Ant-Man Review #2: Starts Weak, Finishes Strong
Ant-Man is probably the most uneven Marvel movie to date. The first hour, minus a few laughs at the expense of Baskin Robbins, is very pedantic. Nothing interesting happens and genuine concern starts creeping in. Could Ant-Man be a complete bust? Not remotely, like a switch turned on, the film kicks into high gear for the second half. What starts as a drizzle becomes a hurricane of action and special effects. Leading to an ending that is both spectacular and heartfelt. Marvel has another notch in its belt of brilliant comic adaptations.
Ant-Man begins in 1989 with a furious Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) resigning from S.H.I.E.L.D. He discovers their effort to duplicate his top secret formula, which collapses the space between atoms. Jumping to present day, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is released from San Quentin prison. A mechanical engineer turned cat burglar, he spends three years in prison for a courageous act of political activism. Down on his luck and broke, Lang is banned from seeing his beloved daughter until he can pay child support.
Scott Lang is recruited by his goofy ex-cell mate (Michael Pena) into a potentially huge score. Break into the house of this rich old guy and steal whatever he's got inside a very formidable vault. Lang's success, much to his surprise, was a test, a trial by fire. It turns out that Hank Pym had been watching him for a long time. Pymtech, now under the control of a ruthless protégé (Corey Stoll), is on the verge of replicating the shrinking formula. And weaponizing it into a horrific armor - The Yellowjacket. Pym needs Lang to break into Pymtech, destroy the company's research, and steal the prototype. Much to the dismay of Pym's estranged daughter (Evangeline Lilly), who believes that she deserves the mission.
The visual effects and editing in Ant-Man are fantastic in their realism. From Ant-Man's training to the amazing fight scenes, the minimization effect and the miniature world looks great. Many films from this genre draw the audience into an imaginary world. Ant-Man's perspective makes the mundane thrilling. Dodging raindrops, falling through cracks, running under heels at a disco, interacting with insects, it's pretty damn cool.
The disparity in Ant-Man must be attributed to the film changing directors in pre-production from Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) to Peyton Reed (Bring It On). Wright wrote the first draft of the script and developed Ant-Man from inception, but was replaced by Marvel. Reed has demonstrable success as a filmmaker, but is vanilla in his approach. Wright's work has an edge. There are bits and pieces in Ant-Man that are textbook Edgar Wright, especially the ass-kicking; but huggable ending. I can't help but think that while I do like Ant-Man, it would have been a more cohesive film if Wright had remained the director.
Ant-Man doesn't suffer from plot overload. It does set-up future Marvel movies, but without bloating its own storyline. There are scenes during the credits from next year's Captain America: Civil War. Paul Rudd, as affable as an actor can be without triggering nausea, plays the comedy and the heroics well. Definitely worth shelling out for the 3D.