CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: ANT-MAN (2015)
Movie Review by Michael Arruda
OFF-CAMERA VOICE: Previously on Cinema Knife Fight—
(THE SCENE: A laboratory. L.L. SOARES wears a lab coat as he finishes his CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review of ANT-MAN.)
L.L. SOARES: And so I give ANT-MAN two and a half knives. This is usually the part where I ask Michael what he thinks of the movie, but since he got shrunk down to a sub atomic level due to an Ant-Man suit malfunction— funny how that happened— he’s not here. So I’ll just say so long for now and—.
(There is a blinding flash of light, and suddenly MICHAEL ARRUDA reappears in the Ant-Man suit, now back to full size.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Not so fast!
LS: Whoa! How did you manage to come back from a sub atomic level?
MA: It was simple really. I used the anti-sub atomic level button on my Ant-Man utility belt.
LS: Ant-Man utility belt? Holy Adam West!
Anyway, I’m back and I’m ready to review today’s movie.
LS: Well, you’re a little late, but go ahead.
MA: Thank you. And since you got to deliver your review without any interruption from me, I’d like the same courtesy. So, on that note. (Zaps LS with a shrinking ray reducing LS to the size of an ant.) I knew my Dr. Cyclops ray would come in handy some day. (MA picks up LS and carries him to the lab table.)
LS (in tiny voice): Put me down! I’ll get you back for this!
MA: Sure you will. But after my review. (Drops mini LS into a glass jar, and seals the top with a cover.) That should keep you out of trouble while I review today’s movie. (Looks at camera). Don’t worry. There are air holes in the cover. Okay. One air hole.
VOICE: And now, today’s episode of Cinema Knife Fight.
MA: Hey, enough of that already. I’ve got a movie to review.
VOICE: You’re no fun.
MA: One more word out of you and I’ll shrink you down to Alvin and the Chipmunks level. Now go away!
VOICE: I’m going! I’m going!
MA: Moving right along. In case you missed L.L.’s review, here’s a brief recap of the plot of ANT-MAN.
In ANT-MAN, the latest superhero movie from Marvel, a company which has been churning out quality entertaining superhero films since the early 2000s, scientist Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is troubled because his protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has taken it upon himself to develop miniature technology which Pym had worked on years before, with plans to sell it to the shady organization Hydra for military use. The technology, a suit, shrinks its wearers down to the size of insects where they can wage war undetected.
To stop Cross, Pym recruits a thief and genuinely nice guy and misunderstood ex-con Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to break into Cross’ complex and steal his Yellowjacket suit. To do this, Pym dusts off his old Ant-Man suit, not used since Pym was a young man, and with the help of his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily) trains Scott in the art of miniature combat. They also teach Scott how to communicate with ants, an ability which will come in handy because he’s going to need the insects’ help to accomplish his mission.
Hope is not exactly happy about this arrangement since she wants to do the mission herself, and she feels her father doesn’t have faith in her. But the truth is he’s simply worried for her safety. And Scott is enticed into the mission because it will mean financial security for his young daughter, as he’s struggling to make alimony payments since he can’t keep get a job because of his criminal record.
So Scott trains with the ants, and when he’s ready, he’s embarks on his mission to steal the Yellowjacket suit, but meanie Darren Cross is no fool— he’s a villain in a superhero movie, after all!— and so he’s more than ready for Ant-Man, which sets up the climactic confrontation between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket.
You know, when you explain the plot, it all sounds rather silly, but it really isn’t.
LS (in a tiny voice): Says you!
MA: Don’t get me wrong. ANT-MAN is a light and fun movie, but it’s also exceedingly well made— it’s well written, well directed, and well-acted— like pretty much all the Marvel movies, but it’s not stupid.
And this is the main reason I like most of these Marvel movies so much: they know how to have fun, but they never insult your intelligence. In short, they’re true to the spirit of the comics, and they play exactly as if you are watching a comic book unfold on the big screen.
ANT-MAN is no exception. Like last year’s hit GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), ANT-MAN gravitates towards the humorous, which comes as no surprise since screenwriters Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McCay, and Paul Rudd all have extensive backgrounds in comedy.
Wright wrote and directed the Simon Pegg movies SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004), HOT FUZZ (2007), and THE WORLD’S END (2013), as well as the quirky and very entertaining SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010). In fact, as LL explained in his portion of this review, Wright was originally slated to direct ANT-MAN but dropped out of the project. LL lamented that the film would have had more of an edge to it had Wright directed it, and I can’t disagree with that assessment, although as the film stands now, I liked it just fine.
Adam McCay wrote and directed several Will Ferrell comedies, including ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (2004) and THE OTHER GUYS (2010), and of course Paul Rudd who plays Ant-Man in this film has acted in a bunch of comedies.
