Sunday, 15 November 2015

Ant-Man (2015)

Its funny to think that when I first heard about an Ant-Man movie being made, I admit, I scoffed at it. I really thought there was no way they could make a genuinely decent movie about an ant sized man fighting baddies in a Marvel cinematic universe. I mean lets be honest here, its a tall order innit, how could you fit this guy in without it being a mockery, too childish and with CGI overkill. Then there were all the writing/screenplay alterations with Wright and Cornish leaving the project and the worry of everything getting turned upside down, bit like 'Fantastic Four' really. Sure enough there are signs of this, minor scars if you like, but despite all that, this movie has turned out to be a much needed breath of fresh air.

Finally we have a Marvel movie where this is no bloody mcguffin for the heroes to find, finally! This time its a straight forward case of our heroes Lang, Pym and Hope trying to steal the Yellowjacket suit from the baddie Cross (Pym's old protege) who intends to sell it to Hydra. The Yellowjacket suit is based on technology created by Pym and his own Ant-Man suit, which he has kept hidden away for many years. All this time Cross has been developing his own technology to equal Pym's, having been dropped by Pym when he was younger. So now, in order to protect the world, Pym has to use Lang to try and steal the Yellowjacket technology so it can't fall in the wrong hands.

You know what I really loved about this, the point where the Avengers are brought up in conversation by Pym and Lang. Everyone always asks about how the Avengers never turn up to help in these solo character movies, and this movie actually addresses that, which is cool. Lang asks why they don't just call for the Avengers, and Pym tells him why, its a little simple thing but it does actually make all the difference.

The other things I loved about this movie were of course the effects and the whole shrinking aspect. Much like the old classic 1950's movie 'The Incredible Shrinking Man', the science fiction plot favourite involving miniscule size has always been a good one, a sure winner (for me at least). Much like this famous 50's movie, the idea offers fantastic scope for some great imagination merely involving everyday simple things we take for granted. It opens up whole new worlds that exist just beneath out feet, or out of sight behind a wall etc...Worlds that look and feel completely alien but are actually right here with us all the time, we just don't see it. This notion has worked so well in the past and it works well again here, as we see Lang shrinking down to the size of an ant and exploring new landscapes such as an ant nest in the garden, a child's bedroom or a drainage system. Now admittedly this is an action movie so naturally there isn't that much quirky B-movie-esque exploration going on, its more like brief scenes of training and planning leading to a big action sequence.

Of course we all expect this, it being a Marvel comicbook movie, in no way did I expect Lang to go on a charming romp around the house getting into all sorts of dangerous yet amusing scenarios like fighting spiders or cats or getting sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. Yes...this does kinda happen, but its not really like that, this isn't a delightful, black and white, 1950's science fiction movie. Nevertheless, I loved that aspect of the film, the giant effects, the micro effects, the way the world would look and feel if you were the size of an ant (with a handy invincible suit). I loved the ant nest sequences and the ants, I loved how they weren't perceived as huge insect monsters (although, at the same time that did seem a bit childish that they weren't giant insect monsters), would have been super sweet to see him fight some ants and show his authority...but I guess there wasn't time, and it wouldn't have fit in with the plot either. I also loved Pym's period house (kinda looked like a typical San Francisco, Victorian styled building to me) which gave a lot more atmosphere to the movie, a kind of neat kooky atmosphere which really helped with the whole mad scientist vibe. Just a shame we didn't really see any old fashioned large scale models or props which were always a good highlight in the older movies, its all mostly CGI.

On the whole the movie is great fun and as I said before a really pleasant change of pace for comicbook flicks. Its not perfect by any means and despite the infused comical aspects they don't hide faults. I am still not completely sure how Pym came to know of Lang's existence, he says he's being watching him and his antics but how exactly did Pym ever come across Lang in the first place? I didn't really like the character of Hope Van Dyne (Pym's daughter), she comes across as whiny and annoying because she still hasn't forgiven her father for the death of her mother. But seriously, that was when she was a child, you need to forgive and move on! This also leads me to Pym, its really stupid how he waits nearly half his life before telling Hope the truth about her mother, like why the f**k would you wait that long?? This also feels really forced and too convenient for the plot, he manages to grow the balls to tell her at the exact time when Lang is there for a nice little teary, emotionally awkward scene. Plus she virtually instantly forgives him!! she holds a grudge for so damn long then forgives him just like that? even knowing that he clearly should of told her way before this! pfft!

Another negative point for me was the inclusion of the weakest, most pointless Avenger going, Falcon. Yeah...that regular everyday military dude who simply uses metallic wings to fly, something that any flippin' military bloke could do with training. This scene is obviously the main link to the Avengers world and the rest of the Marvel movies and their characters, but it feels so so forced and awkward. For a start Anthony Mackie is a shit actor plain and simple, and this performance is dreadful, really bad, really hammy. It doesn't help that it clearly looks like its been filmed on part set and part live action, it looks tacky. It also doesn't help that the fight is terrible, hokey lookin' and with poor effects and choreography. They should used a better character to fight Ant-Man (as we are shown), Lang beats him easily.

The best scene on the other hand must be the fight with Yellowjacket on the children's train set/bedroom (loved how they used those old retro kiddie train sets with the big wooden blocks for bridges). This whole sequence is inspired and makes good use of the environment around the characters and of course humour. This scene did almost bring back memories of those old 50's gems with the large scale toys, the jungle-esque carpet and all the ants running around like wild horses on the plains. I adored how Lang's daughter looks on at the battle from afar, only to see her small train set going round and round, with tiny little laser blasts going off like a mini light show, and tine men jumpin' around. Switch back to Lang's perspective and the battle is in your face, dangerous, deadly and rip-roaring! In all honesty though, Lang appeared to have a huge army of ants on his side, ants are very strong and deadly in a swarm, I reckon they would (should) have overcome Yellowjacket myself. Finishing on Yellowjacket and his expiration, not really sure how Lang didn't end up dead with him. His suit shrinks uncontrollably to nothing, obviously killing Cross, but surely killing Lang too as he was inside the suit? Didn't follow how he ended up in the subatomic realm (Superman, Phantom Zone parallel?) instead of getting squished.

All in all, I can happily say this movie was a complete blast from start to finish. A few things I didn't get on with like the annoying, forced humour from Pena and co as the ex-con friends of Lang, the CGI looked a tad ropy in spots, Hope was annoying and Pym surely has an ant infestation problem in his lovely old house! Nevertheless! the plot was handled well, the acting was solid, the CGI to make Douglas look young at the start was impressive, the adventure was engaging, the main characters were generally likeable, a decent, cool looking (yet once again bald) villain, and it all finishes nicely for a follow up. But the most important thing, as already said, it was a breath of fresh air, a good lungful of good, clean, fun fresh air for all to enjoy. Comicbook fatigue held at bay...for now.