Ant-Man – Christian Movie Review
[A quick note before you read about why Ant-Man is an incredible movie: if you’re a fan of U2 or C.S. Lewis, please check out my new blog Stabs of Joy that explores dozens of Lewis books and U2 albums to answer one question: how do we find joy in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances?]
Just when I think Marvel is due for a dud and just when I think Marvel’s creative engine, good taste, and likeability are about to sputter and show some wear and tear with its latest film, along comes Ant-Man to prove me wrong and completely blow me away. I’m giving this film one of the highest ratings I’ve given any film this year.
It’s one of Marvel’s finest works. I didn’t want the film to end. To be clear: I had no prior knowledge of the Ant-Man comic books before seeing the film, and, to be honest, I was skeptical about Ant-Man after seeing the trailers. I thought it looked a little ridiculous, even for a fictional universe that throws Norwegian mythological characters into battles with A.I. robots. But wow, was I wrong about Ant-Man. I’ll explain in more detail why I’m so (surprisingly) won over by this film in a moment, but first let’s cover the parental guidance issues first and get that out of the way…
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance for this PG-13 rated film…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality and Romance: We see a couple kissing briefly. Nothing else in this category. It’s a very clean movie in this category of parental guidance.
Violence/Gore/Scary Content: This category is how it gets to PG-13. Though, when contrasted with many other PG-13 movies, it’s moderate and restrained. The most gory scene is when a minor (not major) character gets zapped with a beam that is supposed to shrink organic matter and keep it intact, but the victim is reduced to a bubbling ooze of red tissue on the floor about the size of a nickel. It’s not shockingly gory. It’s just moderately gross and disturbing. The villain then wipes the former person up with a tissue and throws the left-over matter into the toilet. While not very gory in a guts and blood kind of way, it is unsettling. It serves a purpose, however. It reveals how little regard the villain has for human life, and it makes the audience truly despise him. It exposes the ugliness of evil, so I don’t think it is a nihilistic violence that glorifies the act. Also, we see a cute little lamb get shrunk and blasted into a little pile of goo as well during an experiment gone wrong. Other characters are shot and killed by gunfire in some scenes. Others are shot with lasers, and we see the lasers go through their bodies. In another scene, when certain technology goes awry, a man’s body sort of collapses and twists in on itself, and then implodes into a singularity. Again, while not very gory with blood and guts, it’s unsettling. However, the film never strays too far from a moderately PG-13 level of violence.
Language: No f-words. A sprinkling of s-words, a-words, and d-words, here and there throughout the movie, though it is not incessant.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: At a club, people are drinking. Other brief scenes of people drinking alcohol socially.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
This film was a refreshing change of pace for the Marvel series. It had a hometown, small-scale localized feeling to it that’s been missing in many of the huge globetrotting epics that recent Marvel movies have presented. For the most part, the entire story of Ant-Man probably took place within a 20 mile radius in one city. And its hero, Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) has an immensely likable “smallness” to him as well — smallness in the sense of vulnerability and humility. His personality — imperfect but trying to hard to do better, unassuming, skilled and confident in some areas but flawed and challenged in others — approximates the life of most people. Lang is quite possibly the most relatable hero that Marvel has put on the big screen so far. His humble ordinariness and approachability is the heart of the film.
One critic compared the film to a cross between “Ocean’s 11” and “Iron Man.” I would definitely agree. It’s a great heist movie. But it’s also an origin story about a mortal man who stumbles upon extraordinary technology that changes his life (i.e. like “Iron Man”).
Paul Rudd’s character, Scott Lang, however, is the polar opposite of the super-rich, supremely confident (and sometimes arrogant) Tony Stark. Lang is brilliant like Stark (in certain ways), but Lang doesn’t have an ego, he’s often down on his luck and out of money, and he just wants to be a good dad and a responsible person. And, all criminal activity aside, Lang is like millions of Americans today who are struggling to get by but just want to be responsible and good to their families. Rudd, like Stark, is very funny, but in a self-effacing way. It’s essentially a superhero “loser comedy.”
And then it throws in multiple family dramas that are convincing.
So you’ve got four genres — heist movie, tech-centered Iron Man-like superhero movie, loser comedy, and moving family drama — co-existing in one movie and, amazingly, it all works.
