Friday, July 19, 2024

Ant-Man: Oh Look, This is Also an MCU Movie!

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Why in the name of all logic and justice does this generic “bad boy with a heart of gold” character get his own movie and Natasha Romanoff doesn’t?

Well, now that that’s out of the way… Ant-Man. For the second time in a row, I’ve watch one of these Marvel movies and have had almost no reaction whatsoever. Asking around with people and browsing the internet a bit reveals that this movie is when a lot of people reached Marvel Saturation Point. “Enough already! How many movies are you going to make me watch?” And at this point, yes, I can attest, keeping up with this “cinematic universe” is a little exhausting. Especially when you factor in all the tv shows. (Though, to be fair, the tv shows are quite good.)

I went into watching this movie with a sense of obligation, and I maintained that feeling throughout. “I have to watch this movie, it’s in the MCU. And I promised my readers, who I love very much, that I would watch everything in the MCU.”

Not that Ant-Man was bad, it wasn’t. But, much like Guardians of the Galaxy, it just kind of left me… lukewarm.

And unlike Guardians of the Galaxy this was a beige movie, neither good nor bad, but completely and utterly “okay”. It took up two hours of my life and I mostly remember it because I got quite a bit of progress done on my crochet afghan.

It’s easy enough to talk about what works and doesn’t work, or rather, what’s okay and what doesn’t work, because I don’t really recall being wowed by anything. I suppose the special effects were cool, a lot of work clearly went into making the miniaturized world, but seriously, special effects are invisible these days. They’re all incredible, you need something more than that to get my attention.

Like interesting characters, for example.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that interesting antagonists have been my rock in this franchise: Loki, Hydra, Leviathan, Wilson Fisk… but this movie does not get to join that illustrious list. Darren Cross is just a pathetic adult-child of a villain. And I’m sure that Corey Stoll is the nicest person ever, but it does not help that he looks like an off-brand Lex Luthor.

The lack of nuance in this character is rather breathtaking. I’m not sure if it’s mostly the performance, in which Stoll plays the character as perpetually on the brink of a psychotic break, or the script, which has him literally saying things like “I’ll show you how insignificant you are!”


The question in your mind is less “Oh no! How will the hero thwart this plan?” and more, “How could any board of directors possibly let this man remain in charge of a multi-million dollar corporation?”

The problem isn’t that he’s upset that his father-figure has a son he loves more, and the villain simultaneously hating said father-figure while also craving his attention. That was Loki’s motivation; I liked it fine. The problem was the Saturday morning cartoon levels of hamminess.

Although I will say, that wonderful advert for the Yellowjackets near the beginning of the film? That was precisely the right amount of hamminess. And Orwellian double talk. I loved it.

The protagonist is, as I said, just generic. He’s fine, but nothing I haven’t seen a hundred times before. The characters around him were much more interesting. Some in good ways, and some in bad.

Like… can we talk about the trio of Comic Relief Minorities™ Scott has following him around?

Who thought that was a good idea?

I mean, Endearingly Stupid Latino™ was occasionally actually funny. I enjoyed those flashbacks where the subjects of said flashbacks moved their mouths to his voiceover in Comically Non-Standard English™, but the script is very dependent on this one joke. Of him being stupid, yet good natured. It’s… I don’t like the implications, let’s leave it there.

The two other members of the trio didn’t add much, to tell the truth. Russian Dude no speak English good, and the black guy… existed. Which, hey, is sometimes a tiny victory in itself.

My opinion of Scott’s family is a little better. Not everything here is feels quite so “action movie with a thief with a heart of gold protagonist” fill-in-the-blanks, although it’s not super far off either. His ex is an nonentity, and his daughter is a little too perfect. Though the way she worships Scott when he doesn’t entirely deserve it is annoyingly familiar to any parent. They all love that cool uncle they see twice a month, who gives them a present or ice cream, and then says “I don’t know why you’re always complaining about his behaviour, Julia. He’s always perfectly well behaved for me.”

But I digress….

The character of the step dad, Paxton, was actually a pleasant surprise. At first it seemed like this would be a typical story about the good noble father and his conflict with the new jerk-face in his ex’s life who wants to take his family away from him. But it didn’t play out like that at all. Paxton always, genuinely had lil’ Cassie’s best interests at heart. And when it became clear to him that Scott did too, then all their hostility towards each other went away and they decided to have her best interests at heart together.   

It was sweet. And, yeah, much more mature than the literal pie in the face this character often gets.

There was another attempt at family drama that worked less well, though. Now, I love father-daughter drama, a lot, but I could not bring myself to be compelled by the decades-long communication dry spell between Hank Pym and his daughter Hope. Maybe it’s because it felt tacked on, and then dealt with in just a few lines, rather than actually explored. (“He’s lying to me about how my mother died!” *Protective Paternalism!* “The Protective Paternalism is because of how your mother died.” *Hugs!*) Or maybe it’s because the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Science! directly related to this conflict is ridiculous, even for the MCU.  

I mean, I have Arts degrees, but I know enough physics to not be confused when I read Scientific American, so I feel comfortable in saying: that is not how quantum works. Like, you can’t shrink atoms or subatomic particles. It’s even stated at one point that that it’s actually the space between the particles that’s being decreased when something shrinks. That’s stupid too, but I’ll do with it. And I’ll grant that tiny Scott breathes oxygen that was space reduced with him out of a tank or something. Stupid, but fine.

But when he “enters the quantum realm” and is supposed to be the same size of quarks, or something… Like… how is his body functioning? Your body requires the laws of physics to be operating in order for your neurons to do the whole action potential thing, much less for you to be able to put the macguffin in the belt. And if the atoms in his body are just supposed to be squeezed together to be the size of a quark…. No, just…. I can’t even.

I know, I know… it’s the MCU. But seriously, you can only take the sciencey bullshit so far.

It’s fine though. It get to rewatch Jessica Jones next.

Images courtesy of Marvel Studios

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