Ant-Man

July 21, 2015 at 9:46 am | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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In some ways, this film seems like the natural step in Marvel Studio’s progression of superhero movies and that worries me. As I have mentioned before, Marvel and DC have taken very different approaches to bringing their characters to the screen. DC has gone the darker route, deciding that it could best deal with the inherent hokeyness of costumed characters by making them grittier and more flawed. We see this in the “Dark Knight” trilogy, the new Superman movies, the upcoming “Suicide Squad” and in their TV shows “Arrow” and “Gotham.” Marvel, on the other hand, has chosen to embrace the bigness and brightness of comic books, offering up story lines that are (with the exception of Netflix’s amazing “Daredevil” series) fun, over-the-top romps. To this end, “Ant-Man” embraces the inherent silliness of the character with a tongue-in-cheek, winking at the camera approach. Paul Rudd, who has made his career as a supporting actor in films like the “Anchorman” movies and “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” finally get’s his opportunity to lead and seems the perfect fit. He has an aw-shucks, everyman appearance but his default expression is a sort of mischievous half smile that seems perfectly suited to the film’s tone. The humor is sometimes a little hidden, like when one of the characters is whistling, “It’s a Small World,” but it is never subtle (“It’s a Small World,” get it?). And often the humor falls into lazy pratfalls and stereotypes, like the too-incompetent-to-really-be-funny cops or the happy-go-lucky, big-hearted but kinda dumb Hispanic guy. These are cheap and clichéd jokes that mostly fell flat for me. In fact, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the film was relying too much or not-so-funny humor to fill it for it’s not-so-fun action scenes. Admittedly, it’s hard to make the sort of grand fight scenes Marvel is famous for when the main hero is just a dot on the screen. They try hard but this film lacked the wow that their best ones have. I have to also express a bit of a pet peeve here. I can allow for sci-fi or superhero films to play it loose with basic physics but I do feel like a film should play by its own rules. The whole idea of Ant-Man is that, when he shrinks, he remains as dense as he was when full-sized (hence all of his abilities). However, inanimate objects (such as blocks, electronic equipment, toy trains and real tanks) all play by their own rules; some of them retain their original density but others do not, as it best serves the joke of the moment. In fact, the film wants to have it both ways, often moments apart, as when the Thomas the Engine toy runs into the shrunken bad guy and then just topples over because it is so light and he has remained his normal density. It’s a funny sight gag but, a few minutes later, the same toy is enlarged to real train size and suddenly smashes through a wall because, apparently, it’s density does change. I get the funny image of a giant toy train lying in the street but it’s lazy humor because they want to have the joke both ways. Maybe that wouldn’t bother me (probably it wouldn’t) if the film had been enjoyable enough in other ways but, as I said, it seemed to rely more heavily on its humor than anything else. This worries me a bit because, if Marvel intends to continue to plumb the recesses of their archives for film opportunities, they need to not be so lazy in how they develop these characters. The Marvel films that have worked best have always had humor but have been entertaining action films first. Let’s hope they get back to that with the inevitable sequel.

 

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