In “Serenity”, there’s this scene where Mal gets ready to set out on a heroic mission, and he tells his crew “Now, if I’m not back in an hour, I want you to take this ship, take off… and you come and you rescue me!” and right at the pause I knew that he would say that. Which is why, even though I could appreciate the gag on an intellectual level, it didn’t make me laugh. For something to be funny, it needs to be surprising. Unfortunately, with “Ant-Man”, there were plenty of jokes that fell flat with me because I could see them coming from a mile away.
Now, mind you: Nothing is more divisive than humor. What will bring someone to tears from laughter might not even make another one chuckle. And I know that I’m probably on the minority here (which seems to happen more and more recently), since many in the cinema laughed their asses off. However, for me, many of the gags didn’t really work. Be it because, as just mentioned, I saw where this was going and thus didn’t find it particularly funny anymore, or simply because it just wasn’t my kind of humor. For example, beforehand, I’ve read in a couple of reviews how funny Michael Pena is in this, but I’m sorry, his character mostly didn’t work for me. He was the amusing ethnic sidekick who was supposed to be hilarious because he talked funny. I also didn’t care for all the times where a scene that actually threatened to delve into emotional territory got derailed with a cheap gag – which didn’t just happen once, but multiple times. For me, this made the movie feel incredibly immature, like a male teenager who’s afraid to show his emotions, thus he makes a joke out of everything. Since when did making us feel something become a bad thing? I don’t know, I really didn’t care for this snarky tone that seemed to make fun of “Ant-Man”‘s own, emotional scenes – which for me were the moments where it actually worked best. Or would have worked best, if they wouldn’t have ruined the mood every single fucking time.
Another problem that “Ant-Man” shares with many other Marvel-movies: The bad guy is very bland. In that regard, “Ant-Man” reminded me very much of the ok-but-not-great first “Iron Man”-movie. Darren Cross seems like a carbon copy of Obediah Stone (they even share the same haircut 😉 ): a villainous business man who ends up in a suit very similar to the one donned by our hero. It doesn’t help that he’s clichéd beyond belief, taking out a business partner just because he has some concerns about his plans. That his nemesis Scott Lang fares better lies mostly with Paul Rudd, who gives this his all, and plays the role with incredible charm. Unfortunately, he’s hindered by a rather flat character who, in contrast to Tony Stark, doesn’t go through any sort of character development. Not only does he come out of prison already a good guy, but we hear later that he also already was a good guy while committing his crimes, only taking from the rich, like some semi-Robin Hood (“semi” because while he takes from the rich, he neglects to give to the poor; at least as long as said poor aren’t him). Thus, there’s no reformation taking place, no redemption. Which for me was one of the main reasons why “Ant-Man” didn’t quite reach the same (moderate) heights of the first “Iron Man”, which vastly benefited from Tony Stark’s character growth. I also didn’t really feel any chemistry between Scott and Hope, thus, the obligatory kiss at the end seemed to come out of nowhere (I definitely had to agree with Hank’s shocked/surprised “Where did that came from?”). I really wish they would have waited with that until the sequel. Finally, as much as I like the idea of Marvels shared cinematic universe, I could have done without the Falcon-sequence, which wasn’t particularly exciting (he’s not the biggest and/or most interesting MCU-star anyway), and felt a little forced and unnecessary.
It’s not without its merits and strengths, though. What really sets this one apart from previous Marvel superhero movies is the concept of a hero that can change his size with the push of a button. The sequences with a shrunken Scott are really marvelous, and definitely stand out. They’re extremely well done, the special effects are flawless, and there definitely were a couple of eye-opening shots in there (with the first shrinking in the bathtub and the “atomic level” two particular standouts). It also leads to some great, novel scenes like the fight on the model railway, as well as a couple of very funny moments. The whole movie was shot really well, with the action scenes a particular standout; dynamic, but still clear and comprehensible. Also, after a couple of movies where the 3D was mostly unnecessary, it really was worth it here – mostly because of the scales in the shrinking scenes. As mentioned before, I also really liked Paul Rudd in this role. As unnecessary as I felt the Falcon-scene to be, other allusions to the MCU fared better, like the post-credits-sequence(s) or the casual mention of a “wall crawler”. The best scene of the movie though, hands-down, was the opening, with a young Hank Prym (an extremely convincingly de-aged Michael Douglas) and an old Peggy Carter (an equally convincingly aged Hayley Atwell). Overall, “Ant-Man” is a decent movie with a charming lead, some standout moments and a couple of funny scenes – but in my personal MCU-best-to-worst-list, it nevertheless only manages to outperform “The Incredible Hulk” and “Iron Man 2” in terms of overall quality and entertainment value.