Home » Years » 2015 » Ant-Man •••

Ant-Man •••

Ant-Man_posterStarring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll
Director: Peyton Reed
Screenplay: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 117 minutes
Release Date: July 17, 2015


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(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, I have a tiny request. Can you review the Man of Ant?

I thought it was a movie about Aunt Mann. Let’s recap.

It is 1989, and we meet scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Pym resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D. because he discovers that his protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), is attempting to replicate Pym’s shrinking technology. In the present day, Pym is no longer head of the company and discovers that Cross is close to developing the technology, which he calls the Yellowjacket. Meanwhile, small-time burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has just been released from prison and needs a job.

No sooner has Scott sworn off thieving when Pym makes him an offer: “wear my Anf-Man suit, break into Cross’s headquarters, and I’ll make your prison record a thing of the past.” Scott needs a break as he has a darling daughter he’s estranged from and getting a steady job means he gets visitation rights. And so they make the plan to rip off Cross before he can sell the technology to the highest bidder: Hydra.

Greg, I have to admit that going into the theater I knew nothing about Ant-Man. It seemed like a goofy idea for a superhero, but I trusted that Marvel knew what it was doing. And I was right. Ant-Man charmed me with its endearing story about a down-and-out ex-con with a heart of gold who is given a chance to save the world. The spirited performances of Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas bring this sappy, playful screenplay to life.

This is a movie about evolving relationships. Relationally, we witness the heroic characters grow and the villainous characters unravel. Let’s start with the heroes. At first, Rudd as Scott Lang is on shaky ground with just about everyone around him. He is estranged from his ex-wife and disliked by her fiancé. He clashes with Pym and is disrespected by Pym’s daughter (and fellow scientist) Hope. As Lang slowly redeems himself, all of these relationships are rehabilitated and grow into something special. In contrast, the villain Cross allows his anger to poison all his relationships.

I was less enthused with this movie than you were, Scott. It is a very by-the-numbers origin story. We have the hero who has something to prove. He’s a good guy in a bad situation. His ex-wife doesn’t understand him. He loves his little girl and she idolizes him. He takes on the mantel of the hero reluctantly and has to be trained to use the special powers. That takes about half the movie – the origin story. Then there is a villain to overcome before some time expires. And we spend the rest of the film watching that unfold. If you replace Paul Rudd with Ryan Reynolds you’re basically looking at Green Lantern from a couple years back. I was pretty bored the whole time.

As a hero, Scott Lang does really well. He’s likable, if a bit misdirected (he’s a thief and a convict, after all). He loves his daughter. And his main goal is to gain visitation with her. When the going gets tough, though, he returns to a life of crime – which leads him to Pym. Ultimately, he risks his life and limb to save the world. Which is pretty much what you’d expect from a Marvel hero.

Hard to believe we saw the same movie, Greg. I wasn’t the least bit bored. Yes, it is true that Marvel tends to stick to a formula, but this movie’s witty, intelligent dialogue had my full attention. The film is superbly crafted. One innovation that I noticed here and in Terminator Genisys — Hollywood has found a way to restore aging actors’ back to their youthful selves. First it was Arnold in TG and in Ant-Man it is Michael Douglas. Never again does an actor have to age. Ever.

The supporting cast in Ant-Man is quite strong. Hope (Evangeline Lilly) serves as Lang’s mentor with regard to physical skills, and she evolves into a love interest. Michael Douglas as Pym is the catalyst or chief mentor who makes Lang’s transformation possible. Michael Peña provides comic relief as Luis, one of Lang’s sidekicks. Darrin Cross is a slick villain figure. Like many villains, he is wounded, but rather than use his wound to better himself, he allows his wound to justify violence. We discuss this origin of villainy in our new book, Reel Heroes & Villains.

I agree with your comments about the secondary characters. They are pretty stock archetypes, though. The jester, the mentor, the damsel, and the dark villain. And Marvel skirts some pretty thin lines in the area of stereotypes as well. These are more caricatures than characters. It was pretty unimaginative and added to my boredom.

If you like superhero movies, you’ll love Ant-Man. This film has smart dialogue, outstanding CGI effects, and a terrific underdog protagonist who evolves from pathetic thief to savior of the world. I was entertained from start to finish, and so I have no hesitation awarding Ant-Man 4 Reels out of 5.

The hero story follows the classic Joseph Campbell hero journey. Lang is sent by Pym into a new and dangerous world that requires him to grow in courage, resilience, and wisdom. Lang has helpers along the way, and a murderous villain to overcome. It’s a perfectly assembled hero story, marred only by its predictability, which I can forgive because the execution is so terrific. I give our hero Ant-Man 4 Heroes out of 5.

As I’ve noted, the supporting cast does exactly what it’s supposed to do. You’re right, Greg — we have several classic archetypal characters who give the hero what he needs to succeed and give the audience what it needs to feel satisfied. Again, a rating of 4 out of 5 for these fine supporting peeps.

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Ant-Man is a by-the-numbers superhero story with few surprises and a lot of predictability. The clever CGI effects aren’t enough to support this flimsy story. Paul Rudd does pretty well in the hero role. His comedic talents are put to good use here. But Ant-Man isn’t a particularly entertaining movie. The relationships are pretty superficial. The dialog is a lot of talking heads and backstory (how many times have we seen the hero relate his life story while in a car ride?). I give Ant-Man just 2 out of 5 Reels.

As I mentioned, Paul Rudd capably portrays a ne’er-do-well who is strongly motivated to do good. It’s the heart of a little girl he aims to win and who doesn’t love a man who loves his daughter? The storyline follows the hero’s journey so closely that it doesn’t leave room for creativity. Ant-Man is perhaps one of the least creative Marvel films I’ve ever seen. There’s even an Avengers tie-in scene – so we’ll probably see Ant-Man in future Marvel films. I give Paul Rudd and his portrayal of the Ant-Man just 3 out of 5 Heroes.

The supporting cast is pretty much cut from the cloth of other hero stories. There aren’t any surprises or great performances, although Michael Douglas delivers a performance worthy of his status as Hollywood elite. But the rest of the cast put me to sleep. I give them just 2 out of 5 Cast points.

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