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Ant-Man (2015)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

ANT-MAN (2015)

Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pena

Written By: Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish (also story), Adam McKay & Paul Rudd

Directed By: Peyton Reed

The Shot

Ant-Man is one of the most fun movies to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is an entertaining ride whether one walks in as an established comic book fan or not.  Catch in the theatre now, and add it to the permanent collection at home later.


The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEESEBURGER.

From a Happy Meal! With a Thomas the Tank Engine toy! Because you remember when this stuff was fun and you want that feeling again!


Pairs Well With...

GRASSHOPPER.

Sure, it’s named after an insect, but it’s yummy!  And fun, like dessert!

“This is not some cute tech like the Iron Man suit!”


One easy way to tell the difference between a hardcore Marvel comics fan and a standalone Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fan: that person’s initial reaction to the announcement of Ant-Man.

For many standalone MCU fans, the reaction was some variant on “Huh? Who the hell is Ant-Man?”  Because let’s face it, he’s not exactly high up on the “well known to the world at large” category.  (At least not prior to this year.)

For the harder core of Marvel comic book fans, though, the reaction was generally less stupefied and often more welcoming.  After all, in the comic world from which the movies are derived, Ant-Man was a founding member of The Avengers and the original designer of Ultron, so despite the fact that he was never exactly an independent “hit” in the comic book world, his absence thus far had been no small thing.  (I’d say that I’m sorry for the pun, but I’m not.)

However, there was some drama in the background of the “creative differences” variety (which I won’t get into here), and the little matter of Hank Pym – the original Ant-Man – being a problematic character whose personal history doesn’t quite gel with modern sensibilities (especially those about mental illness).  But shift the focus to Ant-Man’s successor, Scott Lang, turn Pym into his (somewhat whitewashed) aged mentor, and whammo!  Instant heist movie.

Wait; what?

After a long string of massive explosions, ancient gods, killer aliens, and killer robots, the powers that be decided tweak the Marvel formula a little a bit and frame Ant-Man as an old fashioned heist flick; specifically, one with a humorous side.  It doesn’t run quite as gonzo as Guardians of the Galaxy – there are no gun toting raccoons, after all – but after endless helpings of Whedonesque angst where everyone’s angry and trust is considered quaint, it makes for a fun and refreshing shift that even a pair of “family drama” subplots can’t derail.

The heist storyline brings along with it a more humanistic focus.  It’s not so much about the tech of the Ant suit; it’s about the man inside the suit, how he uses it, and why.  This down-to-earth focus helps to keep the otherwise easy-to-make comparisons between the plot of Ant-Man and Iron Man at bay… though the writers are savvy enough to make the self aware joke, anyway, and to provide fair explanations as to why the Avengers are being kept out of things.  (Save for a very well woven-in cameo or two, of course, which serve to provide neat links for the future while making perfect sense within the story at hand.)  It also allows Paul Rudd and his costars to shine on their own merits without being overwhelmed by a whole lot of pre-existing Marvel baggage.

And oh, do they shine.

Rudd is a fantastic Everyman, delivering a relatable performance that allows Ant-Man to be accessible to anyone, whether established Marvel fan or no.  Michael Douglas brings exceptional gravitas to the role of Hank Pym – so much so, in fact, that one occasionally has to do a double take to make sure that’s not actually Kirk Douglas on the screen – but he also has lots of fun with it.  Evangeline Lilly makes for a strong female lead who’s no one’s damsel in distress… and I’ll just stop there and let you discover what else she brings to the table.  Michael Pena is utterly delightful in his comic relief role, keeping the funny at a high level without ever taking it too far over the top.  Really, the person closest to being a weak link in the entire chain is Corey Stoll as the totally generic villain, and considering that the writing doesn’t give him anywhere to go other than “cliché,” that’s not really the actor’s fault.  As it stands, he takes what he’s given and does perfectly well with it.

All right, you say, but what about the giant explosions?  Marvel movies are always loaded with giant explosions!  Except that Ant-Man really isn’t; indeed, it practically goes out of its way to avoid giant explosions.  When things do explode, the blasts are pretty contained, and when it comes time for things the size of buildings to go boom… well, you’ll see.  But that’s not a red flag; rather, it makes the action all the more interesting for not relying on the standard crutch and instead focusing on the things that make Ant-Man a unique hero.  (Come on; let’s see Captain America change size or Nick Fury control armies of ants with his mind.  Yeah, thought so.)  This is a film that really makes an effort to showcase its hero, and the results are outstanding.

Indeed, they’re so outstanding that I’m going to recommend that folks still able to catch it in a theatre pony up the extra for the stereoscope, because in the case of Ant-Man, it’s totally worth it.  Why?  Because it’s used to marvelous advantage, giving added weight and perspective to the extreme change in world experience when Ant-Man shifts from human size to ant size and back again.  It provides the audience with a means to better appreciate just how cool this guy’s powers are, and it makes for even more spectacular action sequences.

Speaking of… Siri joke for the win.  That’s all I’m going to say.

Overall, the only problem I have with Ant-Man as a piece of entertainment is one that realistically can’t be solved without scrapping the whole script, and which is very definitely rooted in a personal bias I have with regard to storytelling.  To me, the “daddy issues” section of the theme library gets visited way too often, and Ant-Man features a double dose of “daddy screwed up and wants to find some way to make things right with his kid.”  To be fair, it works for what it is in this flick, and everything else here is so much fun that my annoyance was easily buried, but if writers would just lay off the “daddy issues” thing for the next decade or so, I think that’d be great.

In the meantime, though, Ant-Man is one hell of an entertaining movie that far exceeded my expectations, and which now stands as one of my favorite Marvel films overall. Bonus: its appeal is such that one doesn’t need to be an established MCU fan to enjoy it.  Ant-Man is definitely worth catching on the big screen while it’s there –in stereoscope, if you can – and an easy pick to add to the permanent collection come home video time.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, July, 2015


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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