There seems to be an ongoing trend in current movies where they tell a very familiar story complete with all the obligatory tropes and character archetypes but said movies tell this story in a fresh manner. KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE at its most basic is just another White Boy Power Fantasy but the way Vaughn directed the movie made it feel more like a homage to older Spy movies instead of being nothing but juvenile wet dreams like every Michael Bay TRANSFORMERS entry and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is really just another team building movie where a ragtag group of outcasts find camaraderie in their differences but it was told in one of the most refreshing and outlandish ways imaginable that it became a pop culture sensation. There’s nothing wrong with rehashing a story’s basic elements since at this point, fuck next to nothing is original and what matters most is the execution. If a writer can make a generic Hero’s Journey feel awesome and new again, then obviously the writer did a fucking good job.
Enter ANT-MAN, Marvel’s latest entry into its ever growing line-up of superheroes and eventual Avengers members. After the entertaining let-down that was AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, it was up to ANT-MAN to restore peoples’ faith in the Marvel cinematic brand since ULTRON disappointed a lot of fans (like myself) who wanted the Avengers to finally hit the level of maturity seen in CAPT. AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER but what we got instead was a bunch of jokes and Deus Ex Machinas (it was bad but at least it wasn’t IRON MAN 3 fucking bad). ANT-MAN, thankfully, does manage to restore the sense of enjoyment, entertainment and wonder the earlier Marvel movies had where you get to watch a comic book character come to life for a big cinematic adventure (only this time told as a heist) but at the cost of being a very generic Superhero Origin Story.
The problem with Superhero Origin Stories is that there’s so little one can do with them to make them unique and that flaw with any superpowered storyline is very obvious in every Marvel Origin Story. Here’s how every Marvel Origin Story goes:
- Hero starts out as a douche or a weakling
- Hero goes through life-or-death situation that changes their perspective on things
- Hero sulks
- Hero finds powers or Magic Stuffs that make them awesome, thus putting them on a self-imposed crusade to save the world and fight for justice
- Cartoonish Bad Guy remembers they’re in the story and tries to steal Stuffs
- Boss Fight; Cartoonish Bad Guy loses by Irony when their own Stuffs kills them
- Hero wins the day, saves the world and gets the girl
- Cue the end credits teasers
Now there’s nothing wrong with the formula but following it to the letter without doing anything innovative is where the problems arise. Since ANT-MAN had the burden of introducing a new and relatively ignored superhero that no one gives a flying fuck about, it decided to go to its ancestors for aid and it wisely chose the 2008 smash-hit IRONMAN. By following the format IRONMAN used to introduce Tony Stark to a new audience and launch a cinematic juggernaut, ANT-MAN succeeds in its task of showing the world how cool Ant-Man can be but it does little to be a hero of its own. When put alongside the other Marvel Superhero Origin Stories, ANT-MAN’s only distinguishing factor is the fact that its main character can shrink at the push of a button. And he steals shit. And they curse a bit more. And (OH MY GOD) women can punch people in the face (wow movie, it’s 2015, I think that’s a fucking given at this point… enough with the Shitty 90’s Action Movie Tropes). That’s it.
In ANT-MAN you have the Snarky Loveable Rogue who’s trying to get his life back together, so he does that with the aid of Superpowers bestowed unto him by a Mentor Figure. Helping him is his handy group of Quirky Minority Sidekicks and the Obvious Love Interest Who’s Just Acting Tough as they plot and scheme to bring the Cartoonish Bad Guy’s plans to a halt. Minus a few tweaks here and there like the backstory of the Mentor and the Obvious Love Interest and the fact that the entire movie is more of a Heist than a Rescue Mission, ANT-MAN has so few differences when compared to IRONMAN that these key changes can be counted with your fingers.
ANT-MAN may have made a good decision in following IRONMAN’s footsteps but it failed in taking advantage of the situation by changing what put some dents on the normally invincible armor of Robert Downey Jr.’s comeback, and one of this is the Overall Villain. With the exception of WINTER SOLDIER and how expertly they depicted Hydra, the problem ALL Marvel movies as of late have is that their villains are bullshit. They may have nice designs and costumes and they sure look like bad motherfuckers but other than that, the guys who were supposed to be the perfect foil or challenge for the Heroes turn out to be either Cartoonish Bad Guys that make Dark Heart from CARE BEARS look complex or they’re Pure Bullshit (fuck you Mandarin) and this flaw is highly evident in ANT-MAN’s Cross/Yellowjacket. Hell, Yellowjacket could be the worst example of this flaw of every Marvel movie so far since he’s so fucking obnoxious he looks more like a cartoon character than an actual threat.
Cross as a dude is a fucking annoying and predictable one-note bad guy who does Evil Stuff for the laughs and nothing more. There’s some cheap excuse about his head getting fucked up by a serum but that’s never really given any depth so why the fuck should you. To make it worse, it takes the entire movie for him to put on the Yellojacket armor to finally fight Ant-Man and while the fight scenes were cool, the resolution via Deus Ex Machina could be seen the moment Michael Douglas’ character mentioned it earlier in the movie. Cross/Yellowjacket is so fucking hammy that he would’ve been perfect as the bad guy in some random soap opera where he does the usual Bad Guy Stuff like sneer, jeer, kill cute animals in a lab, be a general asshole for no apparent reason, state the obvious and be an expert at not being able to shoot shit even if the target’s 2 fucking inches away from his face. For a scientific genius who was able to create a fucking death machine that can shrink to atomic size, this guy is a big fucking dumbass that still does every stupid fucking villain thing on the list, including threatening the hero’s family because that’s the best fucking thing to do on a whim. Have you guys ever heard of underdogs? Yeah, cause they always have a bad case of winning when the Cartoonish Bad Guy does something stupid like gloat and threaten people instead of killing shit.
When compared to its superior counterparts in the Origin Story department, ANT-MAN fails in making a name for itself even if it does manage to do what movies of its genre should do: entertain. Unlike GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, which correctly relied on its cast’s diverse personalities even if it suffered the same Bullshit Villain problem all Marvel movies, ANT-MAN has no personality of its own. While GUARDIANS had a cool gang of Individually Distinct Outcasts who found a semblance of family amongst themselves, ANT-MAN just has a dude with a nice power armor suit who wants to save people because reasons. Tell me that doesn’t sound familiar and I will slap you across the fucking face like a little bitch because you’re obviously lying (or you live under a rock and never heard of Iron Man, which is totally understandable given your situation).
ANT-MAN is an entertaining popcorn movie that shows off a brand new take on a normally forgettable hero but it doesn’t do much to make a name for itself. Sure, it had great comic timing, the action was good and the use of a heist was a great setup for a Superhero Origin Story but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. It may be one of the better Marvel Origin Stories in the pack but it’s something that no one will be remembering any time soon, outside of two end credit scenes.
That’s right, stick around and there is a VERY interesting end-credit scene for a certain major crossover movie event lined up for next year.