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Vault Movie Review: “Ant-Man”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 7/17/2015

Theatrical Release: 7/17/2015

Synopsis

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has finally been released from prison. His days of burglary were what got him into prison in the first place, but now he has a daughter, and he wants to put his criminal past behind him. However, after trying hard to make an honest living, his old partner in crime Luis (Michael Pena) informs him of a job that could pay very well. Scott is hesitant, as he does not want to return to his life of crime, but he needs the money, and the job sounds too easy and too good to pass up.

A wealthy old man is out of town, and there is a large safe in his house that is just waiting to be cracked into by Scott and his crew. They do not know exactly what is inside, but they know they can get in and they know whatever is inside must be valuable. Unfortunately for Scott, the old man they are trying to rob is none other than Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Dr. Pym is a scientist who developed a substance that can manipulate the molecular structure of anything it comes into contact with. This allows him to shrink things and enlarge things, including himself, a superhero once known as Ant-Man. Dr. Pym is too old to continue his life as a superhero, and there are bad people who are after his technology with sinister intent. He now needs a thief, one young enough to take on the mantle of Ant-Man, and he believes he has found the perfect candidate in Scott Lang.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The Action & The Comedy (+10pts)

Darren Cross (-4pts)

Scott Lang & Paul Rudd (+6pts)

Choosing Scott (-3pts)

The Heist & The Supporting Characters (+4pts)

Predictable (-3pts)

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Pro: The Action & The Comedy (+10pts)

The filmmakers did an excellent job integrating the action and comedy with one another. The action by itself was never incredible, but it effectively kept the movie from being boring. Fortunately, the filmmakers really leaned into the comedy here. With Paul Rudd as the star, the movie had no shortage of jokes and funny moments. I also enjoyed Scott Lang's crew, especially Michael Pena, as they added plenty of funny moments as well. Individually, the comedy worked really well, and the action was pretty good, but the filmmakers did an excellent job of blending these things together.

The filmmakers clearly enjoyed playing with the concept of shrinking things that are normally large and growing things that are normally small. This provided plenty of funny moments, both in and out of the action. There were toys that were enlarged to a massive, destructive scale and there were action sequences between the main protagonist and antagonist, where they were fighting while shrunken down to the size of insects. In these scenes, the action was really intense from Ant-Man's perspective, but it looked harmless and inconsequential from a normal person's perspective, and the filmmakers clearly had a fun time playing with this. The idea of shrinking and enlarging things to this degree was a little ridiculous, but the filmmakers leaned into the idea from a comedic perspective, and it made both the action and the comedy work really well. The result was a movie with plenty of action, and a ton of laughs.

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Con: Darren Cross (-4pts)

It is almost like the filmmakers of the MCU are messing with us at this point. It is like they have their process of making an MCU movie, and part of that process is ensuring that the primary antagonist is underdeveloped. In all of the MCU movies to date, only a couple were developed effectively. The general rule for MCU movies is that the antagonists are underdeveloped, and Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) was not an exception to that rule. He wanted money and he wanted power, and he saw Hank Pym's technology as the key to his goals. He was also generically evil, so there was no action too extreme for him, if it meant getting himself closer to his goal.

It has also become typical for the MCU to introduce a new hero, then to make the very first villain they go up against a simple evil copy of themselves. Did we get to see Ant-Man using his abilities in creative ways to take on a unique villain? No, we saw Ant-Man using his abilities to fight what was basically an evil version of himself. This has become common-place in the MCU, and it always produces underwhelming climaxes, because we have seen this formula many times before within this very franchise. The Hulk fought another rage monster with the Abomination, Captain America fought other super-soldiers with Red Skull and the Winter Soldier, and Iron Man fought with various evil copies of himself with had Obadiah Stane, Ivan Vanko, and Justin Hammer. The fact that there is no real mixing happening in a shared universe is a little silly, and the issue has become both formulaic and lazy. I am hoping that as the MCU progresses, we will start seeing more variation between the heroes and the villains they go up against.

