Monday, August 03, 2015

ANT-MAN -- my review

DISCLAIMER:  No picnics were harmed in the making of this movie.

What’s wrong with the Marvel Universe? Don’t they understand that superheroes have to be tortured individuals? That all bright colors need to be washed out and grayed? That every story needs to be dark and dreary? That it has to rain through half the movie? That the superhero has to be British? If only Ingmar Bergman were still alive to direct BATMAN v. SUPERMAN.  But even he would lighten it up a little. 

Everything I hate about the DC Universe is what I love about Marvel. It’s a fucking comic book, people! And although a lot of Marvel’s movies get convoluted and the CGI action sequences become tiresome and tedious after awhile, when they hit it right they really produce a fun thrill ride with genuine laughs and (God forbid) a touching moment now and then. ANT-MAN is one that got it right. Even without Joss Whedon.  Who knew?

First off, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a fucking comic book! Paul Rudd stars in it. You go to Paul Rudd for funny. You go to Paul Rudd for quirky romantic lead. You don’t go to Paul Rudd for “Yippee Ki-yay, motherfucker!” And by putting Rudd in an ant costume where his face is completely covered, he himself didn’t have to do any of the stunts. Just get a stuntman who looks good in a Power Ranger suit, throw him against greenscreen, have him run and kick and punch the air and you’ve got Paul Rudd: action hero. Look, when you think about it, a big part of the fun for guys watching superheroes is wishing they could be them. More of those guys look like Paul Rudd than Henry Cavill. (Although, in this case, not many guys fantasize about being any smaller.)

For his part, Rudd totally delivered. He has that rare quality of being able to play funny and likable but real. And clearly, he was enjoying himself.  In fact, the single thing that struck me about this movie was that all of the actors seemed to be having the time of their lives. It showed and was infectious. Michael Douglas proved he could eat up the scenery while still playing straight. Evangeline Lily can kick ass even in a bob haircut (Jack, Hugo, Sayid, and the Smoke Monster would all be proud), and Corey Stoll is what Lex Luther can only dream of being. And who can possibly forget Leilani Amour Arenza as SF Tenderloin Resident?

Like I said, there are a few tender moments, but the movie goes out of its way to puncture them as soon as possible. If you see a tear, a joke will not be far behind.

Along the way there were some inventive gags and stunts. Because everything is all computer generated, nothing is really spectacular. The most impressive thing you can say about this film technically is that the CGI has really improved since HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS.

And they really had to rely on CGI for the opening sequence.  They had to make Michael Douglas look thirty years younger while in the same scene make Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) look forty years older.  

But none of that matters. ANT-MAN is mindless good fun... or super scary if you’re afraid of ants.

Oh, and just to avoid any confusion, ANT-MAN is not a reboot of AUNTIE MAME.  It's a fucking comic book

37 comments:

Jim S said...

Hey I am just glad a movie had to the courage to take on Baskin Robbins. They don't play. As someone who is actually in Batman vs. Superman (Who even knew they were having trouble? Who's going to get the kids?) you nailed it on the head. From what I've seen, that movie has the appearance of being a dreary slog.

Oat Willie said...

"It’s a fucking comic book, people!" Despite Ken's determination to hold the Alamo, it was overrun by noon.

"At this point, I think all of the Star Wars conversations have been used up. There's nothin' left to say..unless you just want to complain, aaand I do."

Fortran said...

Baskin Robbins always finds out.

Graham Powell said...

It was the most fun superhero movie in a while, but it managed to pull off some serious moments. My favorite: Evangeline Lily is upset her dad doesn't want her to use the ant suit. Rudd says, "Do you know why I'm here? I'm here because I'm expendable. You're not."

Chris G said...

One of the little-discussed things that many of the Marvel movies do really well is use an older movie star in a supporting role - Douglas, Jeff Bridges in IRON MAN, Tommy Lee Jones in the first Captain America and Redford in WINTER SOLDIER - in a way that grounds the action of the movie and also gives the material a shot in the arm.

It's also nice that Marvel makes movies I can take my kid to. There might be the occasional off-color joke but overall the movies are fine for kids. I'd call the child welfare office if I saw someone taking a kid into a DC movie.

Tudor Queen said...

I just saw it last night and thought it was very entertaining! I laughed a lot, but found myself tensing up in some scenes - even though I knew the good guys would win - It's a comic book! - there were moments where I didn't know how a particular crisis would be resolved.

