Monday, July 18, 2016

MR Ant-Man (2015)

The tiniest Avengers might lack the strength of Hulk, the firepower of Iron Man, the powers of Thor or the muscles of Captain America...

.. but he more than makes up for it with a lot of heart and an astonishing tale!

Follow the reviews of Marvel's tiniest heroes - Ant-Man and Wasp!
Hank Pym: Avengers: The OriginAnt-Man Season One

Movie: Ant-Man (2015)
Directed by Peyton Reed 
Release date June 2015 
Genre Superhero/Science-fiction/Heist comedy film
Country USA

Here is a movie that made us all wait for years. This is one of the Marvel Studios film that took the longest to make his transition to the big screen!

The convulsed production kicked Ant-Man from being the third Marvel movie, back around the time the first Iron Man and Incredible Hulk hit theaters, to one of their last films last year!

This film adaptation of Ant-Man originally began as a pet project of director Edgar Wright. Coming of the success of success of the hit UK tv series Spaced and Shaun of the Dead. He kept working on personal projects like Hot Fuzz while fine-tuning pre-production on Ant-Man, being a perfectionist he likes to take a long time working on a screenplay, working out every single beat of his films.

But as time passed, his story needed some rewrites to acknowledged the passage of time and the different events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each time causing even more delays for the production to start. He even adapted a whole another comic book to the big screen with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in the meantime! After that Edgar Wright decided to pass on the film despite having spent an entire decade on the film, and moved on to complete his Three Flavour Cornetto trilogy instead.

But Ant-Man still came out, it had to make it into the end of the MCU's Phase 2 schedule one way or another. The film was instead directed and completed by Peyton Reed who was originally in the running to direct Guardians of the Galaxy, a comedy director mostly know for his work on the live action segments of the Back to the Future animated series, the Back to the Future: The Ride, The Weird Al Show as well as directing The Break-Up and the live action adaptation of Danny Wallace's Yes Man. The screenplay by Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish still remained at the heart of the film while long-time associate comedy director, screenwriter and producer Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, The Other Guys) and lead star actor Paul Rudd completed and rewrote the story. (And thinking back, I'm kind of surprised this creative team did't find a way to put Will Ferrell into this film!)

Our story opens with a flashback sequence (and there's some more down the line) in the late 80s. As we follow scientist Hank Pym who wants to stop working for S.H.I.E.L.D. after being displeased how they've been trying to replicate the technology behind is back. You see Hank Pym was the superhero Ant-Man back during the Cold War and he had these astonishing shrinking abilities that allowed him to be a spy unlike any other.

Back in the present day, Hank has lost his very own company Pym Technologies to his protégé Darren Cross and his daughter Hope who goes by her mother's name van Dyne. Cross has been working on replicating Hank's technology for a new project of his own, the Yellowjacket suit! He wants to weaponize the shrinking powers! Hank Pym must find a way to shut down his technology before it ends in the wrong hands... Plus Pym Particles are said to cause quite a strain on one's mind, he knows that better than anyone.

Meet Scott Lang. An average joe down on his luck who was just released after doing some time for burglary. He is greeted by this old cellmate Luis (whose crime I suspect to be stealing every scene he appears in!). Scott has lost custody of his own daughter, Cassie. She's living with his ex-wife Maggie and her current boyfriend, some cop.

Scott really needs a steady job if he ever wants to see Cassie again, but he can't keep a job for long because of his trackrecord. He agrees to Luis' idea and will pull off one last job in this old house.. which turns out to be stealing the Ant-Man suit! But Hank Pym actually let him steal suit to see if Scott could do the job.

Hank Pym wants Scott to steal the Yellowjacket suit back from Cross. Scott gets some help training to be a superhero from Hope.

We finally find out how the original Wasp, Janet van Dyne, died during one of their past adventures. She shrank too much and disappeared into the subatomic quantum realm!

To avoid that same fate, Scott Lang must steal a powersource regulator from the New Avengers' headquarters! He "meets" Sam Wilson, aka Falcon. They fight!

Finally it's time for the big heist! Hope distracts Cross, Hank oversees the whole thing and Scott in his Ant-Man suit and "the three wombats" (his sidekicks) break into the place! This infiltration turns out for the worst. Long story short, Scott Lang ends up having to fight Cross in the Yellowjacket suit on a little toy train tracks!

As per Marvel tradition, we are treated to a couple of bonus post-credits scenes. The first one pops up in the mid-credits as Hope is finally given her own all-new Wasp suit! The second one after the credits acts as a tease to this year's Civil War movie with Falcon mentioning "a guy" he knows to Captain America...

