Speculative Fiction Saturday: Ant-Man, a silly yet serious superhero film

Ant-ManThese days, Marvel just isn’t satisfied with one big superhero film a summer, and these days there are at least three. This one, Ant-Man, was a big question mark for audiences, as it feels like something that Marvel didn’t expect much from. The issue is that it delivers more than a lot of other superhero films, and there are parts of Ant-Man that are better than Avengers: Age of Ultron.

It is difficult talking about Ant-Man as it was originally going to be directed by Edgar Wright. This director is better known for his comedies, and he made one of the funniest films of all time with Hot Fuzz. Sadly, Wright left the project for some reason or the other, but his name is on the screenplay credit. I’m not certain what the film would have been like if Wright had been at the helm, but this one is more than adequate.

As someone who knows this character from the comic books, I am more familiar with Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, rather than the second one, Scott Lang. The story is centered around Scott, who is a criminal who was arrested for a failed heist, and cannot seem to be able to get an honest job with his criminal record. The issue is that he cannot see his daughter unless he can get some cash, so he decides to go back to his life of crime.

Scott’s first post-prison heist involves stealing from a very tight safe, but the only thing in it is some weird red astronaut suit. Scott puts it on, and discovers that the suit grants its wearer the power to shrink. At this point, the audience can’t help but wonder how a script with such a Saturday Morning Cartoon of a premise got green-lit. The only time shrunken movies worked was in the first and what should have been last Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movie, but that movie was smart enough not to take itself too seriously.

The issue is Ant-Man does. The audience can sympathize with Scott as he fails in the eyes of his ex-wife and daughter. There is a weird sense of taking itself too seriously in this film that works in the midst of what is at best a B-movie.

Back to the plotline, which has Scott returning the suit to Hank Pym’s house. Pym catches him in the act, but does what he can to make certain Lang is taken out of jail because he has a special job for him. Pym’s company has been taken over by his protege, Darren Cross, who is just short of breaking Pym’s shrinking secret. Hank wants Scott to break into the Pym company and destroy all evidence of the shrinking technology.

Yes, at it’s heart, Ant-Man is a heist movie, like Mission: Impossible. This includes a very long montage with Lang training in the Ant-Man suit, as well as the blueprints, the plan, and finally the execution. By the way, there is a scene where Ant-Man must break into an Avengers complex, and there is an interesting cameo by The Falcon. Without spoiling too much, the film ends with a heist that goes wrong, all with a plan that the heist would go wrong, so now we’re doing this planned Plan B. Every heist movie has this.

I would have to say that the ending actions scenes are both crazy and amazing all at the same time. It is interesting to see that the miniaturized world is made so beautiful. There is one shot of Scott flying on the back of an ant through these server towers, and it feels like he is a superhero flying in between buildings of a major city. The rest of the effects look good, and it makes you wish that you could shrink yourself just to see what the world is like.

The reason why Ant-Man succeeds is that it has a silly premise, runs with it, and actually ends up in a good place. Even though this film follows the heist film by the numbers, there are elements of it that are quite different and welcome. For example, Scott’s daughter Cassie has a new dad, and it would have been easy to make this character a jerk, but the film thankfully doesn’t go that direction.

This film is also funny on so many levels, and it is not because the story is so frivolous. I have no idea how Marvel pulled this one off, but it is definitely better than it really should be.