Box Office Democracy: Ant-Man
Ant-Man is the latest anticipated failure from Marvel Studios, the film that will finally break the spell that Marvel has on box offices and show that they can make films that people don’t like and that don’t make very much money, a Cars 2 if you will.
This isn’t that movie.
Ant-Man is totally charming and breathes fresh air in to the parts of the superhero formula that are beginning to feel particularly stale with some fun heist elements and a killer supporting cast. Besides, Doctor Strange feels more like the Marvel failure movie, right? All the pressure is on you, Benedict Cumberbatch; how long can all these people be fooled by your pasty charms?
Taken at the very broadest strokes, Ant-Man is the first Iron Man movie repackaged. New and potentially dangerous technology invented by a wise benevolent scientist with a bit of an attitude is turned in to a weapon for evil by his unscrupulous bald business partner and action comedy ensues. Where Ant-Man veers off the path is by splitting their Tony Stark into two parts: Michael Douglas plays the genius scientist Hank Pym, an elderly version of the Stark superego, and Paul Rudd is the hunky wisecracker safecracker Scott Lang, Tony’s id but with better hair and tighter clothes. There’s nothing groundbreaking, clever, or even particularly surprising to be found in the plot but it all works well enough and Rudd’s charm is capable of saving scenes that otherwise would be pretty insufferable. (For further reference, see most of This is 40.)
The supporting cast is what saves this movie from some rather poorly thought out subplots. Lang is supposed to be doing all of this dangerous stuff to stay out of jail and reconnect with his young daughter and those interactions and the ones with the cops determined to put him back in jail are the kind of things that most movies turn in to the worst kind of crap but Ant-Man fills that part of the movie with Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, and Wood Harris… and I can’t be mad at having to watch those actors. Similarly the movie revolves around a heist and includes Lang’s old criminal buddies whoa re there to provide comic relief and while David Dastmalchian doing “generic foreigner” is rather grating, Tip Harris is quite good as the getaway driver and Michael Pena steals every scene he’s in as Lang’s closest criminal confidant. Seriously, forget the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe— I would much rather watch Cannavale, Harris, Dastmalchain, Harris, and Pena play cops and robbers than see whatever part Rudd has to play in Civil War.
That’s the tragedy of the Marvel movie set up though, isn’t it? The things I liked about Ant-Man were in the fringes and not so much in the Ant-Man parts, which were fine, but kind of whatever and because of the way these movies are scheduled I know there’s not even an opening for a sequel until the winter of 2019. I suppose if this were some revelatory breakout hit they might be able to get it in a little sooner but it wasn’t and they won’t and so I’m more or less stuck waiting more than four years and two installments of Avengers to get back to the good stuff here. These are good problems for Marvel to have, too much good stuff in their movies to get back to in a reasonable amount of time, but it puts a weird kind of pressure on the other films. If there are parts of Inhumans or Captain Marvel that are particularly bad I’ll be sitting there thinking “this is where we could have gotten more Ant-Man, but no” and that’s not entirely fair. And I’ll definitely be thinking it while watching Cumberbatch screw up Stephen Strange who should absolutely not have a British accent.