As I’ve said before, I know a few things about the Marvel universe but I’m no expert. So when I saw previews for Ant-Man, my main question was how shrinking to the size of an insect is a useful power for a superhero, besides covert operations. I imagine that the fact much of the mainstream public wouldn’t know what to make of Ant-Man contributed to why it took so long to get the film off the ground. But now he’s here, and he’s part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so fans have to go and see it for fear of missing anything crucial to future films!
The answer to my previous question (helpfully explained by my friend Neil, who is an Ant-Man fan) is that when Ant-Man shrinks, he becomes relatively denser (the shrinking effect is caused by atom compression) and disproportionately strong, like how an ant can lift objects many times its own weight. When he punches you, he’s putting all the force of a normal punch behind a very small point – and, well, you try having a fistfight with an insect-sized opponent who is too strong to simply be squashed. A separate line of technology allows Ant-Man to control ants, and it turns out that a horde of ants is an extremely versatile tool. So Ant-Man is indeed a more than capable hero.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a paroled burglar who, out of the need to pay his child support and be allowed to visit his daughter, is persuaded to take on another job: robbing a safe belonging to Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). All he finds there is what turns out to be the Ant-Man suit, at which point Pym himself reveals that the robbery was a test. Although Pym has fought hard to keep his dangerous invention buried, the new head of his company Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is close to unlocking the secret and militarising the shrinking technology – and despite the reservations of his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), Pym believes that Scott is just the man needed to tackle this problem.
At first, as I watched this film, I wasn’t quite sure about it. It places a lot of focus on character relationships – such as Pym and Hope’s strained relationship, and Scott’s relationship with his former family – but these seemed quite one-note and not very imaginative. However, things do pick up in the second half: some relationships are placed in a different context, and with others, we get a better feel for the characters involved. Thus, these interactions become more fresh and engaging. Likewise, the references to the wider MCU feel forced and awkward at first, until Scott finds himself unexpectedly dropped into the centre of that world, and a character from previous films (I won’t spoil who) turns up to have a full action scene with him, which is a lot of fun. The second half also takes on some of the thrilling qualities of a heist movie, and occasionally looks like it might fall into a cliche trap, only to happily avoid it.
Easily the best thing about this film are the “miniature” action scenes. After so many superhero films, action scenes can easily get generic – but Ant-Man provides a whole new opportunity for a fresh take. Just the first time Scott uses the suit, where he initially gets stuck in a bathtub and then thrown helplessly around through various giant obstacles, is pretty thrilling, like a 3D experience at a theme park. (Though I didn’t actually see this film in 3D – I hardly ever bother with that nowadays.) Throughout the film, he continues to use his powers creatively in blown-up arenas and landscapes, and also find all sorts of uses for the various species of ant he employs. (Although the characters keep referring to the ants as ‘good boy’ and the like – shouldn’t most if not all of these ants be female?) As with other Marvel films, there’s also excellent humour throughout; much of it coming from Scott’s attitude, and his criminal friends who manage to be more than just irritating ethnic stereotypes.
If it takes you a little while to get into Ant-Man, give it a chance: overall, it’s another entertaining product from Marvel Studios. Rating: 3.5/5.
Recently, I also saw Amy, the documentary film on the late singer Amy Winehouse. With it being a documentary film, I didn’t have quite as much to say about it as usual, which is why I didn’t put it in its own blog post. Even though I wasn’t a serious fan of Amy Winehouse, I still wanted to see this film as Amy’s life seemed like an interesting subject for a documentary – plus the director, Asif Kapadia, also made Senna, which I really liked despite not being a big Formula One fan.
Amy does a better job than Senna in making you truly “know” its subject, as Amy Winehouse is portrayed in a greater variety of contexts: her singing, her relationships, and her substance abuse. It shows the motivations behind her work – we’re shown that she was less interested in being famous and more in just having the freedom to do what she wanted – and allows a fuller understanding of her songs. The film doesn’t make it clear exactly what led Amy to substance abuse in the first place, though it shows plenty of contributing factors: such as her parents’ divorce, her relationship with Blake Fielder, and eventually the sheer stress of fame. Naturally, the documentary becomes sadder and more disturbing the further it goes, as it becomes clear how out of control Amy’s habits became. I was so engaged with the subject by the end that I was left feeling very sad when the story reached its inevitable conclusion. I didn’t cry, but I was fairly close.