I will say right now that I had originally no intention of watching Ant-Man. Maybe not ever. Certainly not in theaters.
Obviously, that didn’t happen, or I wouldn’t be writing this.
Between the second trailer, PluggedIn’s review, and the good things I was hearing from a couple friends, I decided I wanted to see it after all and was happy when another friend was willing to come along. And, thankfully, the film wasn’t the disappointment that other superhero movies have been.
Scott Lang walks out of prison with a new resolve: to go straight no matter what and have a part in his daughter’s life. He walks back into the world with one very large barrier: a criminal record that makes the whole getting or keeping a job difficult. As for getting back into little Cassie’s life? Well, there’s a problem there too, namely his distrusting ex-wife (really, can we blame her?) and her dutiful cop boyfriend/husband (I don’t think they ever really said what the relationship there was). But he’s trying so hard –!
Enter Hank Pym, a strange, older guy who seems to see Scott differently than the rest of the world. Once Scott gets talking with him a little more, their first interactions are kinda tame compared to the crazy talk and the ant-controlling and the plan to steal something in order to save the world. Wait, steal? Yup. Steal.
The biggest surprise for me when the first trailer came out was the fact that they were going with the second Ant-Man rather than the original. Nothing wrong with that, of course; I just hadn’t expected them to do that. But even with that trailer and no further information, I knew it was probably a good move. Based on what I know about Ant-Man from the TV cartoon Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Hank Pym (aka the original Ant-Man) would have been a challenge to do. One distinctive thing about Hank is that he’s a pacifist… or, at least, prefers not to fight if it can be at all avoided (though they never once mentioned that in the film). Scott Lang (aka the second Ant-Man)? No problem.
Besides having avoided the pacifist-superhero problem, this allowed for a super-mentor relationship. And mentors usually are pretty cool.
In case you didn’t know by now, character is a big deal for me. Apparently, it was important to the filmmakers too.
I found myself liking Scott within a matter of minutes. I think the draw for me was how relatable and human he was. I don’t just mean, “Aww, poor, little Steve Rogers just wants to serve his country,” or, “Thor’s culture shock is both understandable and hilarious.” I mean, “This is an everyman (if you look past the thief thing) just trying to live an everyman life from day to day and struggling with (sorta) everyman problems.” Scott’s very much the sort of guy you could walk past on the street or go to work with. He’s also got this simplicity and humility and flawed nature to him, which helps in bringing him down to our level. In addition to that, he’s the first cinematic Marvel hero to have a family, so he’s got all that going for him too: a relationship with his daughter, his understanding of his role as a dad, and so on.
Hank Pym was a character I expected to simply be the catalyst for the rise of the new Ant-Man. While he does do that, he’s more than that. One aspect of his comic-book character came through and that is his desire to rehabilitate, to give second chances. And he really does that, though illegally so at one point. So we actually see quite a bit of him, briefing Scott on the mission, training him, teaching him. In addition to that, though, we get to see the relationship Hank has with his daughter, Hope, and the (slow) development thereof. Hope has long resented Hank and said resentment continues on for a good chunk of the film, but then something finally changes it. Through it, we understand both sides of the story and are happy to see that they are able to meet in the middle to make amends.
Now though Hope has quite a bit of screentime, she’s not majorly important. Thankfully, the movie didn’t try to shoehorn in a bunch of character development for her, but gave her a proportionate amount. Also thankfully, she’s not just a romantic interest (though it’s possible she and Scott might be a thing later on?); she’s actually useful.
Frankly, I was surprised to see that Scott’s ex-(/continuing-)con buddies also have a measure of character. Granted, most of it is for comic relief purposes (of which there is a lot, by the way), but at least they’re not just completely random guys that Scott refers to as friends. In addition to them, we even get a little hint of character from Scott’s ex-wife’s new boyfriend/husband.
Unfortunately, Marvel has yet to make another villain as good as Loki. Yellowjacket is about as weak and forgettable a character as other Marvel baddies. They try to explain why he acts the way he does as mental corruption brought about over-exposure to (and obsession with) the matter he’s experimenting with.
Despite how good the story and (most of) the characters are, there are a few unfortunate drawbacks.
Most notable is the increase in noticeable language. That is to say, most Marvel films have half-disguised at least some of their swears with explosions and action music; Ant-Man puts them into the everyday dialogue, so you can’t really miss them.
While human life is rather taken for granted in superhero movies (despite the number of civilians that somehow don’t actually die for some unexplained reason), there is one life that is suddenly, shockingly, and grossly ended (the guy is reduced to a little blob of tissue). What was even more shocking, though, was the audience’s reaction. When that guy died, the predominant reaction was indifferent silence. When the same thing happens to a lamb, the predominant reaction was, “Awww! Not the poor, innocent lamb!” Who cares about the lamb, I say! What about the human life that was ended without the bat of an eyelash?!
A number of people are saying that the violence is toned-down in this movie too. For the most part, yeah, I’d agree. There’s just the occasional thing like the above guy who dies and two way-oversized items causing a lot of damage.
So my overall impression of Ant-Man? I actually rather enjoyed it. And I ranked it as my second-favourite superhero movie, following Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The main reason for my liking it as much as I do is the fact that the characters (specifically and especially Scott Lang and Hank Pym) have really good character and are easy to relate to; the secondary reason being that I enjoyed the story and how it plays out on screen. I am looking forward to seeing Scott in future Marvel films.
Man, I really just need to figure out a way to edit movies so I can get what I like without having to put up with the stuff I don’t like.