Ant-Man: This time, embrace the change

I saw Ant-Man at the movies Monday night. I always go to the cinema for Marvel films, they are the films that I just can’t wait for to be released on dvd. I made the subtitle for this review a quote from Season 1 of Agents of Shield. Fitz says to Simmons, “This time Simmons, embrace the change.” and that just came to mind.

I know I still haven’t written about Age of Ultron. To be honest I’m now thinking that I saw it so long ago, I should wait until the dvd is released to remind myself of what I thought. I didn’t mean to miss reviewing the big Avengers mash-up, climax to phase two but I was ill and lazy.

Anyway, onto Ant-Man which has topped the UK box office, though it’s not done nearly as well as other Marvel films. Although, considering it’s still likely to make a good profit given it’s smaller budget, and the fact that it’s numbers could go up with word of mouth reviews, it’s not exactly bad news. It’s a bit like complaining you got an A on the test rather than an A* but Marvel is used to galactic success.

So what did I think? Oh and in the words of Coulson – “Spoiler alert.”

Phases and Genres
Marvel Phase One had two Iron Man films, Captain America and Thor. I suppose technically I could also count the Incredible Hulk movie in there, but I never do, I don’t really consider it part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Phase Two had Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Guardian’s of the Galaxy. Now Marvel have said that Ant-Man isn’t the start of Phase Three, presumably because they didn’t want to kick off with something so odd. However, the film came after Avengers: Age of Ultron, so it’s the first film in Phase Three, whether Marvel want to bill it as that or not.

Now I’m talking about the other Marvel films a bit because each film has had a different flavor. They have been shot using different cinematic techniques, evoked different emotions with the soundtrack and score, the dialogue and plots have fallen into different genres. One continuity of films but they are not all from the same place, they are different.

Guardian’s of the Galaxy was seen as Marvel taking a walk on the goofy comedy side. However, Ant-Man takes that and cranks it up to eleven. If Ant-Man was intended to be anything other than a comedy film I would be very surprised.

In terms of added development to Phase Three, outside of the existence of another superhero, there’s a few important points. Hydra is still out there, still well funded, still interested in advanced technology. However, I don’t think Hydra is united as it once was, perhaps like when Shield fell, multiple splinter cells started operating. The end of Agents of Shield season two suggested that Ward was taking over Hydra. However, I very much doubt he was the leader behind the group buying the Yellow Jacket, that would be too much power for him within the confines of the show, hence my multiple Hydra operations theory.

At the end with Falcon looking for Ant-Man, there’s the line “we got a guy who jumps, swings and crawls on walls” which I’m fairly positive is an allusion to Spider-Man. Now, Spider-Man hasn’t been seen within the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet, but he’s getting his introduction in the Captain America: Civil War movie. Given how many people are in it, I just think they should name it The Avengers: Civil War and be done with it, but I digress. This was a line that wouldn’t seem out of place to people not looking for it, but it was like an anvil for anyone aware of what is coming next. In other words, a nice touch.

The mid point credits scene indicated that we might be seeing the Wasp, in the guise of Hope Pym, Hank and Janet’s daughter, as yet another superhero in the future. However, it was the end credits scene that really indicated that this was part of Phase Three, leading up to the next film Captain America: Civil War.

Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson are in what looked to me like a garage, Bucky is hunched over on the ground. They are talking about what to do with him. Steve said that “he’d ask Tony to help but he doesn’t know if the accords would let him” or words to that effect. I didn’t actually hear the words “the accords” in the cinema, I couldn’t make out the words but google came to the rescue when I got home.

I’m on record as saying I’m skeptical about how effective a plot about superhero registration could be, given that most of the superheroes that have been launched so far don’t have secret identities. However, until we get more information about how exactly they are going to handle it, there’s no point in worrying, besides Marvel seemed to prove every time that they can pull anything off and make it look good at the same time.

The film itself
The start of the film set the tone, there was a scene from 1989 I think it was and it had Howard Stark and Peggy Carter. Now, when they use makeup or special effects to age actors, I never usually believe it. However, I thought this was very well done. They had the same actor back that played the older Howard Stark from the early Iron Man films, and Haley Atwell was of course playing Peggy Carter.

The dialogue was excellent, there were so many little comments subtly woven into the movie, I can’t even remember them all. I absolutely loved it when Scott Lang said “I think you should call the Avengers.” mostly because that is usually my thought in solo superhero films. When the Mandarin (or not) was blowing everything up in Iron Man 3, why didn’t Tony just call rest of the team up for an assist? When Shield had fallen to the dark side, sure Falcon was an awesome wingman but why didn’t Cap and Natasha call up Barton? or Tony? or even Thor as his movie came first and he was in London with Jane at the end.

Hank Pym’s acidic response about them being “too busy dropping cities out of the sky” wasn’t all that subtle, it was obviously an Age of Ultron quip but it actually said more than the words. I thought in the end credits scene that given the plot in the comics for civil war is Tony vs Steve, that Steve didn’t seem nearly angry or bitter enough about Tony. It was almost like he wanted to ask his friend for help, knew his friend would help him if he could, but his friend was trapped by circumstances. Pym’s words had the same sort of emotive suggestion.

