11 Days of Marvel: Ant-Man


Welcome to our 11 Days of Marvel bonus round! In this project, Bill and Erin went through every sin­gle extant film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and wrote their reac­tions to them! The project start­ed here, with Iron Man, or you can click here to see all the arti­cles in the project. Today is about the lat­est movie in the MCU, which has been out for less than 24 hours:

ant-man

Ant-Man (2015)

THERE ARE SEVERAL SPOILERS IN THIS POST. THERE AREBUNCH IN THE WHOLE PROJECT, AND IT FELT WEIRD TO REFUSE TO SPOIL THIS ONE. BUT STILL, IF YOU ARE GOING TO GO SEE ANT-MAN AND DON’T WANT ANYTHING SPOILED FOR YOU, READ THIS LATER.

Erin’s Response: 

Spoiler alert! The good guys win! Evil (or some­thing like it) is van­quished! The Avengers, much to Paul Rudd’s dis­ap­point­ment, are not called!  That being said, this was a sur­pris­ing­ly fun movie. To be fair, I have not yet seen it twice (unlike the other movies in this series) so per­haps the sec­ond time around the jokes will run flat and the action scenes will be bor­ing. At this moment in time, how­ev­er, I am will­ing to say that Ant-Man is real­ly quite funny and not too full of itself. Which is impor­tant, because this movie had to be part camp. There is no real world where Ant-Man is nec­es­sary when you have Iron Man, Thor, or the Hulk.

What I enjoyed most about this movie is its play­ful sense of space and tim­ing. The scenes don’t play on too long, gags are not overused (although, like all good brick jokes, they are ref­er­enced enough to make you feel like an insid­er), and Ant-Man’s use of his small and large self is refresh­ing and fun. Overall, this movie is fun. I am not sure that it feels in any way like the rest of the MCU so far, and I am okay with that. I am okay with the stakes being a fall­en hero’s daugh­ter and not much else. I am okay with the largest emo­tion­al attach­ments being between daugh­ters and their fathers. And I am def­i­nite­ly okay with Evangeline Lilly becom­ing the Wasp (although she was still not enough of a badass female sci­en­tist. Where are they, Marvel?!?).  I actu­al­ly felt sad when Ant-Man’s ant-steed died, and if a movie can make the death of an ant feel impor­tant, then I think they have raised the bar con­sid­er­ably.

All in all, this movie make me remem­ber why a super hero movie might appeal to the child inside of me. While it sets up for other movies, it is basi­cal­ly a heist movie, and that is actu­al­ly fun and fine with me!

Favorite Moment: I real­ly enjoyed the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion mixed with util­i­ty that seems to be an inex­tri­ca­ble part of Ant-man’s ant com­pan­ions. Whether they are build­ing beau­ti­ful lat­tice struc­tures or becom­ing a pet for his daugh­ter, the ants are never a grotesque other.

Worst Moment: This vil­lain is dumb, and I am with Hope Van Dyne: why isn’t she the Ant-Man to begin with?

Best Pre-positioned Tank: SPOILER: There is a sur­prise tank, and it is beau­ti­ful, funny, and per­fect in every comedic sense.

Erin’s Rankings:

1Captain America: The First Avenger

2Iron Man

3Captain America: The Winter Soldier

4Avengers: Age of Ultron

5. The Avengers

6Ant-Man

7Iron Man 3

8Thor

9Guardians of the Galaxy

10The Incredible Hulk

11Iron Man 2

12Thor: The Dark World

hi, im scott

Bill’s Response:

So, yes­ter­day I said that I thought Ant-Man, which is tech­ni­cal­ly the end of “Phase 2” of the MCU, would be more pre­dic­tive of the future of the fran­chise than Ultron. Accordingly, I felt like a lot was rid­ing on this movie: if the MCU could intro­duce a new (and fair­ly goofy) super­hero in a way which felt both fun and unique, it might still have some life in it, 12 movies in. If, how­ev­er, Ant-Man was a train­wreck, either too crowd­ed with ref­er­ences to other movies to be an end-in-itself or too much like the other solo movies, that might imply that the MCU had run its course.

