In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve never been inherently interested in comic book superheroes, and am currently feeling up to my eyeballs.
But I’ve been saying this since around, oh, 2011, yet I adored “Thor” and was utterly captivated by “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, which I ended up seeing three times. Thus I am far from unpleaseable, and may even become a raving fan.
But not pleased here. Not displeased per se, but neither a fan, and I should have been. It is this, alas, that dings “Ant-Man” down to two stars. If you enjoy Paul Rudd and company then by all means give “Ant-Man” a go – it boasts terrific characters and performances, and even a rare portrayal of a loving blended family (imagine that!). Just be sure to manage your expectations.
Despite great affection and pre-determined passes for virtually the entire cast, and superb execution with regard to visual effects, “Ant-Man” disappoints with regard to content, failing to contain even one original component other than the obvious – and as arguably absurd as this will sound, simply creating cool effects for the latest gadget/mutation on the block simply isn’t enough to carry the day.
There’s nothing innately wrong with formula: a cake is essentially flour, eggs, sugar, butter, milk, and a flavoring of some kind. Most of the best songs, to quote Grace Slick when remarking on the surprising success of the rock anthem “We Built This City”, is “verse chorus verse chorus bridge verse chorus.” But with “Ant-Man”, Marvel is taking us here, into territory wherein even genuine talent falls by the wayside in service to the almighty juggernaut.
We have the criminal with a heart of gold, noble mentor, rogue protégé, familial loss and estrangement, quirky sidekick, campy jokes, bumbler-to-Jedi training, and super villain (so super he practices on lambs for Pete’s sake). There’s even a bald-faced (if horrendously accidental, I don’t know) knockoff of “Interstellar”. Even with the venerable Edgar Wright penning the charge, these guys just phoned it in this time. (Have I mixed in every possible metaphorical ingredient yet? Awesome!)
Such is the fate that befalls scripts with multiple – count ‘em, four – screen writers (not mention another story developer and the two original source material authors); one gets the sense that they sat down around a table, mapped out the elements, assigned scenes, and as they wrote kept it shallow enough that no matter what the others wrote, it would all hang together.
Trouble is, there’s no iconic personal story in a relay race. The group’ll help the team win the meet, but even a notable accomplishment, as perhaps “Ant-Man” could have been in a vacuum, will likely fade from the memory of all but the most dedicated enthusiast and the runners’ moms. It was difficult even to find an image for use in this post that conveyed any kind of interesting concept.
There’s nothing about “Ant-Man” that would warrant steering you away if you’re predisposed to see it, but don’t expect innovation. It’s equally detrimental to keep amping the intensity for its own sake and I absolutely do not advocate that, to be sure. But this is the 12th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and we’ve miles to go before we sleep, given there are ten (count ‘em, ten) on the books within the next four years, and as proven with the ferocious ambush of Nick Fury and the Winter Soldier’s fearsome walkup to the wreckage, surprise and intellectual engagement remain not only possible, but essential.
Story: A paroled cybercriminal with a heart of gold and and strapped for funds finds himself pressed into service as a superhero the size of a tiny insect in order to stop a madman from taking over the world.
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-fi
Themes: Ethics, Love and Attachment, Prudence, Restoration
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian, T.I., Anthony Mackie, Judy Greer, Martin Donovan, John Slattery, Hayley Atwell
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Running time: 117
Houston release date: July 17, 2015
Tickets: Check IMDb.com or your local listings
Screened July 13, 2015 at the Edwards Marq*E theater in Houston TX