Monday, July 20, 2015


Short version: Another solid contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man delivers good action, some great special effects, decent characterization, strong plotting, and few surprises. Paul Rudd was enjoyable and did not warp the movie into an action comedy. The one nice surprise was how very well this one-off movie meshes into the overall MCU.

I actually want to start with that last point first. The opening scene is a flashback involving Hank Pym, Peggy Carter, Howard Stark, and random guy at SHIELD HQ. A later scene involves the bad guy dealing with HYDRA. There is an Avengers crossover. I can hear some of you rolling your eyes. Marvel is just using this as a vehicle to make you go watch the other movies. Money money money money.

But that's not what's going on at all. (Okay, yeah, that's part of it. But that's not why it's important.) What you just saw is a massive international organization with strong, complicated characters introduced into the plotline in under 30 seconds. You have random bad guys introduced later, with their entire backstory explained sufficiently well in a single sentence. And, very significantly, you have a solo character effortlessly tied into several major story arcs.

If you wanted to make this same movie without the MCU, it would be completely different. You would need to explain who SHIELD is. Maybe not a huge deal. But then you would need to explain that SHIELD already has a super team. And explain why that super team is showing up in the movie without actually getting involved (because Chekov's gun and all). And then you would also have to introduce HYDRA (or more likely use generic "terrorists" or "cartel" language). All of which takes time and distracts from the main story. No studio would make that. And without it, you just end up with a very generic superhero story, that's half Iron Man (genius makes super suit) and half Captain America (down on his luck guy gets a chance to be a hero, but at what cost?).

In my mind, this is the first movie where the MCU project is really paying dividends. It's easy to point to Avengers as that movie, but that was kind of a different animal. Ant Man is the first movie in which the character and story are not one of the tentpoles, and yet it couldn't be told without the rest of the fabric holding it up. (Don't think about that metaphor too much.)

So is it a good movie? Yeah, it is. It's not a great movie. But I'd put it solidly in the same league as Tim Burton's Batman or the first X-Men movie. It found a good story to tell and told it. It hit all of its marks, avoided all the obvious pitfalls, and brought it in for a three-point landing. Or, I guess, six point landing.

Feminist points? Hmm, not so good. Definitely fails the Bechdel Test. The Mako Mori Test is a bit questionable, but I could let it slide. Hope is definitely different at the end, but I'd be hard-pressed to call it a full-blown character arc. She is a strong character, just not well defined outside of her relationships to the three central men. Perhaps future movies will correct this. They do at least provide a strong explanation for why the woman teaching the new guy to use the suit isn't just putting on the suit herself.

As a final wacky note, I went to Baskin Robbins for breakfast yesterday. (Shut up, it's also a Dunkin Donuts.) Not a single piece of merchandising. No posters. And, as far as I could tell, they didn't even carry the mango blast thingy. So weird.

Do stay ALL the way to the end of the credits. There are two end scenes, and both are important.

Final conclusion? If you aren't burned out on superheroes, go see it. (Apparently that's a growing problem. I don't get it.) If you are burned out on superheroes, wait for it. But you should see it eventually.

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