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Friday, 31 July 2015

Review: Ant-Man (2015)

Warning: Contains Spoilers
Ant-Man is the new edition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe based on the comics created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. With it being out for a week already it is time that I reviewed the film. This review does contain spoilers so please do not read this if you want some aspects of the film spoiled for yourself.

To the plot to Ant-Man is as follows: an ex-burglar called Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) steals a suit in order to raise money so he can see his daughter based on a tip-off by an old cell mate called Luis (played by Michael Pena). It transpires that the owner of the suit is Dr Henry Pym (played by Michael Douglass) who wants Scott to become the Ant-Man; a superhero who can shrink to the size of an ant giving him amplified strength. Pym's estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (played by Evangeline Lilly) has to teach him to use the suit so he can steal another one called the 'Yellowjacket' from Pym's former protegee Darren Cross (played by Corey Stoll) who wishes to use the suit for military purposes.

Like other Marvel films for the most part it is well acted and has good pacing. Nothing seems rushed in the film which has allowed the writers and director to create a perfectly paced film. Similarly the fight scenes do not feel shoehorned in to make the film more exciting and it has some creative cinematography in regards to the scenes were Luis is describing jobs for Scott. Initially I thought the plot was too cliched with a disgruntled protegee using the master's work for evil and in that sense it is somewhat repetitive with other films. I also initially thought the plot was similar to Iron Man with the antagonist using the suit that the protagonist has for military purposes. However it does make up for this by being more creative than Iron Man by having the main drive of the film revolving around stealth rather than an outright fight. Also I am glad that the main heist was the main scene for the film and it avoiding the cliched 'first heist fails but second one is the climax' often done in films. Through this the plot remains highly imaginative.

The acting and portrayal of the three main protagonists by Douglas, Rudd and Lilly is superb. Especially between Douglas and Lilly playing estranged father and daughter; it seems that they are actually related and want to make amends. Even Rudd was very good managing to go between the light-hearted protagonist and a devoted father. Initially I was skeptical thinking that Rudd would simply be a Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy imitation but I was pleasantly mistaken. His light-heartedness is not as extreme as Pratt's in Guardians but it was enough to make his character unique in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This could be down to writer Edgar Wright who made well written characters in such films such as Hot Fuzz, The World's End and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World where he made well-written characters which has transcended into this film. Rudd's and Lilly's performance together is good as well with the slow transition from dislike to being friends and seems believable but the romance at the end did seem to be put in last minute. 

Normally I don't like comic relief sidekicks but Michael Pena as Luis did a good job. Likely this was down to a mixture of Pena's acting and Wright's writing. He wasn't over-the-top and his mannerisms seemed believable compared to other movie comic relief sidekicks. He is also relevant to the plot as well which gives blessed relief. The other sidekicks played by T.I. and David Dastmalchian seemed to be lacking in creativity that Pena's character had; especially with Dastmalchian focusing largely on keeping a stereotypical Russian accent over making his character believable. The villain played by Darren Cross is not very good but at the same time not bad. Cross gives a good performance and he genuinely puts across an unbalanced person through overuse of the suit and his ambitious drive. However what ruins it for me is the lack of in depth development for his character. This may easily be overlooked but compared to other Marvel Cinematic Universe antagonists such as Loki, Ultron, the Winter Soldier and even Jeff Bridges' character is Iron Man he seems to be lacking something. He does make up for some of it with his relationship with Lilly's character with him having some form of sisterly figure to rely on which helps counteract most of his generic antagonist personality.

The effects were just superb. Like all Marvel films the CGI looks realistic and immediately immerses you in a world from an ant's perspective. Particularly the climatic villain fight set in the bedroom of Scott Lang's daughter the effects are amazing. Seeing such an intense battle brought to life through CGI where everyday objects such as a Thomas the Tank Engine train, piggy bank and a rug become the center of an epic battle it is amazing to see. Some of the visuals during the sub-atomic scene are truly amazing also with it creating a nauseous, hypersensitive world. My only problem is that I felt there could have been less CGI at times if it can be believed. I am a fan of animatronics and like in my Jurassic World review I felt that some scenes could have easily created a realistic atmosphere using animatronics and sets instead of a computer screen. One good example is the giant ant at the end. It quite possibly could have created an inventive shot.

Easter Eggs
It was nice seeing Falcon in the film and the fight scene between him and Ant-Man was a great sight to see. It was thrilling and had some creative visuals as well as it being a good nod to the wider Marvel Universe. There are multiple nods to other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies such as Howard Stark and Peggy Carter appearing at the beginning and how later on the antagonist is making a deal with HYDRA. Hank Pym also mentions Age of Ultron by saying the Avengers are too busy 'dropping cities out of skies' as a reference to the film and a newspaper can be seen with the title 'who is to blame for Sokovia'. An after credit scene also leads up to Civil War with Captain America and Falcon looking at a captured Bucky Barnes. There are references to The Empire Strikes Back with Yellowjacket losing his hand, something done in all Marvel Phase II films to reference the film, and Yellowjacket's lasers sound like the cannons of the AT-AT Walker from the film. Comic references are plentiful. Darren Cross says 'tales to astonish' which is the comic series that Ant-Man first appeared in. Pym used to work with his wife, Janet van Dyne, as a hero until the vanished into the sub-atomic world referencing her fate as the hero Wasp. During a mid-credit scene it is implied Hope van Dyne (Lilly's character) becomes the new Wasp, she even shares the hair style that her mother the original Wasp had in the comics. The villain has a suit called Yellowjacket which is one of Hank Pym's alternate names. The mental instability caused by Pym Particles also references the comics where Hank Pym develops schizophrenia from using the suit. Finally Spider-Man is referenced. Pena's character says that the Avengers: 'have a guy that can jump, a guy that can swing, and a guy that can crawl on walls'. A clear reference to Spider-Man who quite possibly could be in Civil War.

In conclusion for good writing, good acting but with a few issues I give Ant-Man 7.8/10. Hopefully Marvel can continue creating good movies for the Third Phase and if they are anything like Ant-Man they will be good.

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