Ant-Man’s trou­bled devel­op­ment (goof­ball comic direc­tor Edgar Wright had been attached to direct it for almost a decade before bow­ing out a week or two before pro­duc­tion start­ed) and some­what unin­spir­ing trail­ers left me more than a bit wor­ried, and so I went into the the­ater with sev­er­al con­cerns.

First, I wor­ried that the movie (which was clear­ly attempt­ing to be more of a com­e­dy) would spend its whole run­ning time apol­o­giz­ing for the silli­ness of its con­cept. The trail­ers loved to show other char­ac­ters react­ing to the name “Ant-Man” as though it was some­how offen­sive, and noth­ing can kill a super­hero movie like try­ing to apol­o­gize for its comic book roots. These super­heroes only work if they are played more or less straight: as soon as the movie starts wink­ing at you and rolling its eyes, every­thing falls to pieces.

Second, I wor­ried that Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang would just be yet-another snarky white guy, more or less indis­tin­guish­able from Tony Stark and Peter Quill. We don’t need anoth­er gener­ic goof­ball in the MCU, and if Scott can’t estab­lish his own iden­ti­ty, there’s no way he can hold his own against Robert Downey, Jr. Particularly not since his super­pow­ers are infi­nite­ly goofi­er than the Iron Man suit.

As it hap­pens, I needn’t have wor­ried. Ant-Man is actu­al­ly a pret­ty fun time.

It’s def­i­nite­ly the clos­est thing to a straight com­e­dy in the MCU at the moment: even Guardians of the Galaxy has a small­er jokes-to-other-things ratio. Director Peyton Reed has a lot of fun with size-based visu­al humor, switch­ing from up-close bom­bas­tic action to dis­tant shots which reveal every­thing in the pre­vi­ous shot was only an inch tall. Ant-Man’s weird size-changing shuriken-things allow him to shrink or embiggen var­i­ous house­hold items, to both comic and tac­ti­cal effect, and the trail­ers thank­ful­ly don’t spoil all of those jokes.

The biggest prob­lem with this movie is Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket, who is a supreme­ly gener­ic vil­lain who is given almost noth­ing to do. There’s some gob­bledy­gook about how the Pym par­ti­cles have been dri­ving him crazy, but there’s no depth there: he’s a des­ig­nat­ed vil­lain, a canned Evil Corporate Scientist, and poor Corey Stoll deserves bet­ter. Yet it prob­a­bly doesn’t mat­ter very much, because the movie isn’t about him: unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, which need­ed a believ­able vil­lain to unite the team, and fails because it doesn’t have one, Ant-Man is a heist movie, and is thus more about the team and the fun they are hav­ing than about the vil­lain they are rob­bing. And at least he doesn’t want to destroy the world, which is refresh­ing as heck.

Scott Lang is not the most inter­est­ing char­ac­ter we have seen, but Rudd actu­al­ly brings a fair amount of com­plex­i­ty to what could have been a very one-note per­for­mance. Sure, most of his lines are jokes, but there’s a real sad­ness in his eyes that dri­ves all of his actions. He’s doing this to main­tain a rela­tion­ship with his daugh­ter, and he knows that the rea­son that rela­tion­ship is in dan­ger is his own fault. He gen­uine­ly wants to be a hero, if for no other rea­son than because his daugh­ter thinks he can be one. That’s a very dif­fer­ent moti­va­tion than we have in the rest of the MCU, and I think Lang’s dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive (as an ex-con who still most­ly hangs out with lov­able crooks) will be wel­come in the MCU.

Erin and I have been watch­ing Brooklyn Nine-Nine late­ly, and I think it’s one of the fun­ni­est shows I’ve seen in years. But I real­ized most of the way through Season 2 that almost all of the wacky hijinks the 99th Precinct gets up to are fair­ly pre­dictable: you know more or less what’s going to hap­pen in the episode by the five minute mark. If a char­ac­ter says he will absolute­ly not do a thing, you bet­ter believe that he will be doing that thing ten min­utes later. It doesn’t play with the sit­com for­mu­la, or sub­vert it, but rather dwells in it, mak­ing no apolo­gies for what it’s up to, but nev­er­the­less excelling with­in the for­mu­la. Ant-Man feels a bit like that: sev­er­al of the story beats are telegraphed fair­ly early on, but I don’t care. It’s funny, and a good time, and has its heart in absolute­ly the right place, and I don’t actu­al­ly know what else we want from this sort of thing.