In Age of Ultron Maria Hill tells the team they need to go to ground, after their disasterous mission which ends with Hulk vs Hulkbuster, causing untold damage and endangering countless civilians. The news reports, the teams own demeanour, everything suggests that the world has had enough. They want protecting, they want The Avengers when they are scared but they want The Avengers to do a cleaner job. They want to be protected without as much destruction, they are starting to think that perhaps The Avengers are part of the problem, and not the solution.

I suppose it’s that fear, that the superheroes are out of control, that the “world is filling up with people who can’t be matched” to quote Nick Fury. It’s going to be that which fuels the Civil War movie. If someone like Hank Pym, who did the superhero thing, and knows what it looks like from that side, feels that way. Then I guess maybe it makes it easier to believe that the heroes we know could fall down on different sides of the debate.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic a bit. Back to the film itself the Falcon vs Ant-Man fight was awesome, especially the “don’t tell Cap about this” joke at the end. It was nice to see the New Avengers facility too, I like continuity like that. However, part of me was sorry that in order for Ant-Man to seem like a bigger deal (no pun intended) he had to defeat an Avenger, which meant Falcon had to lose. Falcon is quite new, and was sort of seen as the sidekick in Winter Soldier, which is unfair, I think he deserves better.

There were the funny moments as seen in the trailer, like Yellow Jacket getting run over by a Thomas model train. That train got accidentally enlarged and that was funny as well. I’m a bit of a sucker for Thomas, as I loved that fandom as a kid, so it perhaps meant more to me than it would have to others.

Paul Rudd played “normal guy in over his head” extremely well and to be honest showed his comedic background quite well. I say he has a comedy background and I don’t know if he does, sure he was in Friends but aside from that I tend to think of him as a romantic-comedy film guy. I could be wrong about that but him playing a superhero did seem like a stretch, except they totally embraced who he was. His “did I ruin the moment?” and “Hope what do you mean by grabbing and kissing me?” etc. really just fit him as an actor and made for a more believable character.

I was really sad for him actually. I know in America paying child support is a big deal, I don’t think Britain has the same concern. I wondered when I was watching whether it was a legal courts decision that he couldn’t have visitation until he paid, or if it was just something the mother decided and as she had custody she could enforce that, unless he applied for visitation through the courts which he couldn’t afford to do.

He didn’t seem like a bad father, which is why I thought it was a shame that the kids mother wouldn’t even let him stay at her birthday party. I guess he was just out of prison, and they wanted to protect her from being disappointed and let down if he relapsed, which I guess he sort of did. However, he wouldn’t have had the motivation to relapse, to try and get a big score to get on his feet fast, if he wasn’t haunted by the fact that it would be well over a year before he could see his daughter otherwise.

The real negative
The film did have to have a negative point and for me that was the ants. Yes I know, it’s a film called Ant-Man and so of course there were going to be ants. However, I am bug phobic, I seriously loathe the things. At our old house we had a couple of re-occurring bouts of ants crawling everywhere. To this day I don’t know if there was a nest somewhere near, or if it was just the time of year or what but it was disgusting.

A couple of times in the movie there were like swarms of these ants and I just felt sick. I closed my eyes and that made it even worse, being able to hear but not see, my imagination can conjure far worse sights than reality.

It was seriously not nice at all. I knew that there would be ants before I went to the film, the trailer had made that clear. I decided because it was Marvel I would go and see it anyway, and I am glad that I did because I liked the film. However, when I get the dvd, if I rewatch it I will fast forward through the ant sections because I just can’t cope with them.

I’m sure I’ve missed saying a lot, however I think I have rambled on long enough. Basically the film gets a big thumbs up, especially considering what a risk it was. I mean would anyone have believed that the Ant-Man film would have got made, and topped the box office, ten years ago? That’s the Marvel effect.

I saw the film with a friend, they actually said that they thought it was the best Marvel film they had seen. Now, I’m fairly certain they haven’t seen all of them. However, they even preferred it to Age of Ultron which we saw back in May. Part of that is undoubtedly because the Marvel films really aren’t their kind of thing. The point they were trying to make though, is that they thought the Ant-Man plot was much easier to follow, they could understand and relate to it better than all the action scenes that made up Age of Ultron.

I don’t agree that it was the best Marvel film. I’m still very much enamored with Captain America: The Winter Soldier but I think that actually says something even better, something greater. The Marvel movies, they are all bound together, everything is connected, it’s a single continuity. However, there is something for everyone.

If one film isn’t your particular cup of tea, then perhaps the next film will be more to your liking. Within a single franchise they have allowed multiple points of entry, they have allowed people with different tastes to have their own favourites. Perhaps that is why, as a franchise, the films are so popular, as they are all different, even though they are all linked.

Guardian’s of the Galaxy might have been Marvel’s first foray into uncharted waters, testing whether the Marvel movies could continue without their heavy hitters. However, Ant-Man proves really that they have the Midas touch. To be honest I no longer doubt that Marvel can pull off anything they put their mind too, they have the right combination of magic that just makes it work.

That doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes. Iron Man 3, is a Marvel film that I have heavily criticized. However, what I mean is my faith has been renewed that the upcoming slate of films stand a chance. I was concerned, I still am concerned, that Marvel might bite off more than they can chew. With Ant-Man though, they took a concept that I was incredibly dubious about, and made a great movie.

I’m going to embrace that change, the next stage, phase three, the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s going to be different, it’s going to be a lot bigger, and like all things it will eventually end. However, until then, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.

Definitely recommended.