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Pro: Scott Lang & Paul Rudd (+6pts)

Paul Rudd was an interesting choice for a superhero, as he had mostly only done comedy, but he was a great choice once you realize the tone that the filmmakers were going for. He unsurprisingly did really well with all of the comedy, but Paul Rudd just as well with the character's more dramatic moments. Those dramatic moments came from Scott's internal struggle. He was a career thief and he was good at what he did, but it destroyed his personal life and he wanted to be better for his daughter.

Despite how badly he wanted to be better, his past pulled him back in, and I liked seeing Scott dealing with this. Due to this struggle, it then made complete sense for him to jump at the opportunity to become a superhero. Scott Lang's story was not all that original, but it was a familiar and effective character story that was set in the context of a superhero movie. As a result, the filmmakers were able to do something somewhat different with this otherwise familiar story, and I enjoyed seeing it play out on screen.

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Con: Choosing Scott (-3pts)

While I completely understood Scott's desire to accept Hank's proposal, I did not buy Hank's decision to choose Scott. Scott was an effective thief, but that was really all he had going for him to make him a good candidate. He had no combat experience, he had no knowledge of the science behind the suit, and he did not seem to take things seriously. He also did not prove that he was trustworthy, and that he could be trusted with the technology and responsibility being given to him. Despite all of this, Hank choosing Scott could have been forgiven if Hank was otherwise out of options, but when the far superior choice of Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) was staring him in the face, I could not help but think that choosing Scott made no sense. Basically, the only reason Hank chose Scott was because Scott was the main character of the movie, and that is just lazy writing.

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Pro: The Heist & The Supporting Characters (+4pts)

During this phase of the MCU, it was clear that the filmmakers were trying to switch things up. With Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier, and Ant-Man the filmmakers seemed to be playing around with the genres that these movies would be set in. Guardians of the Galaxy was a heavily comedic space adventure, Captain America: Winter Soldier was a political thriller, and Ant-Man was a comedy with a heist storyline. These were not your typical, formulaic superhero movies, as they were set in different genres, but with characters who just so happened to be superheros. Thus, while the heist storyline was not all that original, it was a superhero and his team executing the heist, which made it different.

Then there were all the supporting characters. Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne were strong plot driving characters, as they were the serious characters the story needed, with Scott Lang being a largely comedic character. I also liked their individual stories, as Hope wanted to take matters into her own hands and Hank wanted to keep her safe. Then there was Scott's crew, who were a lot of fun. Michael Pena was the obvious comedic standout of this crew, but David Dastmalchian and T.I. had their share of funny moments as well. All of these characters made for a strong cast of supporting characters that were entertaining to see Scott Lang interacting with.

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Con: Predictable (-3pts)

While I liked seeing familiar stories told through the lens of a superhero movie, familiar stories are, by definition, predictable. Both in terms of the heist storyline, and the storyline regarding Scott trying to be a better man for his daughter, it was clear to see where this movie was going. The movie’s predictability made the heist less suspenseful, it made the final fight less intense, and it made the conclusion to Scott’s better man storyline less impactful. There were plenty of laughs along the way, and the action was entertaining, but adding a curve-ball or two would have made this story a lot more interesting.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C+

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (85pts)

Much like Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought Ant-Man was a risky choice for the MCU. The concept of shrinking and enlarging things was a little ridiculous, and the idea of a hero shrinking himself to fight baddies was kind of silly. I mean, how intimidating could an ant-sized human be? This character had been around in the comics for a long time, and while I was definitely going to see it, I did not think general audiences—people who were not die hard fans of the comics or the MCU—would be very interested in it. I thought the filmmakers got around this issue by leaning hard into the comedy.

First, there was Paul Rudd as the star of the movie. He handled the comedy as effectively as you would expect him to, and he did well with this character's more dramatic moments. The supporting cast was also a lot of fun, and the filmmakers played with the concept of shrinking and enlarging things in a really entertaining way—both in terms of the action and the comedy. The filmmakers set this movie apart from others in the MCU by making it a heist and redemption story, while shown through the lens of a superhero movie. Unfortunately, the heist and redemption storylines were fairly predictable, the fact that Hank Pym chose Scott Lang defied all logic, and the main antagonist was yet another one-dimensional and underdeveloped villain in this franchise. Fortunately, the movie's strengths mostly made up for its issues, as it still ended up being pretty fun.

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