Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Diva's Movie Review: "Ant-man" Is Packed With Oodles of Charm (Spoilerish!)

After the noisy, over-the-top "Avengers: Age of Ultron" that resembled and felt more like a video game than a satisfying movie, Red Dot Diva toned down her expectations on the next Marvel superhero movie.

Sure, she adores Paul Rudd and his work, but Ant-man has never been totally mainstream as a superhero, even when, in the comics, he is actually one of the founding members of The Avengers. Most people could never quite envision Paul Rudd (who mostly did comedies) to be a superhero either.

Moreover, after nearly 9 years in the making at the hands of British director Edgar Wright, "Ant-man" saw his suddn departure in May 2014 due to "creative differences". He was later replaced by Peyton Reed as director, who also re-crafted the script together with Paul Rudd and Adam McKay.

Will this be another storytelling mess filled with too many characters? The promotional trailers for "Ant-man" were very low-key, so would that mean it was going to be a bland movie? She knew she was not alone in her skepticism.

But those niggly feelings fell apart within minutes of the opening scene that set the tone of the entire movie - thanks to the engaging script and innate charm of Paul Rudd as burglar-genius Scott Lang.


Upon his release from prison, Scott attempts to stay on the straight and narrow so that he could earn enough child support and reconnect with his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson).

Of course finding a job as an ex-con is not easy, so Scott finds himself lured back to stealing again by his ex-partner-in-crime, Luis (Michael Peña), not knowing that the job was actually a test set up by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the creator of the shrinking technology that is embodied in the Antman suit.

Hank wants Scott to be part of a special mission to stop former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from selling the technology to evil Hydra. In return, Scott gets his redemption, reunite with his adorable daughter and be a hero.

Meanwhile, Hank's estranged daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) has been acting as a spy within Cross Technological Enterprises to get more intel of Cross' plans. However, that was not enough as Cross' suspicions grow stronger. Needing more hands on deck for the mission, Scott calls in his gang of buddies, including Luis, for the ride. And that's where most of the real fun begins.

Red Dot Diva has to give credit to "Ant-man" for not taking itself too seriously. After all, the premise that one could get miniaturized at will and control insects to do one's bidding while saving the world sounds cartoonish. The script - which has been said to have retained a lot of Edgar Wright's original segments - was light, playful, and had the right amount of action, especially towards the last one-third of the film.

The movie works mainly because of the everyman likeability and good comedic timing of Paul Rudd as the reluctant hero, Scott Lang. (Red Dot Diva thought having to look into those beautiful green eyes of his and yummy biceps didn't hurt either.) Whoa too, is that scene where Paul  gets to show off a pretty impressive set of abs.

The best laughs, though, are reserved for Michael Peña, who hammed it up in almost every scene his character Luis was in. Conversely, in his first-ever superhero movie, veteran actor Michael Douglas provides the required gravitas as the reclusive, tormented Hank Pym.

As for Evangeline Lilly - Red Dot Diva both liked and disliked the scenes she was in. (This has nothing to do with Evangeline's skills or personality - she is lovely in person based on real life fan accounts that Red Dot Diva has read about.) Perhaps it was the awful blunt-cut bob wig that marred her screen time, but mostly, Red Dot Diva thought Hope Van Dyne was just sulky and prone to having childish tantrums. Thankfully, she has some kickass MMA skills and ant-talking knowledge to impart to Scott to help gear him up for the mission. At least her role was way better than Scott's ex-wife played by Judy Greer. She was barely even noticeable.

Having said that, there is still hope (*ahem*) for Evangeline Lilly to amp up the female superhero screen time when another Ant-man movie comes about. Red Dot Diva is keeping her fingers crossed that the black wig does not make a re-appearance.

A great villain is pivotal to any superhero movie, so it is too bad that Corey Stoll does not quite convince as a power-hungry nefarious bad guy..... until he puts on the Yellowjacket suit. However, Red Dot Diva still thinks there should be more menace, more brains to Darren Crooks.

Oh, and one must not forget the mini stars of the show -- the four species of modified ants that could be controlled by the Ant-man suit. Thanks to the VFX, the little insects look adorable, and after watching the movie, Red Dot Diva now can't bear smashing those big flying ants that occasionally appear on her computer screen.

Part of the joy of watching "Ant-man" are the imaginative action sequences that depict the movement from "human-sized" to the miniaturized worlds and back again. The edits were funny and very well done, particularly the fight scene carried out in a toy train set. 

"Ant-man" is a cool, quirky mixed bag of heist, family drama, comedy and superhero adventure, with oodles of charm. Despite its flaws for being a tad more simplistic than the other movies in the MCU, it is still unique in its approach (thanks again to Edgar Wright's and Joe Cornish's initial hand in it, as well as the later tweaks to the script that worked), and Red Dot Diva thought it was one of the more entertaining and fun movies of this genre that she has watched in quite awhile.

Hints from Red Dot Diva:
- Look out for those cameos on screen! She's pretty sure you can spot a few of them!
- Stay on after the last scene. There are both mid-credit and post-credit segments, which reveal more about the upcoming movies in the MCU.
- The 3D version is fantastic and not as headache-inducing as the action-heavy movies like "Avengers: Age of Ultron". In fact, it enhanced the effects of the miniaturized world and added to the visual experience.


"Ant-man" opens in theatres islandwide today, 16 July.

Thanks to Disney/ Marvel Singapore for the invite to the preview screening.

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