Chris Evans

Ant-Man (2015)

In a world where we can (probably) download images of what Chris Evans ate for lunch during Captain America: Winter Soldier, it probably comes as no surprise that the pre-production problems of Ant-Man are well known. Kinetic director Edgar Wright (The World’s End) had been working on fleshing out the diminutive superhero since closing up shop on Spaced. Cut to 2011 and it’s announced that Wright will be working with Marvel to get Scott Lang out to the public. And then 2014 rocked by and the much-rumoured ‘creative differences’ between wright and Marvel comes to a head when Wright allegedly walks weeks before shooting, unhappy with certain changes. And just as suddenly, Peyton Reed was locked in to take the helm.

Taking into account the history, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the film turned out to be an omni-shambles of design by committee. Instead, Ant-Man manages to do something fresh with what is essentially the tired origin trope. Paul Rudd is Scott Lang, an electrical engineer and common thief. He roommates with three fellow ex-cons and has restricted access to his daughter. Scott wants to be straight, but is convinced to take one last job. Leading him to be taken under the wing of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who convinces Scott to work for him and steal a top-secret project from Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), Pym’s protégé who is wandering dangerously close to the dark side. To help Scott with his mission, Pym trains him to be Ant-Man; a diminutive superhero with all the force of a bullet.

Ant-Man is not your usual superhero movie, as the above shows. It’s more akin to a heist movie with Pym and Scott working together to develop and hone his skills as Ant-Man. Along the way, Pym struggles in his relationship with his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly). Hope, infinitely more skilled than Scott, wants to don the Ant-Man suit herself and most of the conflict comes from her trying to understand why her father is so adamant not to allow her. These scenes are surprisingly effective, with the success coming from both actors treating the material truthfully and honestly whilst Rudd bounces around in the background providing the comic relief.

Rumours persist that Wright was unhappy with the rewrite of his and Joe Cornish’s script, wanting to keep his film at arm’s length from the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. How much of that is true is unknown. However, there are numerous cameos storylines that carry on from Marvel’s properties, including a cameo from Iron Man 2. Unless you’re an avid Marvel fan, none of these will particularly affect your understanding of the narrative and all will have a good time.

Ant-Man’s real issues come from racial profiling that sees all minorities either wise-crackers or safecrackers. It’s not overly offensive, but it is a little problematic. In addition, Judy Greer is entirely wasted as Scott’s ex-wife. Even when her daughter is in danger during a climatic moment of the film, its both her ex and her new husband that do the protecting. If you’re going to use an actor from Arrested Development and Archer, we want more from her than scolding Scott and being scared.

That aside, with excellent effects, witty wordplay and charismatic screen presence by all those involved, Ant-Man manages to punch above it’s own weight. It’s not quite Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s nowhere near as pedestrian as Thor 2. It’s another win for Marvel.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka Captain America, is slowly adjusting to his new reality of modern day Ameerica. Like Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, he’s slightly shellshocked from what happened in New York during The Avengers. Despite seeking a quiet life (he’s making a list of things he’s missed out on, including The Beatles), he’s routinely called up by SHIELD Director, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), to perform clean up operations. When a hit is taken out on a member of SHIELD, it sparks off a series of events that leads Rogers and skilled assassin, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), down a path filled with intrigue and conspiracy. Albeit a conspiracy where people can punch through walls, which presumably Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward didn’t do during Watergate. But who is the mysterious Winter Soldier? How is he connected to Captain America? And why does he look like James Franco’s Green Goblin? Only one of those questions will be answered in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

To be honest, Captain America is one of those comic book characters I never cared for (A bit like the Green Lantern, and look how that turned out). He’s always struck me as a someone reeking of jingoism. He even pre-dates Team America by a good 60-odd years, but back then he had a purpose. He took on the old National Socialists and helped kids feel safer about what was going on around them and helped them love propaganda that little bit more. I’m sure my view point is not that controversial. Even Marvel/Paramount realised the character’s somewhat niche marketability and released this latest movie adaptation of old red, white and blue to the foreign markets with two titles; Captain America and The First Avenger. The latter adopted by Russia and South Korea.

So, yeah. I’m not a fan. Which is why it was all the more surprising to find myself really enjoying this two hours of WW2 comic book gumph. Captain America tells the story of how Chris Evans’s freaky CGI body becomes super-buff so he can take on Hugo Weaving’s freaky CGI head. Or something to that effect.

A lot has been made of the great efforts used to make Chris Evans look skinny. I had originally thought that they were going to blu-tac his head on to some skinny bugger in the same way they did for Fred Claus. Obviously they didn’t and the effects used are extremely well done. Unlike Fred Claus, which needs to curl up and die somewhere or be gone long enough for us to forgive Paul Giamatti. Whichever comes first.

The tone of movie works well. It was a brave move to set the entire story within World War 2. They could have gone the way of 1990’s Captain America and have him fighting Red Skull in 1993, which may have been the easier option. Don’t get me wrong. There’s about as much depth to this as there is in the eco-fable that was its predecessor. However, you’re being taken on such a ride, it doesn’t really matter.

Hugo Weaving – word class scenery chewer. That is all that needs to be said.

Oh, it has some horrible moments in it. Tony Stark’s father makes an extended cameo for no other reason than for people to go ‘ooooh, look it’s Tony Stark’s father! He has a mustache’. The underwritten romance between Evans and Hayley Atwells does grate with it’s needless will-they-won’t-they bollocks, but not enough to ruin the film as a whole. What does piss me off the return of Marvel’s favourite fucking bookend, Samuel L Jackson. It is this reviewer’s humble opinion that the sooner they do a Nick Fury movie, the sooner it will bomb harder than David Hassehoff’s effort and we can all get on with our lives, enjoying films that don’t have him in them. And if anyone dares mention it’s worthwhile because it’s linking everything together for The Avengers movie, may I offer that you go play in the traffic.

So, in summary Captain Amer-I-CA — FUCK YEAH!

It’s not that good, but I couldn’t resist that last line.