Cinematic Releases: Ant-Man - Guaranteed Spoiler Free Review

We review Marvel's latest, Ant-Man. No spoilers. No nonsense.

With Ant-Man, I really had no idea what to expect. It appeared fun, but nothing special. I figured it would make for passable entertainment while I wait for the next major comic film. With the mystery of what exactly lead to Edgar Wright's exit from the director's chair, I'll always be wondering what it would have turned out like had he stayed on board. With some of the most slick, clever action comedies under his belt like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim, it's perplexing as to why Marvel picked him in the first place if they ended up not seeing eye to eye. I mean, you do know who you hired for this thing, right? So, you go with the director of Bring it On and New Girl instead? Ant-Man ultimately turns out a really fun movie, and to certain audiences that's all that will matter.
To be honest, I was a little bored at first. One of the first things I noticed that was so not Edgar Wright is the cinematography serving up perhaps the dullest looking Marvel film to date. The camera work lacks depth and motion, relying on actor's heads to fill half of the usually static image. Too much of the film is just actor's heads filling the screen and talking at each other. It's totally flat. Perhaps it was purposeful, since when we start getting down to business with the whole shrinking stuff, the imagery becomes far more striking. I think I understand what director Peyton Reed was going for, but when returning to regular size, where most of the heart of the story lies, the dry imagery doesn't compliment the soul written into the script.

"Oooh, piece o' candy!"
Marvel falters again with a villain who feels underdeveloped and nonthreatening. Darren Cross, played by the underutilized Corey Stoll, is a bad guy with cliché motivations we've seen in another Marvel film. He's essentially a repackaged Obadiah Stane in a younger body with a story arc almost literally copied and pasted from Iron Man. It's made more unfortunate for the fact that Corey Stoll is so damn talented, as evidenced by his bitterly conflicted performance in House of Cards.

Likewise, the story itself is rather cut and dry—predictable even. You already know what's going to happen to the bad guy. You already know who the love interest is. You already know there's going to be a montage. You gotta have a montage. You already know where the hero is going to fall and have to be picked back up. The formula is painfully obvious here. But, wait. Rewind. I did say that the movie is really fun, didn't I? Indeed, I did.

Despite all of this, I couldn't help to be fascinated by Ant-Man. It took me back to the larger-than-life films of the 80s I grew up with. I kept imagining children seeing Ant-Man for the first time and it becoming a childhood favorite of theirs, something they'll watch three times a day wishing they had an awesome shrink suit so they can sneak around the house, hiding under dressers and jumping on Lego blocks.
True, Ant-Man is without question Marvel's safest film to date. True, it's formulaic. True, it's predictable. The further you go in the film, the more you get dragged along for the ride, smiling whether you know it or not, and you realize that this isn't for thirty-year-old me. It's for the kids in the audience. That's what this film was made for. It was truly designed for kids.
"Avengers tryouts, Take 1."

They've nearly thought of everything here. The bite-sized skirmishes explode and expand every detail around you. It's like the film makers themselves plopped down on the carpet of an elementary school kid's room and flew little figures around deciding what they can smash into or fly under. The action segments are huge, exhilarating, stunningly choreographed, and most importantly a ton of fun.

This is Marvel, of course, and there is no shortage of well-timed comedy that keeps a near-permanent smile on your face. Paul Rudd is perfectly cast, no surprise there. He makes us care, makes us laugh, and puts the audience in his position without unintentionally breaking the fourth wall. I'm really excited now to see more Ant-Man, especially with Rudd. The guy is overflowing with charm and makes a snug fit in the Marvel universe.

Please, take your kids to see this. We need a new hero for children to cherish and Ant-Man fits the bill. Be warned, there is a minor issue of language some parents might be sensitive to, but this is otherwise a great time for the whole family. Despite my butt hurt over missing Edgar Wright as director, his thumb print can still be strongly felt here and there throughout the script. Perhaps, after playing it safe this time, the inevitable Ant-Man sequel can take a risk on Edgar Wright's wild, energetic style. With Spider-man and Ant-Man now being added to the Civil War roster, this has gotten me even more excited for the next Marvel flick. Give us more Ant-Man!

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- J.G. Barnes