I’ve been a fan of superheroes ever since I read my first Superman comic book, and the Man of Steel remains my favorite to this day, followed closely by Capt. Marvel and Batman, even though there are arguments that the latter is not a superhero in the truest sense of the word.
There’s something mystically exciting about watching Clark Kent duck into a phone booth or an alley and suddenly swoosh into the sky as his indestructible alter ego. I also always got a real charge (pun intended) of seeing Billy Batson say, “Shazam,” to summon that lightening bolt that transformed him into Capt. Marvel. And of course the bat signal glowing in the sky over Gotham City meant Bruce Wayne would soon be donning the cape and cowl to emerge from the Bat Cave as the Caped Crusader.
These guys rule the kingdom of superheroes for me, and perhaps that’s the reason I can’t become the least bit excited about a fellow who puts on a suit so that he can shrink to the size of an ant. In fact, as I sat through the agony of “Ant-Man,” the lyrics of my least favorite Frank Sinatra song kept running through my head: Just what makes that little old ant think he can move a rubber tree plant. Anyone knows an ant can’t move a rubber tree plant.
Ant-Man is another member of the Marvel stable of characters, and he first appeared in the comic book “Tales to Astonish” in January 1962, when he was originally the alter ego of Hank Pym, a scientist who created something that enabled him to shrink. Now Ant-Man has his own movie cleverly titled “Ant-Man,” and although I’m certain many will love it, I became quite antsy for it to be over. In fact, I found this film so insufferably boring that I hope you won’t fall asleep reading about it.
As the film begins, cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has just been released from doing a stint in San Quentin. While he was inside, his wife left him, but all he really cares about is his young daughter. Luis (Michael Pena), Scott’s former cellmate, picks him up at the prison and immediately begins trying to recruit him for another job, but Scott doesn’t want to hear about it. He’s bent on going straight and earning some honest money so that he can help pay child support for his daughter. To this end he takes a job scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins (What dream job for an ant!), but when the owner of the shop learns of Scott’s criminal record, he fires him.
Because he’s now desperate for money, Scott agrees to help Luis pull off a heist, but when he cracks the safe in the target house, all he finds is a weird-looking suit complete with a helmet. After he gets home, he decides to try it on, and he immediately shrinks to the size of an ant. At this point I really longed for a huge can of Raid!
Now see if you can follow this convoluted plot. The suit Scott found belongs to scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who invented it while he was working for S.H.I.E.L.D. But Pym resigned from there back in 1989, when he found out some people were trying to copy his work. Now, however, his estranged daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), and her lover, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who worked with Pym, have stolen his shrinking formula and developed a yellow jacket suit.
When Pym learns of this dastardly deed, he engineers the entire Scott heist so that Scott will find the ant suit. His motive is to recruit Scott as Ant-Man to steal Cross’s yellow jacket suit. And all this leads to a climactic insect battle aboard toy train. Choo! Choo! Woo! Woo!
“Ant-Man” is the 12th in a continuing series of Marvel movies to hit the silver screen, and it has no competition for being the worst. The plot is needlessly confusing in places, and a lot of the action is shot the dark or subdued lighting. I really doubt that youngsters will be able to follow the storyline in places, but it probably won’t make any difference because all they will care about is seeing Scott galloping around on the backs of various ants. In the film’s production notes director Peyton Reed makes his case for the film.
“‘Ant-Man’ is an incredibly powerful character. He can shrink down to a very tiny size and actually command these armies of different types of ants which on the face of it may seem like a silly power, but the great thing about the comics and the great thing about this story is you get to see what kinds of things a bunch of ants can get done and in what interesting ways they can help Scott.”
It’s a shame that somewhere in the movie Scott didn’t need to move a rubber tree plant.
Also in the production notes, Rudd offered a good clarification of the plot.
“In the beginning of the film, my character, Scott Lang, has just gotten out of prison. He doesn’t know anything about Ant-Man and has nothing to do with Hank Pym. On the other hand, Pym singled him out and, quite aware of his notoriety, has been watching him with ulterior motives. He sets up a scenario where Scott has to resort to his old ways. He breaks into Hank’s house to steal some money to help pay child support for his daughter, the only person he really cares about. Unbeknownst to Scott, Hank has orchestrated the entire scenario. This brings Scott into Pym’s world where he can potentially teach Scott how to use the suit properly and steal something Pym really needs.”
Of course the special effects are the one thing the film has to recommend it. Watching Ant-Man commanding armies of ants and running through the jungle-like carpeting fibers makes you realize how far technology in films has come. Be that as it may, however, I just can’t buy into an ant as a superhero, and so this film didn’t work for me. Halfway through it I was praying for the appearance of a giant anteater! I just hope it doesn’t spawn a slew of new characters like Flea-Man, Cicada-Man, Centipede-Man, Mosquito-Man, Inchworm-Man, or Roach-Man.
Let’s just give “Ant-Man” the final score of an uninspired four. And pass the Terro please.