Fantasia 2015 Review: ANT-MAN, A Cog In The Mighty Marvel Machine

Contributor; Toronto, Canada (@filmfest_ca)
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Fantasia 2015 Review: ANT-MAN, A Cog In The Mighty Marvel Machine

It's always a bit of a danger judging a film by why it's not, or by what it could have been, versus what it actually is. This factor is made even more manifest when a beloved, fan-fav filmmaker leaves a project due to "creative differences". We're likely to never know exactly what Edgar Wright's own vision for Ant-Man would be like, but I'm betting it'd be a whole lot better than what we got from the theatrical release.

That's not to disparage the people that brought this version to the big screen. In its current guise the film has a lot going for it - a charismatic lead, some fun fight sequences, a bunch of zany side characters, and an icon in the form of Michael Douglas adding a shmear of sophistication to it all.

Paul Rudd inhabits the role with a terrific sensibility, and his contributions to the script (along with the fine Adam McKay) results in a jokey, pleasing flick. As yet another comic book origin story it's pretty decent, and when the film is at its best it's never taking itself too seriously.

Unfortunately, there are also great tracts that are pretty darned clunky. This is definitely a turn-off-your-brain storyline that's moving quickly enough that you're not supposed to pay attention to the fact that it's genuinely incoherent. Motivations for characters in comic book films are always painted with a wide brush, but the storyline give little shrift as to why a scientist would spend so much effort on this one burglar, or how the bad guy figured out the plans pretty darned quickly. We're supposed to just accept this stuff, and that's fine, but in this case it really does feel like we're seeing an echo of a different, perhaps darker story, one where perhaps those that are still good guys might not have been so kind, and the bad guys not quick as two dimensional as appeared.

The performances are all pretty great, except for poor Evangeline Lilly who is not only given little to work with, she doesn't do particularly well with what she's given. On the other hand, Michael Peña chews his scenes like a champ, providing the closest echo to Wright's other films with flashbacks and voice-overs that creatively provide both exposition and backstory.

It's these moments that provide pangs of regret, the what-could-have-been-ness of the whole piece. It's the other moments that feel tacked on and redundant, from the fight with that Falcon dude to the inevitable post-credit teases, that make it feel less of a unique work and more a cog in the mighty MCU machine.

Ant-Man 's closest connection, stylistically rather than narratively, is Guardians of the Galaxy, a film where another Indie director was allowed to run wild because his playground was very far removed from most of the other terrestrial plotting. As it works there's a feeling to Ant-Man that we're simply going through the motions in order to introduce this character and have him play a part in something forthcoming.

Comic fans are of course not only warm to this kind of storytelling, they almost expect it. But as a person who only comes to these characters through their works on the big screen it's simply not enough to have a couple whiz-bang scenes involving a guy riding some mind-controlled bugs. When you find yourself completely accepting notions of trans-atomic voyages and suits that help shrink a man while maintaining his density, but find yourself wandering during scenes where they have perfect walkie-talkie conversations without any break-up in a congested broadcast spectrum like San Francisco, then perhaps one has to admit that belief hasn't quite been fully suspended.

Director Peyton Reed has had his share of decent credits, and I metatextualy adore that the man that helmed the Kirk Cameron masterpiece The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is now helming a gazillion dollar franchise film.

I like Rudd in this role, I like the concept of the burglar who can turn tiny, and I even like bits of the storyline where they have fun with both the style and tone of the piece, and for reasons of punning alone I should allow that parts of this film can bug me without needing to call it a disaster. Still, we're back to where we're started, wondering what could have been if Wright wasn't wronged, if there was a little less Marvel-izing of the storyline for the greater good and this relatively minor character was allowed to fly under his own banner.

Ant-Man is, well, OK, and maybe that's enough. I wanted more, and those moments where it looked like I was going to get it, only to have things not quite come to fruition, makes the film as frustrating as it is enjoyable.

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Ant-ManEvangeline LillyMarvelMichael DouglasPaul RuddPeyton ReedEdgar WrightJoe CornishAdam McKayStan LeeLarry LieberJack KirbyCorey StollActionAdventureComedy

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KurtJuly 14, 2015 11:34 PM

Ahhh, the Marvel Mantra: Just make it good enough, not really good, not really bad...just vanilla. Booooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring.

Unflinching_EyeJuly 15, 2015 5:11 AM

I pretty much agree, but just out of interest do you feel that way about Guardians of the Galaxy too?

Darren MurrayJuly 15, 2015 10:20 AM

Gets kind of boring the amount of times people keep going on about how great Edgar Wrights version would have been. It is down to Wright that Hank Pym is now an old man and probably wont play a part in future Marvel films.

Also why would you want them to make it less Marvel? Isn't it meant to be based on a Marvel comic. Why make it at all if it is not going to resemble the comic at all.

From the reports it sounds as if he is a bit of a whiny bitch that didn't really want to make a Marvel film, but something that only his fans would enjoy. I have liked most of his films, but I don't get the praise that is heaped on him.

The last comic book film he made was possibly his worst film, and At the Worlds End was no where as good as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz.

Rage72July 15, 2015 3:49 PM

I totally agree Darren.. why continue on this whole Edgar this and Edgar that and how his vision might have been this or that! It's indeed tiresome and I never understood the lovefest for him anyway, I mean why is he regarded as like "THE" filmmaker besides obvious reasons?

skaoreoJuly 15, 2015 7:35 PM

You mean besides the fact that nearly all of his films are beloved by fans and critics.

Ya got me, brah. No idea why people care about that hack.

Darren MurrayJuly 15, 2015 8:07 PM

Neither of us once said Wright was a hack. Enjoy his films, just think he is overated, and to say that "Nearly all his films are beloved" is a bit much. He has only made 4. Two great, one decent and one of which is shit.

pinoypower1234July 15, 2015 8:54 PM

Edgar Wright is better than Wes Anderson..thats for damn sure..

pinoypower1234July 15, 2015 8:55 PM

dc mantra: make a superman movie thats not a superman movie

Rage72July 15, 2015 9:37 PM

I'm not saying he's a hack, I'd never call a film director that because I respect all filmmakers for what they do, but I'll just be happy to talk about AntMan being Peyton Reed's baby, instead of the focus being on how the film might have looked if Edgar had done the film.

Rage72July 15, 2015 9:40 PM

I've enjoyed Shaun and Hot Fuzz, but the others were overrated, especially that Scott Pilgrim movie. IMO, James Gunn is a more talented filmmaker and he doesn't get as nearly the same praise as Edgar, but I feel that's about to change.

Rage72July 15, 2015 9:42 PM

You mean Warner Brothers...

KurtJuly 17, 2015 12:32 PM

While GotG has problems in the villain department (vanilla and tedious), there are some things that James Gunn really manages to squeeze through (Jackson Pollock Joke, the Soundtrack, most of Rocket, the John C. Reilly character, the Michael Rooker stuff, and the tiny soft-touch satire of the genre beats).

Best moment in that movie is a comfortable silence when the entire movie stops to gasp at the beauty of Groot's chemiluminescent firefly-lights. I wish more blockbusters would understand that slowness and pauses can be GREAT.

I think GotG is, perhaps, Marvel's best film, but for me, that's not saying terribly much. The film really does lean on the StarWars/Serenity formula, but to its credit (Gunn/Whedon) finds a way to make the most of its character beats and dialogue, and for me that was enough to massively distinguish it from the rest of the Marvel sludge that plunks down ever few months (right on pavolvian schedule) in the multiplexes.

(post script: I'm sure there is a great 45minute Avengers film, but the rest of it is so bloated so as to make me shudder at the thought of ever attempting a re-watch of that film or attempting the 2015 sequel for a first watch. I'll happily be skipping Avengers: Ultron and the rest of the comic book junkfood for the amazing slate of Westerns this year: The Salvation, Bone Tomahawk, Slow West, Hateful8, The Revenant, etc.)

Unflinching_EyeJuly 17, 2015 9:14 PM

I agree that GotG is probably the strongest of the Marvel movies thus far. Good characters (amongst the Guardians, but you're right about the villains being bland as hell, except for Rooker of course); great dialogue and humour and some gorgeous sci-fi visuals really elevate it above the rest.

I liked the first Avengers quite a lot too, again mostly for its characters and humour, but I've stayed away from the sequel. Looks bloated and dull.

And I'm as excited about the current state of the Western as you. That Kurt Russell is in TWO this year is so cool. In fact I'm gonna go watch that new Revenant trailer now!

cjohnstonJuly 21, 2015 2:08 PM

..for me (while I'm Not much of a Marvel aficionado myself) -- this one and GoftheG are byFAR my favorite marvel outputs due in large part to the direction.

..maybe its just me, but so many marvel affairs seem to rely on 'said' characters reading dialogue plastered on cue cards that is just out of the viewers reach :/