So, we took a while getting around to this one, and there's a few reasons for that. The first is that I didn't want to expend time and money going to see it in a cinema, and the second is that I wasn't that fussed about seeing it at all. Out of all of the Marvel films, this is the one I've been least excited for so far, not least because it is more than a little insulting to have the Wasp, a founding member of the Avengers, be absent from the MCU while her abuser, wife-beater Hank Pym, has a central role in a film.
(He's not the titular Ant-Man, luckily, not least because Joss Whedon, who pushed for the Wasp's inclusion in The Avengers only to be overruled, is totally unwilling to write Pym in a heroic role, so good on him for that.)
Scott Lang, a cat burglar recently released from prison, is drawn back into a life of crime by the lure of a big job that would let him pay child support and see his daughter. However, after he steals a suit from the mansion of enigmatic scientist Hank Pym, he is recruited by Pym and his daughter Hope for a heist: Steal a militarised version of the Ant-Man tech, the Yellowjacket suit, from the high security headquarters of the eccentric and dangerous Derren Cross.
|The Yellowjacket suit is nice, I guess.|
So, when I reviewed Guardians of the Galaxy, I likened it to a late-90s early-2000s space opera: Very Farscape, with tinges of Star Trek, Star Wars and Stargate, a throwback to a genre that doesn't really exist any more and hasn't for a few years now. It was a wonderful experience, in large part because of that element of nostalgia.
Ant-Man is also nostalgic for a bygone genre: The 1990s comedy action film, like Flubber, Baby Geniuses, Cats and Dogs, and so on, so forth. If you cast your mind back to those films, you'll remember that they were all terrible. Every single one. Bad from start to finish, barely tolerable for children, and even less tolerable for adults. That's the genre that Ant-Man is emulating.
And, you know, Ant-Man does manage to avoid being quite that bad, but it also doesn't manage to ever be good. It's there: Not painful, but not enjoyable either. Bad, but not horribly so. It's easily the worst Marvel film - and I am including every Spiderman film in that - but it's still probably better than half of DC's live action offerings. What we're dealing with here is just mediocrity, more than anything. Depressing, crushing mediocrity for two hours.
|The Ant-Man suit is fine as well.|
Part of that is that it's full of cliches, and they're never the good cliches. One big cliche that makes up the entire foundation of the film is the 'there's a woman who is more qualified for the job of protagonist than the protagonist is in every possible way, but she's passed over for poorly explained reasons.' In this case, the woman is Hope, Pym's daughter, and the poor explanation we get is 'Pym doesn't want to put her in danger because of what happened to his wife, Janet.' That plotline is resolved about halfway through the film, incidentally, but Hope is still passed over.
Her character arc ends not with her skills and her agency to make her own choices being recognised, but with her blandly accepting that the much less qualified, capable man will just have to be the one to wear the suit from now on.
I'd actually be interested to see if anybody has any examples of that ever happening the other way around: A woman being given a superpower/destiny/special equipment despite a nearby man being more qualified in every way, with the woman's character arc being recognising how amazing she actually is, and the man's character arc being to accept his supporting role.
|Wasn't Evangeline Lilly on Lost? I seem to remember her being on Lost.|
I don't think you'll find one (and definitely not more than a couple, even if you do), because the purpose of this cliche has always been to give lip service to gender equality while still being misogynist: "Look," the writers say, "look how capable and strong this woman is! She has trained for years. She is the best there is at what she does," and we are meant to 'ooo' and 'aaa' and talk about how progressive the writers are, while the story tells us that despite this woman being better than the everyman male protagonist in every conceivable way, she must still play second fiddle to him.
And the film has nothing else going for it to balance that out. The jokes are okay but never laugh-out-loud funny. Cross is a hammy, 90s children's film villain, disposable in the extreme, with nothing to distinguish him from the crowd and no dramatic weight behind him. Every plot twist is so predictable that you can see it coming from miles off. Nobody is bringing their A-game to their performances, resulting in everybody's acting seeming as phoned in as humanly possible.
It's just so mediocre. Two hours of depressing, droning mediocrity that leaves nothing in the way of a lasting impression.
You don't need to watch this film. If you were a child in the nineties, you have seen this film many times already, you don't need to relive that experience as an adult, and nor do you need to force it onto other children, whose minds are yet innocent and unsullied by bad comedy action films.
Give this film a miss, is what I'm saying.