Ant-Man (film review by Frank Ochieng).

July 19, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

When one thinks of a typical super-hero actioner, they imagine the boisterous boundaries that are associated with such an explosive genre: eye-popping special effects, outlandish and grand-standing villains, world domination escapades, complex yet flashy super-heroes that seem unreal and unapologetic and a big scale of unbelievable escapism that is tellingly becoming of a comic book epic on the big screen for the hungry eyes of the giddy moviegoer. Remember, all these described elements are not a bad thing when it comes to larger than life comicbook/superhero fantasies. In fact, we almost insist that our volt-minded vehicles have some kinetic kick to its pulsating, pithy adventures. After all, there is certainly nothing wrong with that approach to the cinematic sensationalism of summertime popcorn pleasers and the costumed heroes that take us on that daring, rollicking ride of magical mayhem.

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However, director Peyton Reed’s ‘Ant-Man’ symbolises a different texture and tone to the familiar action-packed world of Marvel Comics’ outrageous universe both on the printed pages and in the dark movie theatres. It does not necessarily use the overwrought or ultra-stimulating tactics to sell its percolating product as a super-charged heroic fable of mighty manipulators out to save the planet in the tradition of frantic favorites such as ‘The Avengers’ film franchise for instance. Instead, ‘Ant-Man’ relies on its small and intimate take of quirkiness, introspection, a gentle doomsday message of despair and a measurement of an awkward man that wears his bugged-out wardrobe with a sense of curiosity and conviction. In essence, ‘Ant-Man’ is a costumed caper that is high-spirited in its low-key excitement…something quite refreshing and revered in the wild and wacky world of Marvel Comics’ representation of the super-studs and sasses that invade our cinematic sensibilities in the hazy days of summer.

‘Ant-Man’ lead Paul Rudd, an affable actor that has shown various levels of competence in both comedies and dramas over the years, is the unlikely source to don an ant-oriented attire and let his charm and cheekiness take over as the tiny bugged-eyed avenger of right and might. Rudd plays Scott Lang, a former troubled lawbreaker and gifted engineer whose demons come back to haunt him when he gets involved in the burglary shenanigans with his bad news buddies (T.I. and Michael Pena). The reason for Lang’s lure back to crime: a cockeyed but convenient way to win over the affections of his estranged young daughter.

Interestingly, another great analytical mind of mechanics and science in stand-offish Hank Pym (Oscar-winner Michael Douglas) is spotlighted as he too struggles to relate to his daughter as well in the pretty Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). Anyhow, Pym has a colourful backstory as it is revealed that he used to save the world from harm as the underrated crime-fighter Ant-Man. There was no glory or special recognition for Pym’s heroics as the buggy super-hero but his devotion to his crime-stopping craft was realised nevertheless.

As ANT-MAN Paul Rudd's Scott Lang has plans to stop the criminnal foolishness besides raiding a giant-sized picnic basket in Peyton Reed's modest costume caper.

As ANT-MAN Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang has plans to stop the criminal foolishness besides raiding a giant-sized picnic basket in Peyton Reed’s modest costume caper.

The conflicted father-daughter tandem of Pym and Hope eventually recruit the beleaguered Lang to climb into the exo-skeletal red-and-black suit and become the current Ant-Man to continue the mission of promoting goodness over evil. In this specific case, Lang’s Ant-Man is asked to foil the nefarious agenda of Pym’s former protege and associate Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) who threatens to expose the revolutionary shrinking technology to anyone sinister that offers him an insane and immediate price for such secretive scientific information that could jeopardize mankind in the long run. Of course, it goes without saying, that Cross has an ominous alter-ego in the vile Yellowjacket whose back-and-forth clashing with Lang’s Ant-Man leads to the calculating and corrosive chess game of one skilful insidious insect trying to outwit and outmaneuver a conscientious one.

Some may dismiss ‘Ant-Man’ as being too low-grade, cheesy and incidental in its confrontational canvas of saints versus sinners. Still, Reed’s handling of his Marvel-inspired ‘battle of the bugs’ is a winning formula in simplicity because it does not have to be rooted in a spectacular and showy landscape as the other successful bombastic blockbusters that come out of the frivolous factory of Hollywood. Essentially, ‘Ant-Man’ demonstrates the right kind of personality and prestige for its presentation as a scaled-down comic book actioner steeped in the personalised disillusionment of the characterisations and their assorted psyches. Sure, ‘Ant-Man’ will not let anyone forget its popular competitor in the much glorified and iconic standing of another insect-fighting Marvel mastermind in ‘Spider-Ma’n anytime soon. Yet Scott Lang’s Ant-Man is just as angst-ridden, impish, awkward and devoted as Peter Parker’s resilient web-headed wonder Spidey.   

The drama unfolds so convincingly in ‘Ant-Man’ not so much because of the dire dilemma of comicbook goodness and badness but because of the examination of deteriorating relations between broken men and their families or more specifically between fathers and daughters. Both Rudd and Douglas are committed to their roles as the Ant-Men that saved the world with ease past and present but could not say the same thing about rescuing the domestic responsibilities that eluded them under their own roofs. As Lang tries to find an opening for forgiveness toward his little girl and remarried ex-wife (Judy Greer), his current adviser Pym struggles to put the pieces together with a disgruntled Hope that blames her father for the neglect of her well-being as well as the death of her beloved late mother known as the Wasp, a super-heroine that shined in her own shadow of accomplishment.

‘Ant-Man’ is a soulfully weird, witty sliced-down spectacle of a comicbook film that is rare in its skin to deliver the message of a connection not just to stamping out the cartoonish crime and chaos that is routinely found in the playful playground of Marvel’s movie machine of high-powered personalities armed with skillful brute and brilliance. It also has something called heart and hope as it tackles the alienation and isolation of fathers and their vulnerable daughters. It will take more than a gigantic can of Raid to destroy the indomitable presence of ‘Ant-Man’ and what his hedonistic heroics, both physical and psychological, bring to the prized picnic table.

Ant-Man (2015)

Walt Disney Studios

1 hr. 57 mins.

Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Crey Stall, Michael Pena, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, Wood Harris and Abby Ryder Fortson

Directed by: Peyton Reed

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Genre: Comicbook Fantasy, Super-heroes, Action and Adventure

Critic’s Rating: *** stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng (2015)

 

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Category: Films, MEDIA, Superheroes

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About the Author ()

Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

Comments (1)

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  1. avatar Tam says:

    Nice review. I like the fact that this superhero has a little depth to his character. When they show vulnerability it presents a character that is more likable and real. I hate when they use special effects to replace a weak script. Quality writing and interesting characters are a lot more entertaining to watch in my opinion than a flashy explosion or two. I enjoyed reading this review and it appears this will be a superhero movie I might just check out soon.

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