The frustrating thing about watching Ant-Man is watching the remains of a more useful movie peep from round the edges. They cast Paul Rudd, who’s a perfectly useful comedian and was presumably pumped up about the opportunity to become the next Chris Pratt. They hired Edgar Wright. Good news, we all thought as we stroked our chins. This was, after all, a guy who brought in a perfectly serviceable adaptation of Scott Pilgrim. Then they fired him, or he walked away, or whatever you want to believe, but one minute Ant-Man with Edgar Wright and the next minute Ant Man with - wait, I’ll look it up on IMDB - who? Never mind. Wright still gets a writing credit, but that’s like giving Martinez the painting credit for Ecce Homo; it’s not enough to know what it could have been when you have to look at what it’s become.
I’ve been to most of the Marvel movies which have come out in the last three or four years, and I’m coming to the conclusion that I could have saved a lot of time by just seeing one of them and letting it stand in for all the others. If there’s a group of superheroes, they will squabble and have a big wreckathon some place, before they have to save the world from something which is floating over it. If there’s just one superhero, he will have to rescue a super science McGuffin from someone, and there will be daddy issues all over the damn place. Also, explosions. So many explosions.
What I was kind of hoping for with Ant-Man was a degree of distance from that, a movie which would be genuinely small scale and small time. Nah. Same old narrative. There’s a father figure who has weird daddy relations with the other three main characters. There’s a bald plutocrat trying to steal technology which he couldn’t come up with on his own and which he’s only going to use for evil. Couldn’t we, just once, have a wicked stepmother? Why is it always the plot from Iron Man?
Glinting through the dross is a better movie; one where a small time crook with even smaller time accomplices is trying to scrape by without getting noticed. I like that movie. I like its moxie, and I like the way that nobody in it takes the Avengers seriously. It’s playful and fun, and you can see how a whole movie like that might have worked as well as Guardians of the Galaxy did.
But no. We get what we get, and we show up to watch it, so we get more of the same. Rinse, lather, repeat. So, what’s to say about what we get? Weird anti-ageing effects; digitally de-aged Michael looks way more convincing that latex and make-up aged up Hayley Attwell (who I didn’t recognise; I spent her whole three minute cameo wondering if it was some kind of digitised Jenny Agutter or what the heck).
I have a new contender for the movie physics prize, because the physics of the pimp article, sorry the Pym Particle (how did no-one ever see that?) are all over the place. The Ant-Man suit somehow shrinks the distance between the molecules of the wearer. Hmmm. Doesn’t change the mass of the molecules? Won’t that make Ant-Man super-dense? Why yes, young padawan, that’s exactly what it will do. Except when it doesn’t. One moment Ant-Man has the momentum and kinetic energy of 150 lbs acting on a tiny point, and the next moment he can ride on the back of a flying ant without crushing it. Hell, one moment he’s running along the top of a gun without having any visible effect of the guy holding it, and the next he’s punching the same guy with the force of a full sized human. It’s all over the place, and yet it’s not moving fast enough to stop me noticing it.
But in the end, the thing which annoyed me was the attitude to ants. Hank Pym and his daughter go out of their way to explain how important it is to empathise with all the ants which Ant-Man is going to use to get his results, but every plan they come up with kills ants in droves. You’d think that the word would get around.