I loved that Rudd's ex-wife wasn't a harpy or a shrew - she was a nice woman who wasn't ever going to try and turn her daughter against her ex - and I smiled whenever Michael Pena was onscreen. Also loved Falcon's brief appearance, seeing Peggy Carter and Howard Stark again, and Rudd's growing relationship with Anthony the Ant. Michael Douglas was terrific, as were Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly (who evidently learned to act since "Lost"). And Rudd really was a perfect choice to guide us into the craziness, because he never lost the 'everyman' quality, even in the Suit.

Walter Guyll said...

Plus it brings back that old comic book trope, the ethnic sidekicks. A funny Hispanic, a Russian with wacky phrasing and a street talking Black. Maybe the sequel will have a Dutch comic and an Irish cop.

Oat Willie said...

Walter, we do not want a Dutch comic.

Rashad Khan said...

Actually, I wish someone WOULD give "Auntie Mame" the Marvel Universe comic book superhero movie treatment. For one, the CGI fox hunt sequence would be UNREAL.

Matthew E said...

Everything I hate about the DC Universe is what I love about Marvel.

In the defense of DC...

I mean, I haven't seen Man of Steel, and I don't think I'm gonna see Batman vs Superman either. For just the reasons you cite. But that's not because there's anything wrong with the characters; it just means that the people who do the movies (and, too often, the people who do the comic books) are doing it wrong.

It's too bad. A movie with Batman and Superman in it should be awesome. Like Ant-Man was, only more so.

Richard John Marcej said...

Hope you got the Garrett Morris cameo / inside joke.

Johnny Walker said...

Totally agree. I'm fed up with the "tortured superhero" trope. Even Alan Moore, the man who practically invented it in the 80s with WATCHMEN, was fed up with it by the early 90s. That's just ONE way to interpret a story about a man who dresses in fancy costume and fights crime, there are lots of others... as ANT-MAN proves. But I've been saying this for years.

The biggest shame of the movie was having someone as awesome as Judy Greer right there, and not being able to give her character anything interesting to do. Not even one funny moment (as I recall). That's the character of course, but it was a shame to put such a great and funny actress in the role and not use her skills.

The biggest twist in the movie (SPOILER ALERT) was that the most obvious candidate for a death scene... didn't die. (There was a few twists like that, where the writers seemed to want to mess with your expectations -- and that surprised me most. Is MD really signed up for more Marvel movies?)

I'd also be interested to read the rejected Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish script (the one Joss Whedon said felt the most Marvel out of any of the films produced there).

Anyways, just when you think you were getting fed up of Marvel movies... Ant-Man comes along and entertains you.

Dixon Steele said...

I enjoyed it too, and it struck me that AM's last 20 minutes were outstanding. Always a good way top leave your audience...

mmryan314 said...

Wondering if age 6 is too young to take a grandchild to Antman? And...Rashid Khan, I`m glad you brought up the Fox hunt scene from Auntie Mame. It is my favorite scene in all of moviedom. I recently streamed the movie from Amazon just to see it again.

Peter said...

Glad you liked it, Ken. I thought it was terrific. It was such a relief to see a comic book movie that didn't culminate in an endless sequence of a city being destroyed. And I couldn't agree more about the DC movies. Batman is meant to be dark but Superman is meant to be bright and optimistic. Man of Steel had no warmth or colour. It had all the fun sucked out of it. Give me Richard Donner's Superman any day.

I saw an interview with Douglas and he said they did such a good job de-aging him in Ant-Man that he joked he might go and remake Romancing the Stone.

GS in SF said...

I am not a comic book guy at all, and so I ask this question based upon speculation. But is it possible that Superman and Batman are "darker" because they were created not only in a world that was much darker (WWII backdrop) but also specifically to take on that dark world? Whereas Marvel had the luxury of being brought to life without any such burden and could therefore was never about being grounded in the real world? So the DC movies are going back to that "mood?"

VP81955 said...

If anything, the pre-WWII Superman wasn't dark or "light" in a juvenile way, but a symbol of FDR's New Deal America -- fighting against slum housing and other social injustice. Even into the '40s, the character (at least in the radio version) battled Klan-like organizations when he wasn't fighting the Axis.

Peter said...

By the way, Ken, I've been browsing some of your old posts and out of curiosity looked up your posts in the week Michael Jackson died. This bit was hilarious:

"More fan reactions: One said the best thing about Michael Jackson was how he could seduce women. And he said this with a straight face"

There's several years worth of posts I haven't read, as I started reading your blog a couple of years ago. Is it sad that I want to catch up on your previous posts going back to 2005? Who cares, you're a funny guy and I know that whatever year, month and day I pick at random it'll make me laugh.

