lost). Douglas is pissed because the current president (a bald asshole who was once his protege) wants nothing more than to replicate Douglas' old Ant-Man tech in order to sell it to Hydra (who they claim is not as nasty as they used to be, pre-Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron). So the pissed off Douglas gets a reformed burglar (who's super smart, and a college-educated master engineer) named Paul Rudd to help him break into his old company's super secure facility and steal the tech that Baldy is on the verge of reproducing before he can perfect it and give Hydra the means to send out thousands of microscopic assassins to kill off whomever they wish to eliminate quicker than the Hulk gets angry at Freddie Prinze Jr. Fun action scenes and lots of wackiness ensues.
Like I said before, the way that the Pym Tech plot played out, along with the way the hero's super suit became the basis for the big bad's super suit gave me flashbacks of the original Iron Man movie. But the similarities ended there. Ant-Man is basically a heist movie dealing with how our group of protagonists needs to overcome the crazy security technology surrounding Douglas' old company's "vault" as it were. The rag-tag group of co-conspirators that Paul Rudd brings on board for this stealthy mission adds to the surprisingly funny comedy, and the final battle on board a Thomas the Train toy set (between Paul and Baldy [hardly a spoiler]) is one of the most inventive and silly epic fights I've seen in ages. They did a great job of using the miniaturized environment to the benefit of the action, and they kept it fairly light and humorous. It really is amazing (just like Guardians of the Galaxy) how a strange setup like this could be crafted into such an entertaining final product, as long as the people involved are having a blast making it.
Is Ant-Man perfect? No. God no... But it's fun, and it's quite hilarious at times. I really liked almost all the characters (even the minor ones, and especially Paul Rudd's little girl, who wasn't overused, and was always kept as a believable child, unlike shittier movies that don't seem to know how to write child characters to sound like normal kids [I'm looking at you, Star Wars ep 1]). I also really appreciated Paul Rudd's ex's new fiancée, the good-guy cop. I was afraid they'd make him a foil to Paul Rudd just because he was a cop to Paul's criminal, but he was a three-dimensional person with real motivation in the end. I like how they didn't just reuse that tired trope and have Paul Rudd get back together with his ex-wife again in the end. However, I did not appreciate bad guy Baldy. Baldy was just a giant douche. That was his character arc. He was essentially the Neidermeyer of this movie... The giant tool, frat-boy, dickless asshole who was out to screw over the heroes out of spite (and in this case profit). That was just a rip-off of the Dude's role in the original Iron Man. It's been done before in Marvel movies... Move on to something new now, guys.
So far, Age of Ultron has proved to be the only whiff that Marvel has put out in theaters so far (To me at least). It's not a horrible film, but it's a step down from everything that has come before, as opposed to being on par with, or greater than earlier movies in this series. And yeah, I even liked Iron Man 2 more than Ultron, but I digress. Ant-Man has shown me that Ultron was (hopefully) just a small setback. My only regret with this flick is that they didn't keep Edgar Wright at the helm (It's rumored that Wright left because of all the forced SHIELD and Avengers subplots that Marvel kept insisting he add to the plot). I wonder what his film would have been like if the Scott Pilgrim and Hot Fuzz director got to make Ant-Man his way. Sigh... We'll never know.
The "science" in this Ant-Man movie was atrocious. The whole premise that they could shrink a human being to 5mm in height is bad enough, but they keep confusing HOW they do this.
In order to shrink something there are two ways you can go about it: One, shrink the space between the molecules of the object you wish to make tiny, therefore keeping the full mass of the object, thusly causing giant issues like having a 200-pound man the size of an ant (which could potentially cause his innards to liquefy from the pressure, and not allow him to walk over anything less than pure, solid granite); and Two, actually shrink the molecules inside the object's makeup, thusly making not only his body tiny, but also his weight (which would make it impossible for him to breathe since normal air molecules would now not be able to get transported through the shrunken blood stream, thusly causing the smaller individual to die horribly from suffocation).
The makers of this movie seem to try to use both versions of shrinking at different times in order to achieve different results, depending on what the scene calls on our tiny hero to do. At one point, our Ant-Man is able to punch a grown man with the mass of a 200lb individual, but the next moment Ant-Man is able to run across another person's arm without it acting like a 200lb person just repeatedly stepped on another person's arm. Do you see the point I'm trying to make?
And the whole "able to go 'subatomic'" bits just makes no sense if the technology to shrink a man only shrinks the space between the atoms. You can't get smaller than an atom when you're made up of the same sized atoms yourself.
Yeah, shrinking heroes have never been done before. "Oh, but I can talk to ants!" So what? I can step on ants. I can also go subatomic and come back from it without much effort. Pussy.