Monday, July 27, 2015


One thing I learned from pitching movies--you can't predict what problems people will have.  A plot hole you fear is gaping gets nary a mention, while the producer doesn't buy something you thought was bulletproof.

This is probably even more true when you're in the realm of sci-fi, fantasy and action films, where normal rules don't necessarily apply, so who knows what people will or won't buy? For instance, I thought many plot points in Jurassic World were ridiculous.  One example--they can't find the new super-duper dinosaur in his pen, so they figure he's escaped and go inside.  It turns out he's still in there, and he then escapes once they open the door. Only after that do they turn on his tracker.  Here's an idea--you think he's not in the pen, turn on the tracker immediately.  But it didn't matter to the audience, apparently, who made the film one of the biggest hits of all time.

(I'm also reminded of how I wrote about Siskel and Ebert's trouble with Return Of The Jedi:

I recall Siskel and Ebert complaining about the speeder bike chase through the forest of Endor in Return Of The Jedi.  "Why don't they fly above the trees?" they asked.  Well, maybe the speeder bikes don't move vertically that well.  Maybe it was a way of getting away from people chasing you.  Maybe the branches and leaves are too thick to allow it.  Maybe the air on the moon of Endor gets very thin a few hundred feet up so repulsorlift engines don't work.  Maybe a hundred other reasons.  Yet this is where Siskel and Ebert decided to take a stand--apparently they're experts on the physics of speeder bikes, the flora of Endor and the psychology of Imperial Stormtroopers )

Yet I was surprised to read a piece by Tasha Robinson at the AV Club about how a lot of Ant-Man didn't make sense--worse than in other Marvel movies.  Odd. I not only enjoyed the film, but also felt it had a better, tighter plot than usual for a superhero movie.  So let me try to answer Robinson's questions.  Spoilers ahead, of course.

Why would S.H.I.E.L.D. house its top-secret medical storage facility, where Captain America is meant to be protected from the modern world after his hibernation, in the middle of Times Square, instead of in some remote country hideaway?

This is a preliminary question, and not hard to answer.  Supervillains can get to you anywhere (if they know where you are), and regular citizens can't get past your security, so Times Square is as good a place as any. In fact, it's better, since it's near other people and places you might need, including top-notch doctors and medical equipment.

Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) was reportedly watching Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) for a while, long enough to judge his character and superhero aptitude. So maybe he could predict that Scott was desperate enough to see his daughter that he would follow the rumor of a big score far enough to break into Hank’s house and his safe. But how in the world could he predict that Scott would a) steal what looked like a crumpled old Halloween costume, b) choose to put the thing on, and c) activate it?

He couldn't be sure, but Lang was the curious type, and finding nothing else in such a heavily guarded safe would make him wonder.  And if he didn't put it on, no big deal. The main thing was showing he was resourceful enough to break in to begin with. Even if he left the costume behind, that would have been enough for Pym to go visit Lang and explain the deal to him.  In fact, putting on the costume almost put a crimp in Pym's plan and things might have gone more smoothly if Lang had just left things alone.  (It's also possible Pym was looking at other candidates and Lang was the first to pass the test.)

When Scott first activates the suit, shrinks, and winds up in a Honey, I Shrunk The Kids nightmare, why doesn’t he just press the button on the glove again?

Lang, just being shrunk for the first time, is going through a horrifying moment. He would be in shock, or close to it, not thinking straight, so don't expect his actions to make sense. But even if he completely had his wits about him, the last thing he'd do is press the button on the glove again, since that's what got him in trouble to begin with. (And I thought you didn't press that button again, you press a different button.)

For that matter, why doesn’t it get accidentally mashed when he’s crashing into everything on the planet?

If "it" is the suit, it's built to withstand the pressure. If "it" is Lang, he's got the strength of a man but the weight of an ant, so he can take a lot.

Or if Robinson is claiming why isn't the button pushed when he gets bumped all over, there'd have to be a built in mechanism to make sure only a finger pressing the button would work or the suit would be dangerous in battle.

What’s up with the ungodly hideous stuffed rabbit-thing Scott gives his daughter Cassie? It’s sweet that she loves it because it came from him, but… Did he buy it for her because she’s actually a fan of horror-movie-worthy stuffed animals (that speak with the voice of Tom “SpongeBob” Kenny), or is he just a really clueless dad?

This shows he's a really good dad. We find out immediately that his daughter loves ugly-looking stuff.  It's a thing between them.  How did Robinson miss this?

What exactly is the MacGuffin that Scott has to fetch from the new Avengers HQ, leading to the fight with Falcon?