Favorite Moment: Chekhov’s Tank. Erin called it about ten min­utes before it hap­pened, and I was thrilled when she was right.

Least Favorite Moment: Darren Cross killing the mis­cel­la­neous gov­ern­ment guy early on in the movie. There had to have been a bet­ter way to estab­lish that he was a BAD DUDE rather than ran­dom mur­der. It killed any chance at com­plex­i­ty he might have had. I was most wor­ried about this movie right after this scene.

Bill’s (Provisional) Rankings: (I reserve the right to adjust these after see­ing Ant-Man a sec­ond time and get­ting a clear­er pic­ture of its qual­i­ty or lack there­of.)

1Captain America: The Winter Soldier

2. Captain America: The First Avenger

3The Avengers

4Iron Man

5. Iron Man 3

6. Avengers: Age of Ultron

7. Ant-Man

8. Thor

9. The Incredible Hulk

10. Guardians of the Galaxy

11. Iron Man 2

12Thor: The Dark World

steed

And Now, A Conversation

Erin: I like your com­par­i­son to Brooklyn Nine-Nine. You are cor­rect: one doesn’t have to re-invent the wheel to still make a very enjoy­able movie!

Bill: I think that’s impor­tant to remem­ber: most of these movies are not going to be earth-shattering life-changers, and that’s fine. I do think a lot of folks were dis­ap­point­ed when Edgar Wright wasn’t direct­ing, and thus pro­ject­ed that dis­ap­point­ment onto the movie. (I’ve been read­ing some reviews in an attempt to get some per­spec­tive.) It’s not a super-satirical sub­ver­sion, and I think that dis­ap­point­ed some folks. But, like, it’s a real­ly fun movie, and I think its gen­uine­ness is part of why it’s so much fun.

Erin: Also, it is nice to see some sit­u­a­tions where a small­er hero might actu­al­ly be the way to go. My only real com­plaint is how utter­ly dumb “going sub­atom­ic” is. SO DUMB.

Bill: Yeah, that was pret­ty what­ev­er. It’s def­i­nite­ly not a per­fect movie. But it’s a lot bet­ter than I was expect­ing. I did like all of the run­ning gags with his ex-con crim­i­nal pals. And I’m glad we got to see a lit­tle more of the Falcon.

Erin: Indeed. I think my only com­plaint with is side­kicks was that they are a bit racial­ly (and by a bit I mean a lot) stereo­typed.

Bill: Yeah, I noticed that as well. Maybe not great, par­tic­u­lar­ly since I think Luis might be the first named Hispanic char­ac­ter in the fran­chise so far. x_x Oh well. Baby steps, at least.

Erin: Well, I am not sure if that is an answer, and I am not sure if you need to be the one to answer it. But I don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly like only cast­ing minori­ties as lov­able thieves. They could have eas­i­ly been Jesse Pinkman and that would have been bet­ter.

Bill: Well, this brings us to the end of our MCU project. Do you have any thoughts on the fran­chise as a whole, past or future?

Erin: I am a bit dis­gust­ed that there are so many more movies, and the Black Widow is still not up for her own.

Bill: Heard that.

Erin: It makes me mad at the whole fran­chise. How about you?

Bill: I don’t know: the fact that Ant-Man was pret­ty good makes me think that this silly fran­chise might have anoth­er few years left in it before it inevitably comes crash­ing down, which is heart­en­ing. I like most of the movies. I’m not sure how to judge the value of the fran­chise as a whole, though, even now. I mean, sure, I enjoy it, but that doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean it’s a good thing. Do we real­ly need eight thou­sand super­hero movies? I don’t know. I’m not sure I know what the alter­na­tive would be, though, and so I can’t say whether this is bet­ter. I will say that, although exec­u­tive med­dling runs ram­pant through the entire fran­chise, I do feel like a lot of actors and artists real­ly do give it their all in these movies, and I can respect that.