John said...

DC and the folks over at Warner Brothers seem to still be trying to avoid any comparisons between their movies and the Superman and Batman TV shows from the 1950s and 60s, or the later feature films in the initial boot-ups of those series. They don't seem to know any other way of 'lightening up' except going full camp with the characters, when they annoys their fans by offering up something with humor but with plot logic for idiots (or at least, plots that are silly and implausible even by comic book universe standards).

Anonymous said...
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thirteen said...

The really fun part about all this Ant-Man stuff is that it started as a joke at ComicCon several years ago. Somebody started a rumor that Nathan Fillion had been cast as Ant-Man and that a movie was about to happen. Making an Ant-Man movie, with or without Fillion, was a completely ridiculous idea -- then. And now look.

Donald Benson said...

As a 50s-born kid I remember DC as being the safe, sort of nerdy comics. Lots of thought balloons with Superman or Batman invoking junior high school science; tidy self-contained stories (aside from editor's footnotes whenever somebody said "We meet again!"). Also, lots of 25¢ 80-page Giants filled with clunky 50s stories so I always thought of the characters in that mode.

Marvel offered lunatic spectacle (usually courtesy Jack Kirby), overripe language ("Unmitigated FLEA!"), soapy romance (forgivable because the girls were hotter than young matron Lois Lane), and ongoing stories. I tended to read DC, because all the Marvels I ran across lacked beginnings or endings (begin with Spider-Man in never-explained battle; end with Peter Parker getting horrible news).

The first two-and-a-half Superman movies and the first two Batman movies are still favorites, but for me the definitive DC universe begins with "Batman: The Animated Series" and ends with "Justice League Unlimited." This was everything we ever wanted the old Filmation Saturday morning shows to be: Well-animated, well-written and violent; with some character depth, thought-out story arcs and pretty much every DC hero ever. Plus hot girls and even implied sex (Green Lantern and Hawkgirl; Green Arrow and Black Canary; very possibly Batman and Wonder Woman).

All-time favorite moment from "Justice League Unlimited": The wise-guy Flash has traded minds with Lex Luthor (long story). He hides in the men's room of the Super Villain Headquarters to try and radio Justice League. He leaves a stall and is heading for the door just as another super villain enters.
-- "Hey! Aren't you going to wash your hands?"
-- "No. Because I'm evil."

Anonymous said...
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Doug Thompson said...

Paul Rudd gets a credit as a contributing writer to the screenplay. Most likely he added some of those comic touches.

Anonymous said...
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Astril O. Pithicus said...

I thought you'd like this article about Jean Shepherd
http://www.jmarkpowell.com/the-bestseller-book-that-didnt-exist-how-the-author-of-a-beloved-christmas-classic-pulled-off-the-hoax-of-the-century/

Stop the Cover Up Silence = Guilt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike said...

@Oat Willie: Since you're the only real-life comic book character commenting on this blog, I value your opinion on these matters. What do you mean by these alamo and Star Wars references?

Diane D. said...

For my entire life, I have been only marginally aware of the existence of comic books. Ken used the initials DC in his post and I had no idea what it meant in that context so I googled it. OMG, the DC Universe and Multiverse and their inhabitants! Do most people know about all this? Are their other people like me---totally unaware of that world?

The question that Mike asked Oat Willie prompted me to look up that name--if that is not the most hilarious character I have ever heard of--a strange little guy who rides around with his feet stuck in a bucket of Oats (a bucket with 2 wheels!). Again I ask, is this a character most people are familiar with, or is a comedy writer's blog more likely to have readers who are familiar with this subject?

Just so you know I'm not unconscious, I am familiar with Superman, Batman, etc---the big names. I don't suppose anyone will answer this, but I thought I would try. I'm very curious.

Rock Golf said...

@Diane D: FYI, I could give a Ph.D. dissertation on the differences and similarities in the gold, silver and bronze eras of DC and Marvel comics and I had never, ever heard of anything called Oat Willie.

Diane D. said...

To Rock Golf:
How funny! I did read about those eras of DC and Marvel comics. I would hate to admit how many hours I spent yesterday on the subject. And yet, with your advanced knowledge of DC and Marvel, even you hadn't heard of Oat Willie---but Mike had! Fascinating topic!