That's what it is--a MacGuffin that will help him in future travails.  What's the problem?

For that matter, when he still had control of his company, why didn’t he delete his research instead of “burying” it where Darren could find it? He knew it was dangerous and that he didn’t want anyone getting their hands on it, but he had enough control to obscure it, but not to get rid of it, or enlist his former staff to get rid of it?

Whatever Pym did, Darren did not have anywhere near enough information to rebuild it. There was old evidence of what Pym did available to anyone who was looking (i.e., his old adventures), but it took Darren years to rebuild the technolgy.

How much did Baskin-Robbins pay for the product placement here, not just in terms of having major scenes set in a Baskin-Robbins outlet, but to get everyone to repeat “Baskin-Robbins” over and over, while treating the company like a total badass?

The Baskin-Robbins stuff was great.  Whether or not the movie was paid for it, I don't care. I often complain films don't have enough real products, and we end up in this generic world.  If all the B-R gags were instead about some made-up ice cream place, they wouldn't have worked.

These are petty concerns, though. Here are some bigger ones you could walk a regular sized Ant-Man through: Why doesn’t Hope know what happened to her mother?

Because it was (and is still, as it's ongoing) a traumatic experience for Hank. He has trouble talking about it, and was trying to spare his daughter.

Why doesn’t Scott even ask about the downsides of the Ant Man suit?

This is Scott's chance to turn his life around. He realizes it's dangerous, but is willing to be the hero after years of being the bad guy.

How does a helmet protect Scott from the Pym Particle, when his brain inside the helmet is being atomically altered along with the rest of him?

So Robinson is an expert on how Pym Particles work?  I have to assume the helmet protects against what it has to protect again, while not stopping the things it's not needed to stop. If you can buy shrinking, you can certainly buy this.

“As long as I am alive, nobody will ever get that formula.” Brave words from Hank Pym, but he’s dealing with Hydra, which is not known for being gentle with recalcitrants, or respectful of ultimatums.

I assume Pym believes he won't give up the formula, and that's that.  What else should he do, kill himself?

How the hell did Janet or Scott disarm machinery while subatomic and shrinking into a quantum world?

I hadn't thought about this, and it's a good point.  I assume while you're shrinking you get through and cause damage, and even while subatomic you mess with stuff so the machinery doesn't work.

Why don’t the shrink/grow shurikens shrink/grow things infinitely? They don’t have belt regulators, which we’re told is the only reason a person in the suit doesn’t shrink forever. For that matter, why, when Scott is subatomic and wants to grow back to regular size, does he shove one of those shurikens into his belt-regulator spot as if they’re plug-and-play devices, when they’re actually impact weapons?

Once again, because that's how Pym built them.

When Scott is in a sub-sub-subatomic space “where time and space are meaningless,” how can he still hear his daughter yelling for him as if they were in the same space?

I thought about this when it was happening, and I just figured either he heard her as he was shrinking, and it echoed in his mind, or, knowing he was fighting for her, heard her in his imagination.

Hope this clears everything up. Any other questions?


Blogger New England Guy said...

Funny you have this post. I haven't seen Ant-Man (My son is of an age- just going off to college now- but actually for the last couple years -where he'd rather see these movies with his friends than with his old man and my wife won't go to these kind of movies, which is OK because I like arthouse/chick flics too but I digress).

I got hooked on FX's American Horror Story a few weeks ago on Amazon Prime. I am just starting season 3 (witches coven in New Orleans, following up on the haunted "murder" house in LA and the Insane Asylum in Massachusetts in the first 2 seasons). Anyway. Even within the weird rules of AHS, nothing really makes any sense and inconsistencies abound. But it doesn't matter somehow. Even the bad accents work.

The stories have enough momentarily logical twists and action and campiness and character (love Jessica Lange as the sexy hard ass senior citizen, which she can do even as playing a nun), not to mention mixing somewhat unrelated horror tropes (i.e. the devil and aliens) that you don't pay attention (maybe all horror stories are like that while sci-fi puts a greater value on rationality (rationalitiness?)

6:28 AM, July 27, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

It's always fascinated me how much people can buy, or not buy. In general, a story has to have consistency. Once you buy the premise, presumably you have to stay consistent within that world. But perhaps emotional consistency is more important--as long as you stay with the characters and their motivations, the rest isn't as important.

9:07 AM, July 27, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Antswers? I feel like you're pandering. Notwithstanding that I wouldn't have gotten if you didn't.

5:40 PM, July 27, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Thousands of punning titles and you finally take a stand?

6:06 PM, July 27, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

The time just seemed right.

1:43 PM, July 28, 2015  

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