Countdown to Endgame #14: Ant-Man Is Charming Enough, I Guess

As The Avengers: Endgame approaches, Team Midnight has committed to watch all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films released to date in chronological (story) order: 22 films in 8 weeks. Follow along with us.

While the newspapers are still editorializing about who is to blame for the Sokovia incident in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the events of Ant-Man take place in San Francisco.

Heroes: Scott Lang / Ant-Man

“My days of breaking into places and stealing shit are over! What do you need me to do?”

Scott Lang is a modern day Robin Hood, who we meet as he’s being released from 3 years in prison. His crime? Burgling an evil corporation that was stealing from poor people, and then returning the money to the corporation’s victims. He has a really adorable daughter, an ex-wife, an ex-wife’s new fiance, and a friend group with criminal undertones.

Other heroes:

  • Dr. Hank Pym
  • Hope van Dyne
  • Luis, Kurt and Dave

Villain: Darren Cross / Yellowjacket

“You tried to hide your suit from me. Now, it’s gonna blow up in your face, and destroy everyone you care about.”

Cross was Hank Pym’s protege – brilliant and ambitious. When he started to suspect that Pym had successfully created people-shrinking technology, he became obsessed with figuring it out for himself and, in the process, develops a real strange sense of revenge about it. Now CEO of the company (after kicking Hank to the curb) Cross is on the verge of figuring out Pym’s tech, selling it for tons of money to terrible people, and – most importantly – shoving it in that prick Hank Pym’s face!

Villain Complexity Rating: 1/5

Darren Cross is very similar to the Iron Man villains – Obadiah Stane and Aldrich Killian especially. He’s a weapons technology developer who is unscrupulous about who he sells to. But in addition to that, he’s got this very pouty, “I’ll show you who can be the best scientist,” “please someone tell me they’re proud of me” bravado. It’s so hard to understand why he is so aggressively hostile about proving himself through shrink-ray technology. Because Hank kept it secret from him, I guess? It definitely feels out-of-balance that this guy would become a morally dead homicidal maniac because of that slight, but that’s Darren’s reality. Hank and Hope hint that he might have brain damage, so maybe that explains it?

“What’s at Stake” Rating: 2.5/5

If Cross sells the Yellowjacket to Hydra, they’ll have the technology to make an army of super-powered tiny soldiers to help them in their quest for total control of mankind, which I imagine would be very annoying to The Avengers.

What did our hero(es) learn?

Scott learns all about the Pym particle, how to shrink down to one inch tall, how to make ants do a number of impressive tricks, how to throw a punch, how to fly through a keyhole, how to return to reality from the quantum realm, and – presumably, how to pay his child support!

Heroism Rating: 4.5/5

Scott paid the price for righting corporate wrongs and now would do just about anything to get a normal job and pay rent so he can be a good Dad to his daughter who he loves more than anything. Unfortunately, it’s tough out there for convicted felons to get a job – and so he does make this teensy mistake of breaking into a guy’s house in the hopes that a little harmless booty will help him get back to being a standup Dad. Other than that slip-up, though, he takes on all the risk in the Pym family heist, quickly masters many very odd new skills, and ultimately, chooses to “go subatomic” in order to save his daughter’s life – essentially vanishing into a reality so infinitely tiny that time and space cease to have meaning. Being alone until you die in a reality you don’t understand removed from everyone you love sounds way worse than death. Way to go, Scott.

Visual Aesthetic/CGI Rating: 2.5/5

For a movie that spends about half its time in the perspective of an insect-sized person, the fact that the CGI is totally unoffensive is a great achievement. And it is! The Honey, I Shrunk the Kids-esque effects are fun and for the most part, look really good – especially the fun sight gags in the last big conflict (see train, giant ant, etc.). It’s too bad that the rest of the movie just doesn’t have much style. The heist scene – which should be thrilling – is oddly paced, hard to follow, and has way too much flying around with Antony. Hope’s haircut is so out of place for a foxy undercover 2015 executive… and for a movie that can be so goofy, the editing and direction just aren’t quick and sharp enough to keep pace.

Heroic Cinema Saturation Index

Betsy Rating: 2.5/5

Paul Rudd’s charm and absolutely magical comedic timing – with a boost from Michael Peña’s hilarious monologues – save Ant-Man, and ultimately, make it enjoyable enough… Mine is kind of a “oh yeah, definitely watch it – if it happens to be on already” recommendation. There are some great moments when this movie really shines with an attitude and sense of humor completely its own – unfortunately, too much of the movie feels like it was made by committee and much of the color and flavor has come out in the wash. I suspect that Edgar Wright’s breakup with the movie has something to do with this feeling, which is really too bad. I wish I could see the Ant-Man that Wright was creating – I bet it would’ve been something.

Glimpses of that greatness still do shine through, but it’s not enough to make the movie actually good. The whole thing feels weighed down by the impulse to get serious – its strangely tense yet vacant villain, Darren Cross, is an example of this. As is the entire 2nd act, in which we walk with the Pym family through decades of betrayal, love, isolation, pain, redemption, and healing… in about 10 minutes, the same 10 minutes in which Scott is learning how to send telepathic commands and ride flying bugs. The beginning and end of Ant-Man are both pretty solid, it’s this weird middle section sag that’s a real problem. Maybe we’ll be glad at some point that we have all this Pym family/corporate history, as they start to play a bigger and bigger role in the MCU story. Here’s hoping.

Justin’s Rating: 2/5

Hiring Edgar Wright to pen and direct this film was an inspired choice reflecting the studios’ understanding that giving visionary auteurs space to do their thing was the way forward. We saw this practice really come to fruition in The Avengers and Guardians, but early films that allowed great directors to work in their style, like Kenneth Branagh on Thor, for example, also worked out great. Wright’s gifts for delivering light-hearted visual gags, relatable and smart dialogue, and lovable dufus protagonists are what make the Cornetto Trilogy truly special films, and they’re a nice match for Scott Lang here. Unfortunately for us and Wright, studio meddling led to his leaving the project and his script getting diddled by individuals who think lines like “You tried to hide your suit from me, now, it’s gonna blow up in your face, and destroy everyone you care about!” are fit for adult consumption. The result is an overwrought, plot-heavy mess not dissimilar to Age of Ultron, which suffered from the same treatment and severed ties from writer/director Joss Whedon. Way to go, fuckers.

It’s simultaneously a fucking miracle and a tragedy that Paul Rudd is wasted in this film. I mean, thank god they cast him and not some mere mortal. His charm and comic timing and a few of Wright’s trademark gags that survived “editing” are doing all the work here. Actually, that’s not true, because Michael Peña is hilarious in this film, which is not unusual.

I dunno. I still like Ant-Man in the MCU for a lot of reasons, the least of which is not his potential to test the anal tensile strength of Thanos, but we can discuss that when it happens.

OVERALL: 2.5

Ant-Man is available to rent online through Vudu or the Google Play/iTunes app stores. Paul Rudd superfans will definitely enjoy it – but there’s really no rush.

Want to come see Endgame with us?

If you’re a Minnesoter and would like to join us, we’re going to see The Avengers: Endgame at 8:30pm at the Rosedale AMC on Thursday, April 25th (opening night). Let us know if you plan to come – the more the merrier.

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