Friday, July 17, 2015

Ant-Man Review

I make it no secret that I am a huge Marvel fanboy. No apologies. No shame. I absolutely love the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I have not been disappointed yet. Sure, there are some of the movies that are better than others, but in my opinion they haven't made a bad movie. It also might surprise some people to hear that I am also a huge DC fanboy. This whole Marvel vs. DC thing is silly to me. Can't we just like both? Why does it have to be one or the other? I just like a good superhero movie. They're a lot of fun. Yes, we're getting a lot of them right now and no I'm not sick of it at all. I think it's a great time to be a comic book fan because all of these heroes and stories that we grew up on are now being seen in the theaters in great abundance. It's like a dream come true. So the experience of walking into a movie theater to see yet another superhero movie for the first time just never gets old for me. The experience was even made better this time around when I sat down in the theater to find out that my good friend Kathi Dawn was coincidentally sitting right behind me. She told me to give a shout out to her in this review and I promised her I would. I'm a man of my word. Friends are great. Superhero movies are great. Watching superhero movies with friends is just the best. And do you know what makes the experience even better than the best? When once again Marvel just rocks your socks off with how totally freaking awesome the movie is. Yes ladies and gentlemen. Ant-Man is fan-freaking-tastic!

One thing that I've really appreciated about Marvel recently is their willingness to take risks. Ant-Man was yet another huge risk for them. There's two things that made this a huge risk. The first is that once again they decided to adapt a fairly unknown superhero to the big screen. The second is that the casual fan actually thought that the idea of Ant-Man was a very bad one. I can't tell you how many times in the last several months that I heard people predicting that Ant-Man was going to be Marvel's first bad movie and/or their first big flop. Last year's Guardians of the Galaxy also was an adaption of a group of unknown superheroes, but the advantage that movie had was a super effective marketing campaign that had people excited beyond belief ever since the first teaser trailer dropped. The Ant-Man teaser actually did nothing to convince skeptics that this was going to be good. The ensuing trailers did a better job, but I would argue that there was still more bad-will than good-will heading into this weekend. On a personal level, I was excited this whole time. I've actually developed a motto of "in Marvel we trust." Until they start making bad movies, I'm going to be excited for everything they put out. In addition to that, Ant-Man's powers and abilities sounded like something that would make for a very entertaining movie and when I personally saw the trailers I saw something that looked like a blast.

So what is Ant-Man about? Well, you can call Ant-Man an origin story. A more accurate label in my opinion might actually be a passing of the torch story. Hank Pym is the original Ant-Man in the comics and in this movie he is already an established character. He's already discovered the substance that helps him shrink and created the suit that enabled him to control that as well as communicate with ants. In fact, he's already spent years and years as the Ant-Man. One of his former mentors in the movie, Darren Cross, has created a suit similar to the Ant-Man called the Yellowjacket. He plans on selling this in mass quantities, which concerns Hank Pym because this technology in the hands of the wrong people could do a lot of bad. With Hank Pym being too old to stop Darren Cross by himself, he recruits former convict Scott Lang in a rather creative selection process to take up the mantle of the Ant-Man. One thing that I really loved about this movie was that it was a very small-scale movie. Yes, go ahead and chuckle at that pun there, but that's the best way to describe this. A lot of superhero movies are doing their best to be bigger and better than the previous one. Marvel themselves are going this route with a lot of their movies. But Ant-Man is scaled back. It's not trying to be bigger or better than anything else Marvel has done. There's even a conversation that happens where one character asks if they should call the Avengers for this but the other one says they are just going to solve this concern by themselves. Being that I have learned to love smaller films, I felt an extra special attachment to this because it had the small movie feel to it.

As is the case with most smaller films, this movie also relies a lot on story and characters. In fact, we go quite a while before we get a lot of Ant-Man action. Much of the movie takes place in Hank Pym's house. I know a lot of people will be disappointed in this as they wanted a non-stop action movie like the most recent Avengers movie, but I actually loved this approach this time around and what really sold it for me was an absolute grand slam of a cast. There's a whole lot of people that I want to talk about here and I will get to them, but there's one person in this movie that I want to talk about first and it may surprise you, but that person is my girl Evangeline Lily. If you didn't know already, my all-time favorite TV show is LOST. I'm not going to give you a review of LOST here, but the strength of the show is that it is a huge character piece with a lot of well-written characters and phenomenal actors. It's hard to pick a favorite actor or actress from the show, but if I had to I would actually pick Evangeline Lily as Kate. Such a great character and an amazing actress. I've always hoped that the cast of LOST would have a ton of post-LOST success and it's really made me happy to see Evangeline Lily obtain that with roles like this in Ant-Man as well as Tauriel in the Hobbit movies. In Ant-Man she plays Hank Pym's daughter Hope van Dyne and her relationship with her father is a rocky one. Watching that relationship is actually one of the best parts of the movie and a big part of that is Evangeline Lily's amazing as always performance.