But ANT-MAN is not on the same level as GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. GUARDIANS pressed all the right buttons and had a story that was epic in nature. ANT-MAN has more flaws than GUARDIANS and its story is nowhere near as epic. Whereas GUARDIAN involved saving the universe, ANT-MAN involves stealing a secret weapon. It’s not quite on the same level.
The cast does a nice job. Paul Rudd is an effective Ant-Man and makes for a likeable enough every-day guy turned superhero. Sometimes I thought his humor was a little misplaced, and I didn’t completely buy his nice guy routine. It was a little too much for my liking, and at times the “I never robbed anyone bad” shtick was difficult to swallow. I wish he had more of a dark side, but overall Rudd was very good.
Rudd of course has a history of comedic roles, including roles alongside Steve Carrell in THE 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (2005) and DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (2010), but does anyone remember a young Rudd starring in the forgettable HALLOWEEN film HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)? It’s one of the weaker films in the series, but Rudd’s performance as a grown up Tommy Doyle, the character who was terrorized as a boy in the original HALLOWEEN, is one of the best parts of the movie.
I really liked Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym. I thought he gave the best performance in the movie as the disillusioned scientist who once had a grand idea and now has to fight to prevent that idea from falling into the wrong hands.
Beautiful and sexy Evangeline Lilly stands out once again as Pym’s daughter Hope. She’s been a favorite of mine since her days on the TV show LOST, and she’s probably the most bad-ass character in the entire movie. She trains Scott how to fight as Ant-Man, and I think she could have fought off the villains a heck of a lot better than him.
Corey Stoll makes for an effective baddie as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket. It’s interesting to note that one of the weakest aspects of these Marvel movies is their villains. On a consistent basis, even though Marvel continues to churn out one quality movie after another, they also continue to churn out one subpar villain after another. And what’s even more amazing to me is their movies haven’t suffered for it. Darren Cross is an OK villain, serviceable in the wicked and evil department, but he’s not even close to being memorable.
Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale both turn in good performances as Scott’s ex-wife and her police detective boyfriend, and they rise above the clichéd interpretations of these types of roles. However, their story line of concerned parents/guardians of Scott’s cute daughter was a little too syrupy sweet for my tastes.
Likewise, Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian and T.I. play Scott’s goofball buddies who are in this movie strictly for comic relief as they bumble their way throughout the film trying to help Scott/Ant-Man save the day, and they are funny, but they do gravitate towards the silly and ridiculous and are dumbed down a bit too much for my liking.
But I enjoyed all the Marvel references, from the Avengers, to Iron Man, to Stark Enterprises, to Hydra, to the appearance by the Falcon (Anthony Mackie). These references to the Marvel universe all worked for me.
And I can’t disagree with LL’s assessment that as directed by Peyton Reed, ANT-MAN is a safe film, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not a kid’s movie by any means, but neither is it a hardcore action thriller. It’s, as I’ve said before, like reading a superhero comic book, and it’s done at the utmost level of filmmaking.
There’s also a high “cool” factor about ANT-MAN. When he shrinks down in size and communicates with the ants that help him in combat, it’s all very cool. The special effects during these scenes, while nothing mind-blowing, are certainly excellent. I also really liked the look of both the Ant-Man suit and the Yellowjacket suit.
I saw ANT-MAN in 2D rather than in 3D, and it played fine in this standard format. I loved it just the same.
So, where does ANT-MAN fall in the Marvel canon? Well, it’s not quite on the same level as THE AVENGERS (2012), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, or IRON MAN (2008), but it’s better than the THOR movies and is similar in quality to the CAPTAIN AMERICA films. Think CAPTAIN AMERICA but with much more humor.
And you definitely want to stay for the two end credits scenes. There’s one in the middle and one at the very end. The one at the very end is definitely worth catching, as it ties in with a future Marvel movie.
Some have complained that the Marvel films are growing tired. I disagree. The quality of these movies continues to amaze me, and I continue to enjoy them and look forward to more films from Marvel. They’re on a role similar to Hammer Films when they unleashed their nonstop quality horror films from the late 1950s through the early 1970s.
ANT-MAN is high entertainment, one of the better movies to come out this summer.
I give it three knives.
(There is a huge crash. LS bursts out of the glass jar and grows in size smashing through the ceiling until he towers high above the laboratory.)
LS: You forget. Using this technology, not only can you shrink, but you can make things bigger!
MA: I know. And two can play at that game. I just need to press the AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN button on my utility belt—. (Presses button and suddenly both MA and LS are giants. LS rips a tree out from its roots, and MA picks up a car.)
VOICE: Join us next time for WAR OF THE COLOSSAL CINEMA KNIFE FIGHTERS. Same Cinema Knife Fight time. Same Cinema Knife Fight channel.)