Peyton Reed might have come late into the production and had to jump on things real fast, but he did a great job all things considered. He really committed himself to his own (tiny) part of the MCU.

I think after Edgar Wright, they couldn't have found a better replacement. To prep for the film he, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd rewatched a lot of classic shrinking movies, most notable Honey I Shrunk the Kids which Ant-Man shares a lot of similar sequences with. (Speaking of they really wanted Rick Moranis to come out of his retirement to have a cameo in the film!)

They also added a lot of new scenes to the original script, mostly related to the MCU tie-ins and more Hope/Wasp.

One aspect of the film which really surprised me was how solid the casting was. The film stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, following the same idea with Chris Pratt's casting, taking a fun comedic actor and training him for an action movie role. Evangeline Lilly plays Hope, pretty much rocking the classic Wasp hairdo and all, sadly we didn't get to see her become Wasp just yet. Corey Stoll plays this film's villain as Cross, he's probably the most serious character in the entire film. We also have Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña playing the the breakout character of the film in my eyes, Tip "T.I." Harris, Anthony Mackie reprising his role as Falcon as the unexpected cameo which really surprised me on theater, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian, Michael Douglas getting to have fun in a different type of film from anything he's ever done in the past. John Slattery and Hayley Atwell reprise their respective roles as Howard Stark and Peggy Carter, who was the big recurring character of this "Phase 2" after Phase 1's Agent Coulson. As well as various little cameos such as Garrett Morris, who portrayed Ant-Man in a SNL sketch appearing driving a car, Ant-Man co-creator Stan Lee making his usual Marvel cameo appearance as a bartender and finally SpongeBob/Ice King himself Tom Kenny providing the voice of a plush Scott gives to his daughter.

Apparently the idea of an Ant-Man film had been going in Hollywood as early as the 1980s back when Marvel spread their different proprieties to different companies. After Disney released Honey, I Shrunk the Kids they came really close to making it, the Ant-Man film even went as far as early pre-production.

Development of the modern "MCU" film had been stuck in development hell for quite a while, since Marvel's "Phase 1". First work on the film began in April 2006 back when Edgar Wright was set to co-write and direct the film. They turned out several drafts of the film, but the longer it took to make the story the more the plot had to be changed to fit into the ever-changing bigger "MCU" plans. Plus the fact Edgar Wright really wanted to nail down every single detail of the story beats, he loves taking his time in pre-production of his projects. By 2012 they finally put out some pre-production test footage which really pleased the fans (and kind of made it into the film's big heist scene). But in 2013 he finally put the project on hold, seeing this going nowhere, and instead decided to change his focus to complete his Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy with The World's End.

At the very least Edgar Wright was able to complete casting, going as far as casting Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly. Finally in May 2014 Edgar Wright officially stepped down the project, leaving the project due to creative differences between himself and Marvel, although his screenplay was still used for most of the film as well as getting executive producer credit on the film.

The only way the whole film was saved was by quickly signing Peyton Reed on the project, Reed was able to launch production fairly quickly the following month finally putting things in motion. Peyton Ree,d Adam McKay and Paul Rudd are all usual figures of comedies but that probably gave them a fresher and different look on the genre.

Ant-Man is a fun different type of character. He has no real superpowers or special genetics, it's all just this suit.

The film is a lot of fun, with great original action scenes and special effects. Even though the story's pretty straightforward.

It's Marvel's first film to actually explore the idea of legacy characters, giving us both the Hank Pym and Scott Lang incarnations of Ant-Man.

The whole prologue and 1960s Ant-Man scenes really sold me this bigger larger Marvel history.

It took so much time getting this film made, a lot of ideas had to be shuffled around or scrapped altogether, Hank Pym would not be Ultron's creator anymore in the films (thankfully the same angle are still explored using Tony Stark as a substitute, and it all works out nicely in the end.

The real different we missed out on is that Edgar Wright wanted his film to be standalone and not forced to fit into the larger MCU continuity, but that could have only been possible back into "Phase 1".

The best original element of Ant-Man, what makes it stand out from the other superhero currently invading the big screen, is giving us to see the world from a miniature perspective. It's really fun. Making giant structures out of carpets, toy trains and computer chips!

It also feels like this film had Guardians of the Galaxy to thank for, no science-fiction element we see out of this film takes out of the picture coming after talking trees and raccoons.

It's really fun seeing Scott Lang play off these coordinated ants, it doesn't feel out of place.

