July 20, 2015
There seems to be this crowd of online commentators who are eagerly waiting for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to go bust. They gleefully look at an offering like Ant-Man and declare: this is a stupid, obscure character that can’t possibly anchor a good movie and therefore this is the one that’s going to topple the empire. (Never mind that at this point the MCU has earned room for a couple of duds before it’s declared moribund.) This baffles me, because these are exactly the same complaints the naysayers had about Iron Man, Thor, and even Captain America. Guardians of the Galaxy will flop because talking raccoon. These concepts are obscure, weird, geeky, and mainstream audiences won’t go for it.
You’d think the naysayers would have learned to shut the hell up by now. Because they’ve been wrong every single time.
Ant-Man is great. I had so much fun. SO MUCH FUN. (And that’s really the key to these movies, isn’t it? They’re so much fun, and that’s what so-called mainstream audiences ping to.) I will also state for the record that I’m completely incapable of commenting on MCU movies as independent entities. It’s impossible for me to consider them as stand-alone cinematic endeavors in their own right. Nor do I think I should have to. Not when…
…the opening scene has Peggy Carter and Howard Stark in 1989, in the newly built SHIELD headquarters, dealing with a furious Hank Pym, and I ACTUALLY STARTED CRYING because I just love Peggy so much and it’s always so good to see her, and the movie has already won me over in literally ten seconds of film without introducing any story or even the main character.
**END SPOILERS** (Actually, there are probably a lot of spoilers below as well.)
The way I’m now thinking of it: The MCU is my favorite show, but it only has two episodes a year (and the Peggy Carter We-Love-Carrie-And-Want-Her-to-be-Happy Holiday Special). Ant-Man is a stand-alone story, but it’s so interconnected — deeply, and yet appropriately, and seamlessly — with the other movies that it feels like a chapter in a larger story. And yes, stay through the entire credits because there’s even story in the last bit of easter egg. (Why do we have to still tell people this? Why do people still leave the theater early?)
So yeah. I’m not really talking about Ant-Man as a movie. I’m talking about it as the latest episode of my favorite show. And it’s a good episode.
If I were going to talk about it as a cinematic endeavor: I think the superhero action in this is great. It’s really original. I kept thinking about how I’ve never really seen action like this before — and it’s not just the weird and whimsical use of ants everywhere. (Seriously, if you have an ant phobia DO NOT go see this movie.) It’s that the action is based on clever movement rather than brute force. In Cap and Thor and Iron Man battles, concrete gets smashed, people fly across rooms, everything is so heavy. Here, Scott is growing and shrinking in a flash, he’s dodging, he’s all over the place — we can’t really follow it, but we’re not really supposed to because we can’t actually see him! But we do see his opponent fall over. It’s just so different and interesting.
Two more things and then I’ll shut up. I got a little annoyed at Scott’s three racial stereotype sidekicks, who were saved from being outright cliches by their hardcore competence. I love competence. And Luis — Luis was actually just amazing. My friends and I decided we really want to go to a wine tasting with him.
And the other thing I can’t finish without commenting on: Wasp. Wasp Wasp Wasp. WASP. Wasp. WE HAVE THE WASP. OMFG. The flashback of Janet Van Dyne in action, even though it was far too brief, made me so ridiculously happy. And then it turns out we have two Wasps. And that’s fantastic.
Now, what is the MCU going to do with its two Wasps? Your move, Marvel.