If you were disappointed because Edgar Wright left this film, then you’re really going to be disappointed after seeing this film. That’s because Wright’s fingerprints are all over the film, yet he is nowhere to be found.
Yes, this is an Edgar Wright film. He and Joe Cornish are still credited with story and part of the screenplay (the latter shared with Adam McKay and Paul Rudd). And if you are a fan of Wright’s work, you’ll be able to pick his parts of the film out almost immediately.
For example, one of Wright’s most prominent trademarks is the jump-cut scene, where he presents a part of the story in a series of staccato images that say what they need to say in a concise and exciting way. In my opinion, it’s a trait that proves his genius and a big part of what I love about his films.
In Ant-Man, there are four or five scenes that you just know that Wright and Cornish wrote for this jump-cut style. However, Peyton Reed, either by conscious choice or lack of the ability to do so, presents these scenes with the pacing of a turtle trying to cross a molasses-covered roadway. The difference between the scenes as Reed directs them and the way they were intended is painfully obvious, and creates a disconnect with the audience. Unfortunately, this also makes us more aware of the other flaws in the film, flaws such as dodgy motives, underdeveloped characters and gaps in logic that we might not have had time to notice in the faster pace Wright works in.
The film opens as Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) leaves prison after serving three years for a Robin Hood-like bit of computer theft . He is desperate to go straight so he can provide a good role model for his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston), but he’s not even able to keep a job at Baskin-Robbins due to his criminal record. Soon, an old prison pal by the name of Luis (Michael Peña) seduces Scott back into a life of crime with a sure-fire robbery of a billionaire ex-military guy.
However, the only thing Scott finds in the billionaire’s vault is what he thinks is a motorcycle suit. After he puts the suit on, he realizes it allows him to shrink to ant size. The theft was orchestrated by the suit’s creator, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) as a test of Lang’s skills. See, Pym’s protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), has used Pym’s designs to create his own shrinking battle suit, one he is willing to sell to the highest bidder, no matter who that bidder will kill with it. Pym wants Lang to steal the designs from Cross to keep them from being used for nefarious purposes. Lang quickly signs on, much to the chagrin of Pym’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lily), who wanted the assignment for herself.
The reason given for Pym choosing Scott over Hope is that Scott is expendable and Pym dares not to lose his daughter. This is where the questions begin, because if he was that concerned about her, why did he have Hope work as his inside woman in Cross’ company, keeping tabs on an man who has no compunction about killing an employee for as little as speaking up in a meeting. And why wouldn’t Hope be a better choice, as she already has a high level access in the company, and would be able to sabotage the development of Cross’ suit from the inside. She wouldn’t even need the Ant-Man suit to do it either.
In addition to that, Pym is a man who doesn’t want his technology used by the military, unless he is the one to use it. Cross has a highly advanced, weaponized version of the Ant-Man suit he created himself, yet still is obsessed with stealing Pym’s outdated 1980’s version of the technology. Cross is another edition of the poorly defined Marvel villain. He constantly reminds us that he is the “jilted protege of a father-figure-like mentor (with nary a flashback to back that up),” yet comes off more as a raving lunatic who completely ignores his expressed motivation at the end just to give the film a slam bang finale.
Who do we blame for these contradictions? Wright and Cornish? McKay and Rudd? Reed? Marvel Studios’ interference? One from column A, one from column B? All of the above? Regardless, the studio would have been better off if it either delayed the movie, scrapped all of Wright’s stuff, and then started over or, you know, just let Wright direct it.
Which isn’t to say that the film is all bad. The effects are spectacular, the acting is great and there are moments of fun action and witty comedy. It’s just that it seems like without Wright at the helm, the film is like a jacket three sizes too big for Reed to wear, a jigsaw puzzle with miss-matched pieces. The result is a disappointing film.