Here are the movie reviews I wrote for the October issue of EL Magazine, which was distributed in Tokyo last week.
That Green Hornet movie with Seth Rogen was a good idea that didn’t work out as planned. Basically a comic riff on superhero blockbusters that took into consideration the towering ludicrousness of the premise, it nevertheless stopped way short of the usual shenanigans one would expect from a movie with Rogen’s name over the title while shortchanging the kind of action it was supposedly deriding. Since Ant-Man is a Marvel production, it might be expected to demonstrate a little more self-consciousness in this regard. After all, almost all the Marvel movies are in some ways parodies of themselves. But it seems the studio decided to make this aspect purposeful, and not just by casting Paul Rudd, who is essentially Rogen’s more conventionally handsome cognate, as the titular superhero, but also by using a script by the only genuinely inventive comic filmmaker of the moment, Edgar Wright (along with Adam McKay, Joe Cornish, and Rudd, who basically took over when Wright left the project), and a bankable comedy director, Peyton Reed, to helm the thing. One of the better ideas this crew came up with is isolating the origin story from the hero. Michael Douglas plays Hank Pym, a scientist who creates a particle that makes things shrink. Naturally, his protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), wants to use it for evil purposes, and eventually Cross gains control of the technology while Pym is pushed into early retirement. However, neither Pym nor Cross are Ant-Man. That role falls to burglar Scott Lang (Rudd), who, thanks to a stint in prison and losing custody of his beloved daughter, is at the end of his proverbial rope. His savior is Pym, who catches Scott breaking into his safe and then recruits him to do the same at Cross’s company—the one he stole from Pym. To help him do the job, he makes him a suit that shrinks Scott down to ant size without compromising his full-size strength and speed. Though the dramatic component is dominated by Scott’s reluctance to continue in his criminal ways, the movie requires him to give in to them, and does so by making the whole shrinking process fun. It also helps that Pym’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), who works for Cross, is secretly helping her father and thus doubles as a love interest for Scott. If this all sounds painfully familiar, it just goes to show how some superhero conventions are impossible to resist, and as the film enters its third quarter, which is filled with SFX and a lot of cleverly staged action scenes that take full advantage of the shrinking premise, you may not notice that you aren’t laughing despite the pedigree on screen and off. By the time Ant-Man and Cross, using a similar shrinking technology, are beating each other up in a miniaturized world where raindrops become tidal waves and real ants qualify as the cavalry, you will have totally forgotten that this was supposed to be a comedy. Marvel wins again. (photo: Marvel) Continue reading