Monday, 20 July 2015

A few thoughts on Ant-Man (SPOILER-FREE)


Ant-Man is a fun film that I intend to rewatch a lot in the future. Having said that, there was something missing in the film for me. It's difficult to say this without sounding like I'm doing some tired 'small' joke, just like every other reviewer of this film, but Ant-Man is a lot more lightweight than the other Marvel films. I came out feeling like I'd just watched a particularly good TV pilot rather than a great movie. 
At first it was difficult to put my finger on what was missing from Ant-Man. I thought at first that it might be Paul Rudd's performance. It felt like he was going for Robert Downey Jr's laid back attitude but ended up coming across as flat and unengaging. 
But that wasn't it. 
Then I thought it might be the charmless, dull, bog-standard villain, played by that bald bloke out House of Cards. But let's be honest, there have been other Marvel films that have suffered from weak villains (Guardians of the Galaxy being the latest) and that usually doesn't spoil the film too much.
Then it hit me. Ant-Man really feels like the ghost of an Edgar Wright script. 
Ant-Man was originally to have been scripted by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, and directed by Wright. Somewhere along the line Rudd apparently rewrote the script with the new director, Peyton Reed. I must emphasise at this point that I had honestly forgotten all about this when I entered the cinema and while I'm a fan of Wright's work, I didn't enter the film with any prejudices about "the film we could have had". Despite this however, lines and scenes that should have been hilarious raised only a smile or a brief laugh. To me, these scenes felt like they'd been conceived by Wright but executed without his pace or wit. If you gave a Spaced script to a director who was unfamiliar with Wright's humour and timing I imagine you'd get a similar result.
This certainly isn't true of every scene. There's a lot that works. The ending, while predictable, is beautifully executed. Michael Douglas is fantastic, a joy to watch in every scene he's in. He's helped by the fact that Hank Pym's backstory and the way it fits into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the most interesting parts of the film. Evangeline Lilly is for the most part great, but unfortunately has very little chemistry with Rudd.
Ant Man's not the strongest Marvel film ever, but it's still very entertaining. And come on! Edgar Wright or no Edgar Wright, bloody Ant-Man just made $58 million in its opening weekend! Ant-Man! That's awesome!!! Truly we are living in a golden age of cinema!
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Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is over, and so here is my ranking of every Marvel film so far from favourite to least favourite (although I must emphasise, I love them all). Feel free to shout at me in the comments.
1. Iron Man (2008)
2. The Avengers (2012)
3. Iron Man 3 (2013)
4. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
6. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
7. Iron Man 2 (2010)
8. Thor (2011)
9. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
11. Ant-Man (2015)
12. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

3 comments:

  1. Yep, I agree, there was something off about the pacing that threw off the punchlines (Michael Douglas is the greatest victim, though possibly one of the offenders; I don't think his dry sarcasm worked all that well). The Wright scenes that are still in there - the way the rumors are told, for example - are great fun (and HAVE to be from Wright's script).

    No good villains in Marvel movies lately? Well, that's largely a problem with the comics isn't it? Dr. Doom is the best of the best and he's not Marvel's to use. Magneto either. Nor Galactus. A lot of the their most iconic villains are Spider-Man villains. So what's left once you've already used Red Skull, Loki and Ultron? Iron Man doesn't really have any GREAT villains, except maybe Mandarin and they didn't actually use him (loved the idea, but I'm just sayin'). Neither does Ant-Man. The Hulk? I'm blanking. I don't really buy into Thanos, though some cosmic villains probably have potential, I just can't name any right now. Baron Mordo's okay, but I'd hope for Dormammu from a Dr. Strange film.

    So we get people like Batroc, and the Destroyer, and Malekith, and Blacklash, and Iron Monger, and the Melter. THE MELTER!!! Yeah, that's when you realize all the best villains fought the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man.

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    1. You're absolutely right about villains. I wonder if it's because, over the years Marvel have tended to make their goofier villains disposable and interchangeable (basically Punisher fodder) while DC have brought them to the forefront a bit more (Suicide Squad, The Rogues, Secret Six). Obviously there are exceptions on both sides (Thunderbolts) but I wonder if characters like Captain Cold or Ragdoll would be half as interesting at Marvel.

      I might be talking twaddle, this only just occurred to me. What do you think?

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    2. I might have been too. Wrote that well pas my bedtime, and didn't Google search what villains I wasn't thinking of. But the proof is in the pudding: Marvel villains in the films have indeed not been particularly good for the most part once the ONE archenemy was used (if there even was an archenemy).

      DC would be in similar trouble if, for example, FOX owned the rights to Batman, as most of their iconic villains are from that franchise. We'd have Brainiac and Luthor, Darkseid, Ares (really a public domain concept), and it quickly drops to Sinestro, Black Manta, and then trying to convince people the Time Trapper is something.

      Truth is, you could build any villain up to make him worthy of a film appearance, but you need to 1) match it to the right hero, 2) give him or her an interesting personality and motivation, 3) make him or her a credible threat, and 4) give him or her an iconic look. Weaker villains in the Marvel franchise have all gotten at least one of these right, just not all four.

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