Scott is also a great hero, an everyman superhero with no actual superpowers outside his suit. He's just a man that wants to spend some time with his daughter: The father/daughter angle is interesting (although it feels like it will play a bigger role in the sequel). The film tries to be more by adding a light commentary on the dangers of technology, but the message feels forgotten at the end of the film.

It's a small film, pun intended, but that's why it worked.

It also has some impressive action scenes. Reed's research really helped out these fantastic CGi-heacy scenes.

We get another one of these CGi de-aging scenes that has been being used in a ton of movies lately. Thankfully the Michael Douglas and Hayley Atwell flashback scenes were done well this time, using a mix of makeup and CGi.

People feared audiences would be exhausted by all these major A-List Marvel and DC superheroes (and Ant-Man was always one of those, being one of the founding members of the Avengers), and I still feel like we've done all the major characters by now. But the film does feel different from usual superhero action films.

Mostly thanks to Edgar Wright's writing and Peyton Reed's comedic direction, the film has a lot of humor. Paul Rudd's sarcastic personality really works well for Scott. The only downside is that the villain, Darren Cross, is no fun in this otherwise very fun adventure. Villains are always the problem for most of these Marvel movies, it probably comes from the source material as they feel very episodic and disposable.

But Ant-Man comes out a very fun film, it's just a blast! The film makes a lot of fun amusing comments you probably are starting to have watching these sort of films - the ridiculousness of the whole situation or the superhero costumes and traditions, why they don't simply call the Avengers each time, etc.

And we even get treated to an hilarious Thomas the Tank Engine surprise cameo used for great comedy. No city-wide destruction this time it all happens in the middle of a bedroom in the suburbs!

And Michael Pena was fantastic, he really made the film in my eyes. Joined by Paul Rudd's Scott Lang, we have such loveable goofball heroes this time!

If losing Edgar Wright meant adding a great scene with Falcon, then I'm glad we got Peyton Reed instead! It added a lot for the film, setting it firmly in the MCU, Ant-Man worked as a great foil to Falcon without him hijacking the entire film and provide a possible opponent he could fight against!

We even get to see a little bit of what we will see later this year with Dr. Strange, that whole psychedelic 1960s Marvel/Jack Kirby alternate dimensions, just a little teaser here.

The film proved a surprise little hit for marvel, while nobody expecting anything from it because of the whole superhero fatigue-talk. But the film made more than it's initial budget back, being a solid if modest hit. I liked the return to a simpler formula with no world-ending threat and the smaller stakes. It's a fun simple superhero adventure/heist movie with a fantastic cast, plenty of humor and surprisingly impressive CGi effects.

The music was composed by someone I'm the firs to admit I wasn't a big fan of, Christophe Beck. But he did great. He had this big success with Buffy the Vampire Slayer originally, but since then some of his scores (he put out like a dozen a year) have been really lackluster, generic and unmemorable. But in Ant-Man he gets to do something pretty fun, playing off familiar superhero cues and even mix in some playful heist movie motifs. And the use of Camilo Azuquita's "Borombon" and the Tales to Astonish! track really made the film for me.

Overall, Ant-Man is the surprise nobody expected.

It's a great, well-made film with great action scenes and clever humor. The action is pretty badass, the shrinking powers are a lot more impressive than expected and the funny parts are really funny.

Sure the film doesn't bring nothing new, specially compared to how many superhero films we now get every year, but it was a great character  movie. The very least, the smaller scale was pretty refreshing. The heist is pretty basic - steal something from bad guys - and the tone was very reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man. The whole story reflects two father-daughter stories. What really sells the film is its characters, some really stick out and are quite memorable. Even the ants were pretty cool (RIP Ant-thony).

I Really Recommend this film to anyone tired of Marvel and DC's big life-threatening big epic events movies. It's a fun mashup of a superhero origin mixed with an heist movie, two overused genres, but it ends up feeling new and fresh.

If I was to have one major complaint it's how we still have yet to see a female superhero in the MCU, and Hope comes this close to being Wasp. She's kind of a surrogate for the audience, specially when she says it's about damn' time she received the suit.

While Evangeline Lilly doesn't get to become Wasp this time, her character of Hope van Dyne was inspired by a character from Marvel's home of Spider-Girl, Hope Pym in the "MC2", who turns out to be a villain. But the reception of this new incarnation of Wasp just inspired the creation of a new Wasp in the comics, the newly introduced daughter of Hank Pym from his first marriage, Nadia Pym.

Thanks to its success, Ant-Man will be one of the few films to receive a sequel in this new "Phase 3", titled Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel is scheduled to be released on July 2018.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Keatons!

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