‘Ant-Man’ Review: Bite-sized thrills

While the rest of the world is wondering what Ant-Man could have been had Edgar Wright directed it he envisioned, there is a more important question that isn’t being pondered: What could Ant-Man be if it were not part of the overhyped, over-budgeted big screen melodrama that is the Marvel Universe? 

Peyton Reed’s film is fine. It drags along predictably the way most origin flicks do, with a slow and mostly mundane beginning that speeds up nicely as the protagonist discovers his purpose in life, which in this case, is to shrink and telepathically control ants.

However, its high points are ultimately compromised by that feeling that it’s a lego piece of a grand plan that may or may not work. Every time it echoes its linkages to superheroes from previous films, such as when a character cracks a joke about the Avengers or that lackluster fight scene between the titular hero and Falcon, one can’t help but wonder whether or not the studio made the flick because it truly believed in the superhero or because they just needed a bit of gas to push their plans to their ultimate fruition.

 

Origin story 

It really is a pity because Ant-Man has the makings of something gloriously fun. Without the unnecessary baggage of seeing the film as part of a bloated franchise, it presents a concept that is bursting with comic possibilities, some of which the screenplay that is credited to Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and actor Paul Rudd utilizes to great effect. 

Let’s start with the main conflict, which is basically your standard superhero fare by way of an invention that threatens world peace if harnessed by the wrong hands. The invention is a suit that safely shrinks live specimens, discovered by Dr Pym (Michael Douglas) and chased for years by his protege-turned-rival Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). 

GOTCHA. Corey Stoll plays Yellowjacket in 'Ant-Man.' Photo courtesy of Disney

GOTCHA. Corey Stoll plays Yellowjacket in 'Ant-Man.

' Photo courtesy of Disney

Dr. Pym, who has his daughter (Evangeline Lilly) spy on Darren but hesitates on having her wear the suit out of some long-kept family secret, sends Scott Lang (Rudd, who aptly portrays the main character as someone whose charm and wit are his best qualities, and not his lousy superpower), a cat burglar of above-average mental capabilities, instead. 

CHOICES. Dr Hank Pym chooses Scott Lang to wear the special suit. Photo courtesy of Disney

CHOICES. Dr Hank Pym chooses Scott Lang to wear the special suit.

Photo courtesy of Disney

Cute caper

Ant-Man is basically a heist film, a cute little caper that could have fared a little bit better had it embraced its B-movie tendencies. Sadly, it also postures as a spectacle film, forcing Reed to recruit tons of special effects to make Scott’s adventures in microscopic land slick, shiny, and somewhat disposable.

The downside of the eye-candy however is a certain lack of personality in the visuals. Whenever we get a peek at the world that is too small to be seen by the naked eye, it is all drab browns, dull greens, and lifeless steel – all unattractive colors that basically sum up the look Reed employs to paint the fantasy that envelopes this comic book tale.

Thankfully, Ant-Man is more funny than it is action-packed. The film works best when it laces the superhero formula it fervently follows with some humor and wit. For example, its heist elements are turned boisterous by a trio of racial stereotypes (Michael Pena, T.I., and David Dastmalchian) who bumble and rumble like idiots even in the most serious of situations. 

In other words, Reed at least acknowledges how patently ridiculous the film is and steers it towards a direction that attempts to marry the demands of being a film within a tired franchise and as a stand-alone episode that works just all right as a solid piece of irreverent entertainment.

FLICK. Evangeline Lilly is Hope van Dyne in Marvel's 'Ant-Man.' Photo courtesy of Disney

FLICK. Evangeline Lilly is Hope van Dyne in Marvel's 'Ant-Man.

' Photo courtesy of Disney

Small scale 

Ant-Man seems stuck in between two universes. It wants to be a big blockbuster just like its more beloved brethren, but it is small in more ways than one. It dabbles in drama, with the bludgeoned father-daughter dynamics that motivates both Pym and Darren, but it also abandons all seriousness with abrupt flights towards slapstick and sci-fi hullabaloo. 

It is a Marvel flick, warts and all, but most of its pleasures lie in the parts where it forgets its relevance within the overcrowded comic book world. The film’s best scene is where a climactic battle whose stakes are as big as the city-destroying ones the Avengers take part in happens inside a kid’s bedroom, where dolls and other playthings are turned into obstacles and weapons. 

YELLOWJACKET. This tiny villain causes a lot of trouble. Photo courtesy of Disney

YELLOWJACKET. This tiny villain causes a lot of trouble.

Photo courtesy of Disney

The scene, ingeniously conceived and deftly directed, reflects everything that is wrong in the recent barrage of superhero flicks that Ant-Man addresses. It abandons the attention-whoring world-saving that most superhero flicks obsess over for something that is more intimate and less extravagant. 

It really is a lovely gesture, one that proves that the best superheroes are not the ones with the greatest of powers but are the ones with the most humble of desires. – Rappler.com

 Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios