Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Something Resembling a Review of Marvel’s Ant-Man

Full confession - I wanted to hate this movie. I went in hoping that Ant-Man would be Marvel’s first complete failure, because I am terrible person obviously. Unfortunately despite my best efforts, Ant-Man turned out to be a perfectly adequate movie. Sure it wasn’t amazing, and certainly not groundbreaking in any way, but it was entertaining enough to warrant a trip to the cinema. Here’s the thing though, while Ant-Man is a decent film in it’s own right, it also highlights everything that’s wrong with the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the moment. 

First things just though - should you see this movie? 
  • Did you like Iron Man?
  • Do you like Paul Rudd?
  • Are you okay with totally absurd premises and recognisable formulas? 
If you answered yes to these questions three then you should probably go see this movie. (Also if you’re ridiculously invested in the MCU like I am then you have to see it because it sets up a bunch of stuff for Civil War - also stay for the second post credits scene if you’re a Captain America fan). 

Now that’s out of the way let’s get down to nitty gritty business of picking apart this movie and pissing off fanboys because I deigned to suggest that their fave is problematic. Seriously though if Hank Pym is your fave then you need to re-evaluate and I can say with much conviction that this is not the blog you’re looking for. 

Anyway, so a couple of weeks ago Honest Trailers (a youtube that remakes trailers so they explain what the movie is honestly like) finally took on the movie that started it all Iron Man. In their parody trailer they didn’t just pick apart Iron Man, they also dissected the basic familiar formula that can be found in basically every single one of Marvel’s movies since Iron Man. I’m not saying formulas are bad, and hey if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but as Honest Trailers points out Marvel has proved that it can build a franchise around anyone - as long as that anyone is straight white man, preferably named Chris. 

Marvel’s Ant-Man follows this formula to the letter (except maybe the blue beam in the sky, I can’t remember). It basically ticks off all the these formulaic story points like it’s a list. As I said above this makes for a perfectly fine movie but if you’ve seen Iron Man you really don’t need to see Ant-Man because it’s basically the same film except not as good. Scott Lang - your friendly neighbourhood straight white dude - is trying to make up for the thoughtless mistakes of his youth, which somehow ends up with him becoming a superhero and fighting the evil version of whatever his powers are. That’s it. There is nothing more to it. 

But the paint by numbers approach to Ant-Man’s origin’s story is not even this movies biggest sin, this movies biggest sin is that they chose to make it in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I think Marvel made the right choice when they decided not to focus on Hank Pym because that guy is THE WORST but there is literally nothing about Scott Lang that means he HAS to be Ant-Man or that Ant-Man has to exist in this universe at all. 

The fact that Scott Lang is not particularly special wouldn’t be a problem, except that Marvel only released 2 movies a year and now that there are so many already established franchises that there are very few spots open for new heroes. They could have released a Black Widow movie, or any other female lead movie, instead they chose Ant-Man. This movie does not do a very good job of convincing me that he deserved that spot. 

Then there’s Hope Van Dyne, she’s the generically strong female character Honest Trailers mentioned. Except unlike the ‘love interest’ characters in Marvel’s previous films Hope doesn’t really have any agency. In fact if you removed her from the film entirely the film would still work, and that’s not a good position for a character to be in. Hope has no purpose, but because Marvel are still trying to make her generically strong - and maybe hint at a super future in an attempt to make the fangirls happen - they create a glaring problem that this film never fully addresses. Why isn’t Hope the one in the suit? 

Seriously, Hope already understands the science. She knows what they need to get and how to get it. She can control those ants like a child control’s their toys. She is already a trained fighter - she’s the one that trains Scott in the movie after all. She wants to wear the suit and she has access to it. Why did they go to the trouble of finding and training Scott Lang when there was already a perfectly viable option standing right there? 

The reason given in the film is that Hank doesn’t want to lose his daughter so he enlists someone expendable. In order to give this idea some weight they decided to fridge one of the original female Avengers - Wasp - just so Hank Pym would have a reason to prevent his daughter from being Ant-Man. 

Okay so I understand a father wanting to protect his daughter, that’s reasonable. Most parents want to protect their children, the good ones anyway. Except here’s the thing - Hope is not a child. She’s not even a teenager. She’s a grown woman and if the position she holds at the company is anything to go by she’s a grown woman with a considerable amount of intelligence and power. Also, at the beginning of this film Hope and Hank are on the outs. The reason for this is that Hank was a terrible father, but despite their differences Hope goes along with Hanks plan to train a someone new because she couldn’t possibly go against her fathers wishes. 

Wait a minute, Hope did go against her fathers wishes when she voted him out of his company. That was a significant plot point wasn’t it? So why has she suddenly decided to play his game. She knows the risks and she’s willing to make them - it doesn’t make sense that Hope doesn’t just take the suit for herself a fix the problem while her dad’s still playing a game of cat and mouse with Scott Lang. This movie is has to twist in and around itself just to make sure that Hope van Dyne doesn’t end up in that suit. 

This whole thing is bad enough but it’s also a metaphor for the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’re trying to convince us that they are just serving the story and that everything needs to happen organically except there is absolutely nothing organic about Ant-Man. They didn’t focus on the most recognisable version of the character. It’s tacked onto the end of Phase 2 like a forgotten grape almost left on the vine. There are hints that Ant-Man is going to play a significant role in Civil War but as I said above there is no indication that that role HAD to be played by Scott Lang or Ant-Man. 

Ultimately Ant-Man is essestially proof that the only reason Marvel haven’t made a female lead superhero movie is because they don’t want to and it sucks.