I won’t give anything away, but it also throws in quite a bit more Avengers tidbits and involvement into the Ant-Man story — more than I was expecting. Sure, I was expecting the end scenes in the credits to have big Easter eggs (and they did indeed — stay for the mid-credits and also for the very end of the credits), but I was not expecting to see so much
inclusion of other areas of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the Ant-Man storyline itself. It was just enough too. They didn’t over do it. It connected the strangeness of the Ant-Man world with the Avengers in delightful ways. And (smartly) Marvel even used the contrasting perspective of Ant-Man to poke fun at the Avengers.
And don’t even get me started on the special effects that we behold whenever Scott Lang shrinks. It’s stunning. If, when you were younger, you were a fan of the cool special effects of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” well, let’s just say that “Ant-Man” will basically melt your face off. (Not literally melt your face off. Just metaphorically. With it’s awesomeness.)
And all of the performances from every actor was spot-on. Pitch perfect casting. Pitch perfect writing, directing, and acting.
Worldviews, Subtext, Symbolism, Themes of Redemption, Social Commentary, Etc.
The overt message of “Ant-Man” is fairly simple: we all need redemption. We all need second chances. And, when given the opportunity and when given outside help, even the most hopeless of us can turn things around and be redeemed. The humility of Scott Lang amplifies this redemption message in a unique way. In many superhero movies, it’s mostly just an ego trip for the superhero. The film centers around their wonderfulness or their genius, and though they need and experience redemption, they obtain it by their own hands, in most cases, once they’ve overcome some external or internal problem.
Not so with this movie. “Ant-Man” sends a clear message: we can’t save ourselves. We can’t do it on our own — even the best of us. Scott Lang, as talented and smart as he is, desperately needs the help of other people (and the help of thousands of ants) to obtain the ultimate redemption that he needs to wipe away the crimes of his past and begin a new life as a transformed person. It’s the Gospel in a nutshell: we can’t save ourselves. By grace alone we’re saved, and not by works, lest we should boast (Eph. 2:8-9). The grace that comes to Scott Lang to redeem him could work as a colorful (and wonderfully creative) symbolism for the grace that God offers us through the debt-clearing sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.
This film, like many Marvel movies, also emphasizes selflessness to its most powerful conclusion: the giving of your life to save the lives of others, even people you don’t even know. We see some tear-inducing examples of this as character after character puts their life on the line to save people they don’t even know. Here’s one small example: a thief, feeling a sting in his conscience, runs back into a building that’s about to blow up to save the life of the guard that he had just knocked out.
Conclusion: One of Marvel’s Best and Most Inspiring
1) Hope for redemption that looks beyond the almighty Self for salvation, and 2) selflessness that doesn’t elevate Self above the lives of others: that’s Ant-Man in a nutshell (well, besides an abundance of mind-blowing special effects, riveting action, and well-written comedy).
And that’s why I love this film so much.
Marvel did it again.
My rating for “Ant-Man”: [usr 8 ]
[If you’re a fan of U2 or C.S. Lewis, please check out my new blog Stabs of Joy that explores dozens of Lewis books and U2 albums to answer one question: how do we find joy in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances?]
Note about my ratings:
1 star = one of the worst movies ever made (the stuff of bad movie legends), and it usually (not always) has below 10% on Rotten Tomatoes
2-3 stars = a mostly bad movie that has a handful of nice moments; it usually falls between (but not always — as is the case with “Spy”) 10-30% on Rotten Tomatoes
4-6 stars = a decent movie with some flaws, overall. Four stars mean its flaws outweigh the good. Five stars mean equal good, equal bad. Six stars mean it’s a fairly good movie, with some great moments even, that outweigh a few flaws. A 4-6 star rating usually means it falls between 30-59% on Rotten Tomatoes (but not always).
7-9 stars = a rare rating reserved only for the best movies of that year; and a film must have a Fresh Tomato rating (60% or higher) on Rotten Tomatoes to be given 7 stars or higher, with a few exceptions (if I strongly disagree with the critics).
10 stars = one of the best films of all time, right up there with the all-time greats (i.e. Casablanca, The African Queen, Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars Episode IV, Indiana Jones, etc.).
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