Film Reviews

VIEWTIFUL DRE – <i>Ant-Man</i> (2015)

VIEWTIFUL DRE – Ant-Man (2015)

Andre Cole

August 9th, 2015

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I enjoy the Marvel movies. They’re fun, action-packed, and I love watching the ensemble casts work together. That said, I’ve had trouble nailing down exactly how I feel about Ant-Man. I walked out of the theater happy, but a few days later, I felt that it was one of the weaker Marvel movies. It’s been two weeks now, and I’m feeling much more positive about it as a whole, although the film does feel like it was meant to be something else.

Maybe that’s because this is the first time that creative differences between Marvel Studios and a director have gone public, leading to the departure of writer/director Edgar Wright in May 2014. His replacement, Peyton Reed (Yes Man), managed to assemble a fun movie, even if Ant-Man never quite lives up to its potential. That isn’t necessarily Reed’s fault; filling the shoes of an auteur like Wright would be no simple task when the studio wants you to follow their instructions.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a cat burglar and ex-convict who is trying to win back the right to see his daughter. In a misguided attempt to get his life together, Lang goes to work for Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who needs Lang’s help to steal a suit and blueprints that could spell trouble if they fall into the wrong hands. With the help of Dr. Pym’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), and Lang’s old cellmate, Luis (Michael Peña), they plan a heist that could save the world, and reunite Lang with his daughter.

The origin story they give Lang comes close to making him stand out from the other Marvel heroes that we’ve been seeing. As a criminal, he stands in contrast with the likes of Captain America or Thor, even if he was arrested for stealing evidence of corporate malfeasance. This altruistic crime is obviously meant to get the audience on his side. They do a great job of providing Lang with motivation throughout the film, allowing audiences to understand his choices. As is to be expected, Rudd’s delivery and timing are excellent throughout Ant-Man, which is key to making this movie work.

Much like they did with Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel is gambling with a film like Ant-Man, even if it’s not quite as risky, considering Ant-Man’s longer history in the Marvel comics. Dr. Pym is even one of the founding members of The Avengers. I assume most audience members don’t know this and had no idea who Ant-Man was prior to seeing the movie. The filmmakers manage to take the seemingly silly idea of a man shrinking himself down to the size of an ant and make him seem as capable and impressive as any of the other heroes he shares a universe with.

Ant-Man lowers the stakes from the previous few Marvel movies, which works in its favor. Dialing things back for some of the films means the events of the bigger Marvel movies look more important. The events aren’t without consequence, though; failure on Lang’s part could spell trouble for humanity as a whole. Instead, the real story focuses on Lang reuniting with his daughter, while Pym does the same. Lighthearted and fun, Ant-Man is much more in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy than Captain America, with an unlikely group of heros attempting to save the day. Even if it might not be quite as stylish as its predecessors, the climactic fight scene is definitely one of the most enjoyable things in any of the Marvel movies to date.

Most of the criticism that can be directed at the other Marvel movies still apply here. Characters treat women as if they are fragile and that they need to be protected, minorities are sidekicks, there’s too much pseudoscientific technobabble, etc. Hope is shown to be much more able to pull off Scott’s part in the mission, but her father won’t let her for some mysterious reason, which is later revealed. The movie does give the impression that this bit of criticism will be addressed in the future, but it seems a little too late at this point in the game to be merely hinting at female empowerment. Elsewhere, T.I. and Peña function as comic relief. Hopefully, Marvel continues to be more inclusive with their casts, but allows for greater variety in the roles offered to minority actors.

Ant-Man doesn’t end up breaking any new ground in the superhero genre, but its humor is a nice palate cleanser between Avengers: Age of Ultron and the forthcoming Captain America: Civil War, both of which this movie is keen to remind you about. It’s definitely the superhero movie to see this summer, offering something for fans of the comics, new-comers, kids, and adults.

Ant-Man continues its run at Regal Valley River Center Stadium 15 and Cinemark 17. Click here for showtimes.

Andre Cole is a junior at the University of Oregon, pursuing a degree in public relations. He likes to divide his time between video games, movies, and friends, sometimes combining all three. Viewtiful Dre is an irregular column in which he provides critical analysis of films screening locally.

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