Matthew Cafaro said...

I don't understand why it has to be one way or the other.

I loved Ant-Man. Thought it was scads better than Age of Ultron, which on a second viewing doesn't hold up, especially the ridiculous, "Let's save every man, woman, child, and dog" ending.

But I also loved Man of Steel. Specifically because it's the first superhero film to show the consequences of what happens when two men of godlike power fight.

As much as I loved The Avengers, the fact that there was so little collateral damage during a full blown alien invasion with Thor throwing down lightening, the Hulk smashing everything in site, and Iron Man blowing all kinds of crap up makes zero sense. When Thor and the Hulk take out the Leviathan and it crashes into Grand Central Station, that would've killed people, just on odds alone, people would've died. But no one did. And then Hulk punched Thor and we all laughed.

In Man of Steel, we get to see what happens to a city if something like this were to happen. I didn't understand the people up in arms about it then, and don't now, because it makes sense. And there's nothing wrong with taking the material seriously. The best Marvel film to date, The Winter Soldier, was an extremely serious film on par with The Dark Knight.

How can anyone who saw the almost four minute presentation of BvS from ComicCon not be incredibly excited for that film? One of the biggest reasons I'm excited is for the simple fact that's DIFFERENT from what Marvel is doing.

It's strange, because DC has the more mythical characters but is doing the more realistic take of superheroes in a real world, while Marvel always had the more down to earth characters who in the films are larger than life and more DC-like.

The only superhero film due out soon that looks as though they've gotten anything "wrong" is Fantastic Four, which appears to be a steaming pile of something I really don't want to see.

Curt Alliaume said...

This reminds me - The Daily Beast's film critic declared Ant-Man a bomb on July 8 - over a week before the movie even premiered. Not even "I hate this movie" (hey, that's his opinion), but that it was a bomb.

Obviously, it hasn't been a bomb (it's grossed $132 million domestically) - maybe not on the order of The Avengers movies, but still, pretty good.

Here's the original "review": http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/07/08/ant-man-marvel-s-first-big-bomb.html

Mike Moody said...

[Some mild spoilers ahead] I have mixed feelings on it. I really liked the characters -- Paul Rudd in particular was sensational -- but thought the pacing was way off. The first half of the movie was a lot of talk and very little action. (I don't mean action in terms of blowing stuff up, I mean action in terms of characters taking decisive steps to attain their goals.) Everything -- from the break-in, to Hank's "test" of Scott, to the CEO's tests, to the training -- was way too much exposition and would have been painfully boring if not for excellent performances from the 3 leads.

I thought it would have worked better if they'd trusted their source a little more. First half of the movie is Scott stealing the suit to save Cassie. Get right into the action. Establish through action that Scott will do anything to save his daughter. You would probably have him steal from the Avengers to get the Ant-Man-fights-Falcon scene I'm sure Marvel insisted on. While this is happening, Hank is panicking because he didn't let Hope act when he had the suit and may now have missed his chance to stop Cross. Hank eventually catches Scott, Scott does something self-sacrificial and noble, Hank agrees not to turn him over to the authorities (SHIELD? The Cops?) if Scott will use the suit to stop Cross. Right into the actual second half.

ScottyB said...

I have a Friday Question for @Ken Levine, since he has, during his writing career, had to balance the laughs and the poignant, often in the same scene (ref 'Goodbye Radar'). I'm watching an eAll In The Family' rerun where Mike and Gloria move away across the country. That episode lays bare the feelings between Mike and Archie, but yet there's some laughs thrown in there. Still, even those laughs seem half-hearted, given the situation and because that's what we'd expect out of Archie. And there's one moment in that episode where you hear the taxi engine turn on and Archie wipes his eyes with a hankie and Edith gets Archie a beer. And dammit, we *feel* the emptiness, especially in the final scene where all you see is Archie & Edith sitting in their chairs. And then we're left to wonder, "OK, now what?" Powerful shit.

My Friday Question is: In a comedy like All In The Family or MASH, how do you balance the laughs? And really, how do you even figure out that laughs even belong in there? Or should laighs even belong in there? Man, episodes like that have to be the worst when you're a writer.

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diego said...

@Donald Benson:

There's also the great flip side to that scene where Luthor in Flash's body goes to the bathroom mirror and pulls off his mask to see Flash's secret identity, looks into his face, and says, "... I have no idea who this is."

By total coincidence, Flash was voiced by Michael Rosenbaum, who also played Lex Luthor on Smallville.