It seems as though the world and her husband have weighed in with their opinions on Ant Man, but hey, the internet always needs yet more opinions, right? I also saw the latest Jonah Hill/James Franco film, True Story.
So, Ant Man, then. The overall consensus seems to be that it’s a bit meh, and I’m not really going to deviate from that. It’s quite fun, it’s quite funny, it’s quite entertaining. But that’s the problem-the ‘quite’. I think the issue with it is that it hasn’t been bold enough in being different. Guardians of the Galaxy worked because it took a lot of risks and it maxed out its craziness in the visuals, the soundtrack, the characterisation etc. The Avengers works, because it’s a full on, action packed spectacle (although let’s be honest the first film was way more successful at this than the second). Where Ant Man should have succeeded is in finding its own niche and running with it. There are hints that – some of it is pretty funny (although the running gags go on a little bit too long, and whilst some of Ant Man’s dippy friends are quite funny, not all of them are and thus they feel a little bit like racial stereotypes in places); some of the action works well. It’s at its best when we see things from Ant Man’s miniaturised perspective-these sequences are generally well realised and fun-although the best one, with the train set, has been ruined by the trailer!
However, the film is a little bit too serious and poker-faced in places to really get into its groove. The caper/heist idea is not a bad one, but it probably would have benefited from being a little bit more madcap, more colourful and more fun. The villain is pretty underdeveloped and underused and his scheming a little bit half baked-which means we don’t care about it that much. That means we’re not as invested as we perhaps could be in the outcome of Ant Man’s mission – and Ant Man himself doesn’t seem that bothered.
It’s also a film that’s notable for its lack of female characters, a shame, as I thought Marvel were trying to address that issue. There is only one significant female character in the whole film-she’s a pretty good character, but that’s not really enough. Oh, I tell a lie – Ant Man has a daughter and an ex-wife, too. The daughter is pretty cute, but the ex-wife is given very little to do and is a bit of a thankless role – a shame, because she’s played by Judy Greer, who much more could have been made of. The same is also true of Bobby Cannavale, who plays Greer’s new partner and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. Paul Rudd is good in the role of Ant Man, although I’m looking forward to seeing him interact more with the Avengers or other Marvel characters, as Rudd’s natural strength is as part of an ensemble-he just about pulls carrying this film off because of the nature of the character, but he’s not really a lone wolf kind of performer – his characters are always quite laid back, which generally works better when there’s somebody for them to play off.
Overall, the film ends up being an entertaining enough watch, a bit too average to demonstrate why Ant-Man has been chosen from the pantheon of Marvel heroes to have his own standalone vehicle.
True story is another film that feels ‘almost, but not quite’ in its execution. It tells the story of journalist Mike Finkel (Jonah), who comes into contact with Christian Longo (James Franco), a man accused of murdering his family, after Longo uses his name whilst under arrest. The rest of the film explores the relationship between the two men, and Finkel’s attempts to get back into his writing career after being discredited for changing some detail on a story. The problem with this is that we’ve seen the point-of-view character meets prisoner and questions their innocence narrative many times before so it’s not too fresh – and the whole thing sort of unravels at the end, where (slight spoiler) Hill’s character puts aside all his doubts based on the outcome of the trial, an incredibly sudden shift in response that doesn’t quite convince.
Ultimately, it’s not really clear what we have learned from this story, why this was story worth telling. Neither Finkel nor Longo is that interesting a character (for female representation, by the way, we have Felicity Jones as yet another long-suffering wife), and the way it wraps up is quite sudden and unsatisfactory. This is perhaps the problem when making films based on real-life-real life might not be interesting enough to make a full-length feature. I can’t help but think that this story is at best a 45 minute documentary. Hill does well in the role of Finkel and Franco is perfectly fine as Longo, but it’s all just that-fine.