Erin: I am sad that so much cap­i­tal goes into things that are prob­a­bly never going to be, like, art. That hurts me a bit. I am not sure that it is any worst than most action films, but I do think that many other movies do a much bet­ter job of being inclu­sive and giv­ing women actu­al things to do. This is a very, very, very white fran­chise. And I don’t know how much more of that we actu­al­ly need. I think that is my main con­cern — what isn’t get­ting made because these actors and this money aren’t being chan­neled into other things? Although then the dirty cap­i­tal­ist in me says “Milk the mass­es for all they will give you.” It is very dis­con­cert­ing.

Bill: Well, I sus­pect the answer to “what isn’t get­ting made” isn’t, like, super-diverse and thought­ful art about the human con­di­tion. It would prob­a­bly be pirate movies or yet more spy movies or more (white) his­tor­i­cal epics. I do hope that the fran­chise gets more diverse, if only so we can tell the char­ac­ters apart when we see them in huge track­ing shots. x_x

Erin: I just think at least with a pirate movie you don’t have a whole cul­tur­al group climb­ing all over them­selves to dis­cov­er every­thing before the movie even comes to the­aters. There is a strange desire to pre­dict every­thing that I find odd. It becomes more about a cul­tur­al inside joke, a way to tell the true believ­ers from the hea­then non-comic fans.

Bill: Yeah, I’m not super fond of that desire to dis­sect every sin­gle frame of every trail­er. io9 has a whole fea­ture where they post indus­try rumors and leaked scripts, and that’s pret­ty gross. I hear some of that sort of thing since I live on the Internet, but I try to avoid most of it.

Erin: It’s like if I worked Kant into every­day con­ver­sa­tions and then gave flack to every­one who didn’t remem­ber minute ref­er­ences to the Prolegomena.

Bill: Indeed. Well, thank you very much for join­ing me on this ridicu­lous project! I hope you enjoyed it!

Erin: I enjoyed myself a lot! But I don’t think you’re going to get me to see a super­hero movie for a while.

ANTS

 Final Rankings and Awards:

Worst Hair Award: (Erin)

This is a toss up between Scarlett Johansson’s orig­i­nal red hair (ouch, couldn’t they have made sure it was the same color through­out all of film­ing?) and Evangline Lilly’s extra severe, aging-her-15-years black bob. Not cool Marvel, not cool.

Cutest Kid Award: (Erin)

Ant-Man’s daugh­ter is adorable. I have the hor­ri­ble feel­ing that they might have pulled her front teeth specif­i­cal­ly for this role, and a dark side of me is total­ly fine with it because she was SO STINKING CUTE.

Characters We Needed Much More From: (Erin)

  • Gamora
  • Jane Foster. She ought to be the bad­dest of the bad ass female sci­en­tists. If Portman was too expen­sive to use as much as they’ve used Erik Selvig, they should have cast some­one else. (She nei­ther adds nor detracts from these movies.)
  • Hawkeye/Black Widow. If they don’t do a pre­quel with these two doing some kind of spy thing, Marvel are idiots!

Bill’s Super-Scientific Major Villain Ranking

1. Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger, Iron Man

2. Ultron, Avengers: Age of Ultron

3. Loki, Thor

4. Alexander Pierce, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

5. Aldrich Killian, Iron Man 3

6. Johann Schmidt/The Red Skull, Captain America: The First Avenger

7. Loki, The Avengers

8. Ivan Vanko/Whiplash, Iron Man 2

9. Emil Blonsky/The Abomination, The Incredible Hulk

10. Darren Cross/Yellowjacket, Ant-Man

11. Ronan the Accuser, Guardians of the Galaxy

12. Malekith the Accursed, Thor: The Dark World

be the antman

Well, folks, that’s it for the 11 Days of Marvel project! Here’s hop­ing you enjoyed our silly ram­blings. Comment below if you have any thoughts, and we may do some­thing like this again, if peo­ple seem to enjoy it!

 


Bill Coberly

About Bill Coberly

Bill Coberly is the founder and now Editor Emeritus (that means he doesn't really do anything any more) of the Ontological Geek. He currently studies law at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he lives with his wonderful wife and a pair of small and snuggly terriers.