November 23, 2015

Digital Review: ANT-MAN

Starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cavannale, Michael Pena, Tip "TI" Harris, Anthony Mackie. Directed by Peyton Reed. (2015, 117 min).

After the bloated Avengers: Age of Ultron, the decidedly more down-to-Earth Ant-Man is a welcome change of pace. Sure, the fate of the world is (sort of) at stake yet again, but not before laying the groundwork with a terrifically entertaining origin story.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a former engineer and recently released ex-con who wants nothing more than to go straight and re-establish a relationship with his daughter. Unfortunately, he can't find work other than helping his former cellmate rob a house by using his skills to break through its security systems. But all he finds is a mechanical suit owned by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who arranged the robbery to begin with. This suit shrinks the wearer to insect size, but also magnifies their strength, making it the perfect tool for infiltration, war and espionage. Having been forced out of his own company by apprentice-turned-rival Darren Cross (who's willing to sell his own version of the suit to the highest bidder for nefarious purposes), Pym fears this power falling into the wrong hands, so he recruits and trains Lang to become this "Ant-Man" to stop Cross.

Guess who peed in the shower...

That's the perfunctory story in a nutshell, which has the usual ominous implications standard in any superhero movie. But what makes Ant-Man worthy of mention among the best Marvel movies (the first Iron Man and both Captain America films) are the smaller moments (no pun intended). We really like Scott Lang and empathize with him long before he ever dons the suit. The same goes for Pym and his estranged daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly). These three personally have a lot at-stake long before the usual mayhem ensues during the third act. Hell, we even become attached to the insects they've learned to control with Pym's technology.

There are worse things that can happen to a lawn than gophers.

As for the visual effects and action...Ant-Man is simultaneously spectacular and comical. There are the usual fireworks during the final showdown, but the premise leads to a few hilarious bits of product placement which, for once, aren't gratuitous. Best of all, despite some obvious and unavoidable CGI moments, the viewer seldom feels like they're being force-fed spectacle for its own sake.

However, having never read a single comic book in my life, with no prior knowledge of Ant-Man's role in the whole Marvel Universe, I have to say the film's attempts to incorporate the character into the ongoing MCU are dubious at best (these scenes feel pointlessly shoehorned into the plot). From a purely cinematic standpoint, Ant-Man is enjoyable enough on its own terms without the intrusive hints of the character's crossover future. But since I'm probably in the minority on that point, I suppose that's just nitpicking.

  • 4 "News Clip" Shorts
  • Featurette: "Making of an Ant-Man Heist: A How-to Guide"
  • 16 Deleted Scenes (some with commentary)
  • Gag Reel

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