Ant-Man movie full length review - Ant-thony
The last entry to the second phase of the MCU. This has a sort of inverse problem compared to Ultron, which was dark and sleek and threatened to end the world but had one liners leaking out like no tomorrow.
This is a much smaller scaled movie and the humour is allowed to be fresh because we are only just being introduced to these characters and the stakes aren't that high anyway. Sometimes it works, sometimes it's ridiculously jarring.
Michael Peña is Luis, Scott's Mexican jailmate, who carries an infectious enthusiasm and spends much of the film with a big childish grin on his face as if he's the only one aware that he is living out a Marvel comic-book. His best moments are characterised by these multi-layered flashbacks where he details the dodgy sources of his tips, and where each encounter's edits are accompanied by a loud whoosh like a sitcom cutting to a different scene, and his lovable bumbling voice-over perfectly matches with the larger than life characters in his ludicrous story. The camera zooms eagerly into these little recreations and we are immediately keyed into how unreliable Luis is, but just how much he wants to help. Less effective are the other two wombats. One cannot even be dubbed a black stereotype for how shallow his character is; he provides a distraction by momentarily taking a police car on a joyride and does seldom else. The other is the textbook computer whiz combined with Russian mobster, whose accent is much thicker than need be and mumbles out heist phrases whilst having a grammar crisis. And there's Hope, the partly estranged daughter whom harbours tension and resentment solely because of a secret that needs to be revealed midway through for plot reasons.
She features in one of the worse training montages I have ever seen in a movie. We first get repetition of a small but simple task, which is met with comedic failure, familiar as always. Then there is a need to learn how to punch, which somehow means martial arts with Hope. Why isn't there another way of demonstrating strength in a female character apart from some head-scissors hurricana takedown? In the midst of it we get a jarring insert of plot, where a sly mention of the deceased mother and wife is slipped in, to grins (yes, really). Right after is a more sentimental moment, where Hank Pym warns of the dangers of going sub-atomic (it's better that they don't try to explain it), but of course that is met with tonal whiplash from the cheerful Scott. He later does the same thing as father and daughter reunite and embrace, and this is comedy for the sake of it, except it is not funny, just awkward and forced. And finally we have the ultimate test of...willpower, which seems to be the abstract source behind controlling the ants. As long as Rudd squints his eyes and concentrates hard enough, the task can be done. Is this an anime?
Even amongst a see-sawing tone, there are action sequences that are quite thrilling. The deft balance of macro and life size means that each sensation in the Ant-Man suit is heightened to its fullest. It would be easy to fill the first sequence with many slow motion gigantic objects and people about to crush him, but there are also plenty of shots away from his POV which do a much better job of demonstrating his tiny figure; the tilt-shift selective focus enhances his profile through a crowd of feet in a nightclub, on a spinning record, in a grimy bathtub, on a carpet that seems like a surface inside a toy house. The sound design is also excellent in portraying this; the crashing boom of a huge belt buckle, a tap stream turned into a tsunami, the little dink as he bounces down a pipe and onto the roof of a taxi, barely making a scratch. Later, we have these clever cuts that provide both comedy and context, as we shift worlds. They battle amongst floating giant lolly wrappers, phones and keys, as The Cure's Disintegration blasts and buzzes depending on whether we are inside or outside of the briefcase, before a very frank shot of a simple object falling into the pool. This is later again used as the fury of the battle is contrasted with Cassie's POV of tiny little lasers and little flies buzzing around, and the sound of entire train carriages exploding and the menacing whistle cuts to a dink as Thomas the Tank Engine toys topple over.
It's unfortunate that the main villain is once again disappointing as per Marvel. All throughout we get Cross and Hank verbally battling and clashing egos, and we sense a deeper motive here, but there is almost nothing to go on, zero subtext to interpret. Stoll's performance is very much mechanically generic, playing the usual mad scientist who feels wronged and has to take back what he feels is rightfully his. But his speech is casual, and his threats shallow, and so there is no build-up or moment where he becomes the vengeful Yellowjacket. Douglas murmurs about a younger him, brasher, bolder, more arrogant, but this does not exist anywhere but in the words of the script, or in Cross. Sure, the costume design is sleek and frightening and well animated as a Marvel blockbuster should have, but there is only so much it can do. The best performance therefore must go to the child actress playing Cassie. Unlike her mother and step-father who reek of lazy writing, her character is simple, innocent and displays the most authentic emotions out of the entire cast. Does it really matter if Scott plot-devices his way out of the climax? She makes it worthwhile to sit through and root for Ant-Man.