Ant-Man: I’m Feeling Paul Rudd, But Not the Movie

When Pym Technologies creator Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) learns that his protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), is weaponizing a suit that uses the Ant-Man technology, he recruits ex-con Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to become the new Ant-Man.

Even after a whole weekend to think about Ant-Man, I still have no clue how I feel about Ant-Man. Let me back up. I know it’s a good movie, but I’m having trouble pinpointing why it’s not great.

I mean, the special effects were well done, particularly in the fight sequences where Ant-Man had to shrink and grow around his assailants, as well as in the “subatomic shrinking” scene that was almost dream-like with its design. Of course, Paul Rudd is hilarious and charming as usual, which makes it easy to love him as the hero and the fallen-from-grace father who just wants to do right by his daughter. And we can’t forget about the hysterical scene with Ant-Man and Falcon when Ant-Man breaks into the Avengers facility (I’ll give you a hint of how it goes: Falcon says “Don’t tell Cap about this”). Overall, it’s fun. But it feels like there’s something missing.

Perhaps that missing piece was a tonally-consistent script. After all, Ant-Man‘s screenplay changed hands many times—hence the four screenplay credits and two story credits on top of the necessary comic book credits. I’m not talking about the story here. I mean the actual tone of the whole movie, especially its humor.

I could definitely tell which scenes were from Edgar Wright’s original screenplay (TL:DR: Wright was directing and writing Ant-Man, but he and Marvel had creative differences, so he left). Shit, anyone who’s seen the Cornetto Trilogy could tell that the quick-cut, run-on story moments with Michael Peña’s Luis (one of Scott Lang’s friends and accomplices) were straight out of Wright’s head. That’s the problem when you have multiple writers, one of whom has a very obvious style—the discrepancy is noticeable when the rest of the movie doesn’t follow suit with that style. It’d be like bringing in Quentin Tarantino to direct a third of the movie and then have an average director come in for the other two-thirds.

Other than the inconsistent screenplay, I was just not digging Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly whatsoever. Stoll plays villain Darren Cross (a.k.a. Yellowjacket), and he basically chewed scenery like an amateur in every scene. Think about how awesome James Spader’s Ultron and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki are. They’re mysterious and terrifying while still being interesting and likable (as villains, that is). Stoll’s Cross was nothing more than a mustache-twirling corporate bad guy (though I do find it funny how Marvel is really driving the corporate bad guy stereotype home in almost every movie now).

Then there’s Evangeline Lilly, who plays Dr. Hank Pym’s daughter, Hope. Lilly just made grumpy faces at Michael Douglas throughout the movie, trying to sell us on the dysfunctional father-daughter relationship between Pym and Hope, and it didn’t resonate. Whether that’s because Lilly is a bad actress (I think so) or because it’s hard to get into the depths of a father-daughter relationship when you only have writers who are male (therefore only getting the “father” view into the relationship), I don’t know. What I do know is that Marvel was really trying to push the daddy/daughter issues hard.

Okay, now that I’ve written out my thoughts, it’s much clearer that this was mostly a writing problem. The crappy bad guy, the crappy daughter story, the inconsistency across the screenplay…that’s writing. Which sucks because, with great writing (Scratch that. With Edgar Wright’s writing) this movie could’ve been on par with Guardians of the Galaxy, which is still the funniest. *sigh*

As for the mid-credits and post-credits scenes (LOOK AWAY NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW), there’s not a whole lot to chew on. The mid-credits scene is Dr. Pym unveiling a new Wasp suit to Hope, which suggests that she may play a superhero part in Ant-Man sequels, The Avengers: Infinity War, etc. This would’ve excited me more had I actually liked Evangeline Lilly in this movie. The post-credits scene features Captain America (Chris Evans) and Falcon finding the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), during which Falcon suggests needing Ant-Man’s help. But we already knew Cap and Ant-Man will meet since the cast list for Captain America: Civil War included Rudd’s name. So that took the fun out of it. I don’t know. I‘m losing steam with the credits scenes, guys.

Overall, I really enjoyed Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, and I can’t wait to see him interact with the other Avengers (Pair him with Mark Ruffalo, for the love of all that is holy!). But Ant-Man could’ve been so much better than it was. Sure, it was funny and still a hell of a lot better than other superhero movies not made by Marvel, but this movie would’ve been amazing in the hands of Edgar Wright, not just five minutes here and there from Wright’s original screenplay.

Ant-Man: B+

For my radio review of Ant-Man on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 32:11 mark).

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