Speaking of that relationship, the other half of that is also amazing. Like seriously. Holy Michael freaking Douglas. The Oscar-winning actor shows once again why he is one of the best in the business. In fact, after watching this I want to now go watch all of his adventures as Hank Pym's Ant-Man. No, they don't exist as movies, but I want them to. I'd also be down for making Michael Douglas young again so we can go make these movies. But alas, that may not be possible, probably, or likely. And that's okay because Paul Rudd as Ant-Man is also spectacular. The guy just has a whole lot of charisma as Scott Lang. He's made some bad decisions and he's trying to make up for it and become a new person so that he can be there for his daughter. But things just aren't working out for him and you really feel bad for him and you want things to. Then he becomes the Ant-Man and man does he do a good job as that character. I'm excited to see him join the Avengers, because yes, this movie absolutely does connect with the Avengers and it does so in fantastic fashion. Apparently this is the dispute that caused Edgar Wright to leave the project, which is sad because this was his dream project for many years. After watching this, though, I do side with Marvel because the connection with the Avengers is fabulous. And new director Peyton Reed does a great job with this. I am happy that Marvel was classy enough to give Edgar Wright writing and story credit.

I know I've spent a long time talking about the actors in this movie, but I'm not done because there are two more that have to be mentioned. The first of these two is Michael Pena. He plays Scott Lang's buddy who helps him out and that guy is a hoot in this. Everything he said and did just had me busting up laughing. On that note, the movie is simply hilarious all around. Michael Pena is just one aspect of that. While DC is taking the serious, "zero fun sir" route, Marvel is keeping things light and fun. Paul Rudd in general knows how to do comedy, so him as Scott Lang works perfectly in that manner and together with Michael Pena just is comedic gold. All the humor just lands perfectly and is balanced very well with the entertaining action. The final actor I need to bring up ties very well into that entertaining action aspect of the movie and that is our villain Darren Cross, who is played by Corey Stoll. Looking at his filmography, Corey Stoll has been around for a few years now as he had roles in Salt, Midnight in Paris, and The Bourne Legacy, but the movie where he caught my attention was last year's Non-Stop, the Liam Neeson mystery thriller about someone hijacking a plane. Stoll played a big role in that and was excellent and so when I heard he was going to be the Ant-Man villain I was stoked. Not everyone has been enamored by his character, but I was. I thought he was a very compelling villain. In fact, when comparing him to Marvel's recent villains, I liked him much better than Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy and even found him more interesting and deep than Ultron from Avengers: Age of Ultron. My enjoyment of all three of these films are very close, but Corey Stoll as Yellowjacket may just be the deciding factor that puts Ant-Man over the top.

Yes, you heard that right. In ranking Marvel's Phase II movies, I would place Ant-Man just ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron, but not quite ahead of Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Iron Man 3. While we're at it, Thor: The Dark World would round things out as sixth best movie of the six Phase II movies. I use the phrasing "sixth best" instead of "worst" because I really enjoyed all of these movies. Worst sounds too harsh. Point is, Ant-Man is a blast. I was excited going in because it sounded fun, but at the same time I had my expectations somewhat tempered because I didn't think this would be quite on the level of Marvel's previous outings, but even I was surprised at how much fun I had. Yes, this is on the same level of Marvel's previous outings. If you were on the fence about this, but you've loved what Marvel has had to offer thus far, go see this one. You may be shocked at how good this actually is. If you are tired of superhero movies, I'm sorry. They're not ending any time soon. Will this one convert you? I don't know. I'm not sick of superhero movies, so I can't be the one to tell you if this is any better. You could probably pick this apart like you could most superhero movies. Or you could just go and have a really fun time, but this is great. I didn't even go into much detail about all the awesome action scenes and how the shrinking element makes that even more fun. I suppose I'll leave that as a surprise for you. My grade for Ant-Man is a 9/10.

P.S.- There are TWO scenes in the credits, one during and one after. Don't be like 90 percent of my screening and leave after the first one. You should know better than that. This is Marvel.

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