I find the new Batman movies pretty boring; it’s a sort of unleavened darkness that focuses on creating a sense of depth rather than ploughing into real depths. The new Ant-Man movie is its diametric opposite, irreverent and silly and not framed in any larger issues. That’s its own sort of bad, to be honest.
I was extremely happy with the first Iron Man movie, which was these things too. Since then, Marvel has taken over Hollywood; absorbing all sorts of people born to work in indie romcoms like Michael Vaughn and James Gunn and Marc Webb and… well, Paul Rudd, who plays ant-man. And with this has come the point that irreverence is no longer an interesting fact about a superhero movie, just a sheen of irony added so that the savvier among us may both disrespect it and enjoy the more standard pleasures of superhero movies — it’s yet another in a cynical array of tools that helps make the industry a bona fide industry.
Don’t get me wrong; Ant-Man is a hoot to watch. It’s funny and entertaining and the characters achieve their goals in interestingly non-trivial ways and does fun rip-offs of city-destroying scenes and plays delightful games with the fact that these people are ant-sized (one of the funniest moments of the movie is a contrast between what would happen in a standard superhero movie and in this, which is later reprised by that thing actually happening) and has a delightfully named ant. Also, Paul Rudd.
It’s also a movie without any interesting drama to speak of, where the villain’s motivation is ‘because,’ where the villain’s goals struggle to retain continuity from one moment to the next, and where the hero’s motivations are told but not felt (the motivations are subtle but it need not have been so badly handled).
It’s also a movie that, just as a side note, is rabidly against the ridiculous foreign policy of the USA. This one I liked, to be honest.
This movie was originally written by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, who make extremely good, intricately thought out comedies with a shitload to say. It was then taken over by a pair of writers, Paul Rudd and Adam McKay, whose movies have a habit of having all the gravity of a feather and transitioning straight from the second act to the climax (that’s why there are two ‘&’s and one ‘and’ in the writing credits). The director seems to be remarkable precisely in his lack of remarkableness. Pitfall-ous as such an exercise may be, I can see all three sets of influences at work in different ways. The first two seem to be the source of all the best visual and physics gags, something confirmed by the fact that they’re foreshadowed (Wright likes foreshadowing, let’s just say). The second two provide all the (pretty funny) sitcom humour that makes the middle float. The third doesn’t seem to make any effect, which sounds about right really. The delightful supporting characters are probably a mix of all the writers.
The villain… I cannot for the life of me imagine who in this list was stupid enough to write this guy. Seriously. Sometimes he’s angry at his mentor, sometimes he’s just out to make money; this much is fine. Then, suddenly, he turns into a petty criminal out to kill people, uh, because. Also, revenge. Or something. All in all, it’s ridiculous. Oh, and there’s also the vignette that tells you he’s a villain, which shows all the finesse and subtlety and plausibility of CID.
In conclusion, do the world a favour and don’t watch a movie that was pulled out of the hands of Edgar Wright and given to the director of a movie most memorable for hinting at the nudity of Jennifer Aniston in a trailer; go watch a movie by indie people that actually is an indie movie and therefore warrants the sheen of irreverence and indie-ness, like Attack the Block.