Ant-Man is a film punctuated by: spectacle, gobs of CG ants, slap-stick comedy and quasi-racist caricatures. With all of these elements you might think you’re watching a George Lucas movie, although this is likely superior.
When I learned that Marvel Studios was making an Ant-Man movie, I was thrilled to see a cinematic bridge to Age of Ultron. After all, Henry ‘Hank’ Pym created Ultron in the comic books and gave birth to what was a great storyline: good versus evil; evolution and artificial intelligence; causing society harm with the best intentions. Although the Avengers film used a deconstructed version of this storyline instead, Ant-Man still had an opportunity to use Pym’s dynamic character to create an interesting story.
Sadly, Marvel’s favorite wife-beater Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is not the star of the new Ant-Man. The story instead follows Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a charismatic rogue tasked with leading a ragtag team of misfits and thieves to save the world.
Okay, sounds fine, but I saw Guardians of the Galaxy last year. Even the costumes look similar.
I know, who doesn’t love a charismatic rogue: Han Solo, Ferris Bueller, Omar from The Wire, Butch and Sundance, Rick from Casablanca, Indiana Jones, many of Toshirô Mifune’s characters, Obama, Autolycus from Xena, Garrett from Twilight, Zuul from Ghostbusters…Dick Cheney.
It’s too bad they didn’t have Pym’s original character in the film, because it would have added someone with sharp flaws and ideals that an audience would care about. Instead, they attempted to follow the successful formula of Guardians, making Ant-Man’s tone carefree, punctuated by moments of character-driven comedy, served with some witty dialogue and lamb homicide. Seriously, like six lambs are brutally murdered in this film, and it generally has some pretty violent moments for no other reason than to make us hate the villain.
Really, both Ant-Men’s characters were boring. This was no fault of my main man, Old-Ant-Man Michael Douglas. I mean, even the strange CG version of him gave a solid performance, and did you see how hard he punched that guy? I heard the Rocky theme music.
Anyway, Pym was so uninteresting that his character apparently spent the last couple decades at his house waiting for someone to reinvent miniaturization so that he could stop them. Way to be proactive, duder. On the other side, Paul Rudd did a good job in the roll of Lang as his charismatic self. However, his character was a walking cliche with daddy issues. I know that characters take backseat in Hollywood to explosions and CG animals being butchered, but honestly—I think knowing things about characters is pretty cool too. Call me an old-fashioned dimensional entity or whatever.
Lang has no internal motivations in the story aside from wanting to be with his daughter, and by the end of the film, he seems to hook up with Pym’s daughter just because there is nothing better going on. I guess they did beat each other up and that’s hot. Also, they mind raped some ants in a car together, so there’s that too. Maybe she is just attracted to Lang because he is a horrible father just like her dad. I don’t know, Lang could like ballet, cartwheels, cappuccinos and prison gang bangs for all I know.
Here’s a scene of Lang playing with his ant friends.
The story starts after Lang is fired from Baskin Robbins for being an ex-con. He then has no other choice but to return to a life of crime to support his daughter. Wait, what? Wasn’t Lang like some badass engineer or something? He’s like some kind of genius. Maybe get a job on freelancer.com or something. That’s what my ex does and they don’t even think the moon is real. I guess we’re supposed to like Lang because he went to prison for fighting an evil corporation. Oh yeah, he’s a lovable rogue. I totally forgot.
The film’s pace is fast and full of fun vignettes into Ant-Man’s atomic reality and other pretty CG cut scenes. We see Lang ride lots of ants, have several montages that don’t make sense in time, take ayahuasca, go subatomic, get trapped in a fancy jar thing, hangout in a bathtub so he can watch Luis (Michael Peña) shower then pee, and like lots of other cool stuff.
I really liked the narrative style and editing of this film. It was reminiscent of Edgar Wright’s work; no doubt because Wright was one of the original writers until he left after creative differences. Maybe if Wright stayed, there would have been deeper characters and a little more chemistry between them. Perhaps there would have also been less questionable minority sidekicks and the film would have lacked that incredibly racist comment.
“This is the work of gypsies,” Ant-Man’s sidekick (David Dastmalchian) says in an accent that no one in the world can identify aside from an Eastern Bloc stereotype.
Judging by the laughter in the theater, it’s obvious that many Americans don’t understand that gypsy is a racist epithet when used that way. A character blaming an ethnic minority is apparently still funny, even in a light-hearted family movie. Perhaps the movie Borat is to blame for this, but Borat was purposefully making satirical jabs at racism in Europe against Romani (gypsies) and Jews as well.
Let me demonstrate: “This is the work of (insert minority here).” Try it out kids and make sure to shout it. To learn more about stereotypes, please search “making a gypsy costume” on Youtube, or just ask your neighborhood racist.
Though Paul Rudd performed well and although his father-daughter plot wasn’t very deep, it was still more believable than Pym and his daughter (Evangeline Lilly), who instead felt like forced after-thoughts thrown into the film at the last-minute. Maybe they were trying to create a dynamic love interest for Lang, but it wasn’t effective at all. I mean, maybe the fatherless Luis (Michael Peña) could have hooked up with her instead. She should have. Luis was like all smart and stuff. He was totally not a racist caricature because he liked going to art museums and eating delicious food, not just robbing places with his black friend, T.I. (Wood Harris). Oh, they also love smoothies and breaking into “spoooky ass houses” apparently.
Why is the father-daughter trope so heavy in this film? Does every person have a bad father figure in the Marvel Universe? I’m really going to have to look into this. Anyway, at least Luis’ (Michael Peña) dad gave him that sweet van after he abandoned him. Okay, there are a couple of moments where Lang shows that he does really care about his daughter. His love for his daughter even brought him back from a bad ayahuasca trip he was having in his daughter’s room. That’s a good tripping buddy. Pym’s wife sadly didn’t love Hank enough to come back. After seeing what a shitty father he was, she probably didn’t want to come back. In the comics he even hit her. You can’t really blame her, but I’m sure they will follow cliché movie tropes and she’ll be back as a villain.
What about Hank Pym and his daughter? Their arguments and relationship make even less sense through the entire film and culminate in a scene where all the tension dies when they suddenly make up. It went something like this:
Hank: “This is how your mother died. I actually love you, even if I never act like it.”
Hank’s daughter: “Okay, why didn’t you just say that? I’ve known all about miniaturization for years. None of this would have surprised me; instead you’ve been a huge dick my whole life.”
Hank: “I don’t know, I was afraid you would forgive me immediately after I told you and ruin the forced drama in the film. I don’t know… I love you?
You know who else was a bad father and liked playing with ants? This guy right here:
Even the darker history of Pym feels like an afterthought when it comes to the narrative. I mean, why do I even care about any of these characters other than the new Ant-Man? At least he’s a rogue like Dick Cheney. Pym is just a cynical old man who abused his daughter emotionally…out of love I guess. He was just too busy waiting in his basement for his wife to return from psychedelic/sub-atomic land and the previously aforementioned reinvention of miniaturization. It all makes sense, right? Thankfully, Lang can now carry the torch by not being there for his daughter.
On that note, I want to suggest a new title for the film: Good Ants, Bad Father Figures.
I had fun watching the film, even if parts of it made me want to stab myself in the eyes. I hope that one day Hollywood can avoid this kind of racism and stereotyping that no one seems to even notice anymore. Maybe even reinvent a cinema that creates characters who are much more than just a charming archetype. You never know.
Here’s a trailer and the great Paul Rudd so you can decide for yourself. Toodles.