Amazingly Astonishing Ant-Man Action

Because the new TV episode movie in the MCU is opening this weekend (a little movie called Civil War), I decided to see the one movie in the MCU I have yet to watch, Edgar Wright’s Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man.  When I first saw the trailers over a year ago, I was hesitant to see this movie.  I was getting a little fatigued of the Marvel formula, and the movie didn’t seem like it was going to distinguish itself like Thor with an intriguing villain or twisty storyline like Winter Soldier.  And after Age of Ultron was released, which I personally found disappointing, I decided to skip Ant-Man, but the positive reviews kept me curious.  I’m glad I finally saw the film, because it is very enjoyable, more than other Marvel movies.  I would say this is easily a better film than Ultron and I can see this being one of my preferred MCU films, like Thor and Iron Man.

The film is simply a lot of fun, despite its generic villain, plot and themes.  Much of it we have seen many times, particularly in the first Iron Man.  But one thing that kept me interested, besides Michael Pena stealing every scene and moment, was the action.  I loved the action whenever the sequences went microscopic.  The lighting, the camera movements, the music, the use of environments, the ants (!) all made the action fresh and exciting, more than ten films into this franchise.  There are three major major sequences that I adore (I would love to talk about Pena’s monologues about meeting up with his cousins while the other characters are lip-syncing to the stories, fucking genius and hysterical).  Those sequences deal with a shoot out, a train sequence, and the quantum realmant-man-trainThe beauty of this film comes in the cinematography whenever Scott Lang (Paul Rudd being the best Paul Rudd) becomes tiny.  The use of multiple exposure, long lenses, mattes against macro photography, zooms, extreme close-ups, and tilt focus all give an amazing sense of scale and placement whenever Lang is minuscule.  These techniques add a great sense to the motion and the uniqueness of the action.  The cinematography by Russel Carpenter is fantastic in these moments.  He really allows the camera to add to the action and lets the movements of the characters to breathe while using these stylistic tricks to make the environment appear in different and unexpected ways.  Often the environment is not used to great effect in action, except when there’s destruction.  But in Ant-Man, the environment adds to the conflict and the action by supporting the scale of the conflicts.

The film still has standard action punching and shooting, but when bullets are shredding a cardboard model (“what is this? a model for ants?”) while Lang escapes or when a Thomas the Tank Engine falls off the tracks, the film subverts normal action tropes and gives the scenes a unique spin.  We have seen buildings and cars get destroyed by a machine gun on a helicopter or a series of rockets, but we have never scene it quite like how it’s done in the papery destruction in Ant-Man.  We have all seen action sequences on trains in any Western while the character is traversing from cart to cart on the roof, but never on a model train while small blocks are being destroyed by ants and tiny lasers.  This film takes what would normally be cliched and typical action sequences and makes them special and exciting.  And I can honestly never say that I have seen two people fight in a briefcase falling from the sky while The Cure plays in the background.  That truly was something I have never seen before (again, a twist of two people fighting while free-falling).

Ant-Man took me by surprise by how well-made a lot of it is.  I feel like if Peyton Reed has more time to develop the story and characters (again, those two story sequences with Michael Pena killed me), and allowed Hope to have a more important role (apparently she was barely in Edgar Wright’s version), I think this movie could have been great, instead of having moments of greatness in some wonderful comedic sequences and action.  I look forward to seeing Ant-Man and the Wasp in a couple of years and I’m hoping that Marvel embraces more unique action, instead of more combat sequences taking place on some aerial setting or filled with city destruction or fighting robots.  Because this movie has some great entertaining action sequences, while so many other big blockbusters are becoming stale in their action scenes.

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