Movie Box 01: Ant-Man

antmanposterSaw Ant-Man last night. Here are some loosely organized thoughts.

The Short Version:

More solid Marvel fun. The great cast saves the moments that touch on cliche, and the absurdism creates fabulous moments. If you’re enjoying the MCU films, it’s another well done entry to their canon. If you’re looking for ground breaking cinema and massively creative storytelling, then this probably wasn’t on your ‘to watch’ list anyway.

The Long Version (with Spoilers):

The Good

I loved dark and brooding Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne. It was fun to see a straight up angry woman who never turned the corner into annoying by becoming bitchy or incompetent. Huzzah for Hope!

Yet again, we got a slightly different brand of humor for this superhero in the MCU. It’s got a little bit of the Guardians of Galaxy sensibility, grounded on earth by a ‘grown-up-ness’ and with a hint of the Iron Man wit. We get moments of tension awkwardly crushed and ridiculous toy-sized battles, but an essential part of the story is Scott Lang trying to be a good father, which necessitates some growing up. Laughing with the kids, as opposed to being a kid.

I was looking forward to Corey Stoll chewing some scenery as the villainous Dr. Cross, and he was great. He handles moments that could have come off much more cliche with  sang froid or surprised hurt that saves them. Specifically, the first man he shrinks to a sad blip of pulp and then cleans up — it’s a huge overreaction, but performed with clean, calm insanity. Great.

Also, Dr. Cross had enough development to make sense without us being hammered on the nose with how and why he’s evil. I think his reaction saved the lamb murder from being a cliched villain establishment trope. Plus, I was actually surprised.

Some nuance for side characters! Yay! Mostly I’m talking about the step-family situation. This is an issue near and dear to my heart, and it was awesome to see a healthy father/step-father relationship come out of the story. It was also nice to see Scott trying to have a relationship with his daughter that did not include going after her mother. Too often we get vilified step-parents, and the lost partner reduced to a prize to be won. And cheers for Cassie’s pet ant.

Paul Rudd was fun to watch and the character was smart and human, confident without being a jackass and appropriately freaked out by the ’superhero’ world without taking too long to deal with it.

Coming off of Avengers: Age of Ultron, a movie that was about 50% set up for future films, Ant-Man switched the focus back to one hero. That said, the judicious use of cameos and hints at world building and MCU integration were well deployed. “I fought an Avenger and didn’t die!” is one of my favorite lines, and the choreography for the Falcon/Ant-Man fight topped a bunch of the other fight work. Using Hank Pym’s past as a way to avoid calling in the Avengers did double duty as a plot point and Pym character work. Plus, it’s always good to see Peggy Carter in charge.

Finally, we’ve seen several Marvel heroes with their own teams: Thor’s got his warriors three and Sif, Cap had the Howling Commandos, etc… but as much as they have specialized skills, they’re all fighting teams. Having a heist team back up the super hero was nice. And I kinda loved them for their generally high competence and goofiness — especially Michael Pena. I hope we get more of him.

The Bad

Pacing. We start out by being told that we only have a few days to steal the Yellow Jacket, and then the training sequence goes on forever — without much sense of how many days it takes. I would need to watch it again to pinpoint more specific thoughts on this, but for me the story starts at one tension level, and I don’t think it ever really wavers from that level.

I said above that I liked Hope a lot, but her story gets pretty truncated and she is basically told to ‘sit down’ for most of the movie. Her reconciliation with her father is too quick, and taking that character to teary instead of pissed annoyed me. I think she and Scott are a fun romantic duo, but would have been perfectly happy if they’d dropped the occasional flirty moments and just left them making out at the end. Especially the ‘I guess I don’t totally hate you’, look at you sideways beat we got from Hope the night before the big ‘heist’. Sigh.

And yes, the post credit sequence gave us the line that epitomized what I was thinking the whole movie. “About damn time,” indeed. It’s nice to have the postscript, but come on. Give her more than a damn postscript. Please?

Lastly, there was a lot of technical handwaving and hanging giant red signs on the techno points that were going to be plot-important.

Maybe the best pieces of Age of Ultron were the set up of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, and the reveal of the Vision lifting it. There was no such delicacy here. The regulator was going to be a THING. As opposed to Dr. Cross’s incredibly dangerous turn-you-into-a-drop-of-red-goo gun, which was just a stepping stone to shrinking people and lamb murder. If, instead of his superficial shoulder wound, Hank Pym had been brutally vaporized… oh man… But no.

The Ugly

It’s super normative. Very traditional hero’s journey. He’s special, he trains, he has some mini-missions and then succeeds at the great task, before returning to a normal world that is now better than it was at the beginning of the story.

All of the most important characters: hero, mentor, villain and female lead are all straight and white. Again.

None of that is intrinsically bad, but in a cultural context (i. e. the Real World) it reinforces what a hero is and looks like. Again. I’m so painfully sick of it. The looming dominance of this sort of story tells the lie that it is The Story — which is something people have written and spoke about more eloquently than I’m going to get into now.

That’s it. All the things. I had fun watching the movie. What did you think?