Ant-Man is a film punctuated by: spectacle, gobs of CGÂ ants, slap-stick comedy and quasi-racist caricatures. With all of these elements you might think you’re watching a George Lucas movie, althoughÂ this is likelyÂ superior.
When I learned that MarvelÂ StudiosÂ was making an Ant-Man movie, I was thrilledÂ to seeÂ a cinematicÂ bridge to Age of Ultron. After all, Henry ‘Hank’ Pym createdÂ Ultron in the comic books and gave birth toÂ what was aÂ great storyline: good versus evil; evolution andÂ artificial intelligence; causing societyÂ harm with the bestÂ intentions. Although theÂ AvengersÂ film usedÂ 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 PymÂ (Michael Douglas) is not the star of the new Ant-Man. The story instead followsÂ Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a charismaticÂ rogue tasked withÂ leading a ragtag team of misfits and thieves to save the world.
Okay, sounds fine, but I sawÂ Guardians of the Galaxy last year. Even theÂ costumes look similar.
I know, whoÂ doesn’t loveÂ a charismaticÂ rogue: Han Solo, Ferris Bueller, Omar from The Wire,Â Butch and Sundance,Â RickÂ fromÂ Casablanca, Indiana Jones, manyÂ of ToshirÃ´ Mifune’s characters, Obama, Autolycus fromÂ Xena, Garrett from Twilight,Â Zuul from Ghostbusters…Dick Cheney.
It’s too bad they didn’t have Pym’s originalÂ character in the film, becauseÂ it would have added someone with sharpÂ flaws and ideals that an audience wouldÂ care about. Instead, they attemptedÂ to follow theÂ successful formulaÂ ofÂ Guardians, making Ant-Man’sÂ tone carefree, punctuatedÂ by moments of character-driven comedy, served with someÂ wittyÂ 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 wereÂ 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 RockyÂ theme music.
Anyway, Pym was so uninteresting that his characterÂ 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,Â Paul Rudd didÂ a good job in the roll of Lang as his charismatic self. However, hisÂ character was a walking cliche with daddy issues. I know that characters take backseat in Hollywood to explosions and CG animals being butchered, but honestlyâ€”I think knowing things about characters isÂ pretty cool too. Call me an old-fashionedÂ dimensional entity or whatever.
Lang hasÂ noÂ internalÂ motivations in the story aside fromÂ 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.Â Also, theyÂ mind raped some ants in aÂ car together, so there’s that too. Maybe sheÂ 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 andÂ prison gang bangs for all IÂ know.
Here’s a scene of LangÂ playing with his ant friends.
The story starts after Lang is fired fromÂ Baskin RobbinsÂ for being anÂ ex-con. He then has noÂ otherÂ choice butÂ to return to a life of crime to supportÂ 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 evenÂ thinkÂ the moon isÂ 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 LangÂ 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 canÂ watch Luis (Michael PeÃ±a) shower then pee, and like lots of other cool stuff.
I really liked theÂ narrativeÂ style and editing of thisÂ film. It wasÂ reminiscent ofÂ Edgar Wright’sÂ work; no doubt because WrightÂ was one of the original writers until he left afterÂ creative differences. Maybe if Wright stayed, there wouldÂ have been deeper characters and a little more chemistry between them. PerhapsÂ there would have also been lessÂ questionable minority sidekicks and the film would have lacked that incrediblyÂ racist comment.
“This is the work of gypsies,” Ant-Man’s sidekick (David Dastmalchian) says in an accent that no one in the world canÂ identifyÂ aside from an Eastern Bloc stereotype.
Judging by the laughter in the theater, it’s obvious that manyÂ AmericansÂ don’t understandÂ that gypsy is a racist epithet when used that way. AÂ character blaming an ethnic minority is apparently still funny, even in a light-hearted family movie. Perhaps the movieÂ Borat is to blame for this, but BoratÂ was purposefully makingÂ satirical jabs atÂ racism in Europe against Romani (gypsies) andÂ Jews as well.
Let me demonstrate: “This is the work of (insert minority here).” Try it out kids and make sure to shout it.Â To learn more about stereotypes, please search “making a gypsy costume” on Youtube,Â or just ask your neighborhood racist.
Though Paul Rudd performed well and although his father-daughter plot wasn’t veryÂ deep, it was stillÂ more believable thanÂ Pym and his daughter (Evangeline Lilly), who instead feltÂ like forced after-thoughts thrown into the film at the last-minute. Maybe they were trying toÂ create a dynamic love interest for Lang, but it wasn’t effective at all. I mean, maybe the fatherless Luis (Michael PeÃ±a) could have hooked up with her instead. She should have. LuisÂ was like all smart and stuff. He was totally not aÂ racist caricature becauseÂ he likedÂ going to art museums and eating deliciousÂ food, not just robbing placesÂ with his black friend, T.I. (Wood Harris). Oh, they alsoÂ love smoothies and breaking intoÂ “spoooky ass houses” apparently.
Why is theÂ father-daughter trope so heavy in this film? Does every personÂ have a bad father figure in the Marvel Universe? I’m really going to have to look into this. Anyway, at leastÂ Luis’ (Michael PeÃ±a)Â dad gave him that sweet van after he abandonedÂ him. Okay, there are a couple ofÂ moments whereÂ Lang shows that he does really care about his daughter. His love for his daughterÂ even brought him back from aÂ bad ayahuasca trip he was having in his daughter’s room. That’s a goodÂ tripping buddy. Pym’sÂ wife sadlyÂ didn’t love HankÂ 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’mÂ sure they will followÂ clichÃ© movie tropes and she’ll be back as a villain.
What aboutÂ Hank Pym andÂ his daughter? TheirÂ arguments and relationship make even lessÂ sense throughÂ the entireÂ film and culminateÂ in aÂ scene where all the tension dies when they suddenly makeÂ up. It went something like this:
Hank: “This is how your mother died. I actuallyÂ love you, even if I never act like it.”
Hank’s daughter: “Okay, why didn’t you just say that? I’ve known all aboutÂ 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 toldÂ you and ruin the forced drama inÂ theÂ 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 justÂ 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, IÂ want to suggest a new title for the film: Good Ants, BadÂ 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 justÂ a charming archetype. You never know.
Here’s aÂ trailer and the great Paul Rudd so you can decide for yourself. Toodles.