July 19, 2015 -- When I heard about this film, I couldn't help thinking about the Saturday Night Live skit called the “Superhero Party” (which can be streamed at NBC, Hulu, or Yahoo Screen) in which Ant Man (played by Garrett Morris, who also has a small role as a cab driver in “Ant-Man”) is made fun of and gets no respect from the other party guests, particularly from The Hulk (played by John Belushi) and The Flash (Dan Aykroyd). Well, Ant-Man gets plenty of respect in this latest Marvel film, but there is a good deal of comedy in it, too.
The ageless Paul Rudd (who was one of the writers of this screenplay) best known for his roles in comedies, here becomes the Ant-Man, who turns out to be one of those conflicted, flawed, self-doubting superheroes, like The Hulk and Spider-Man. He's Scott Lang, an ex-con who can't find a job and is behind on his child support. Lang (Rudd) gets a second chance from scientist Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas) who picks him to be Ant-Man, even though Pym's daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”) wants to wear the superhero suit herself.
It turns out this super suit enables the wearer to become the size of an ant, while retaining full-size strength. Another device invented by Pym allows Ant-Man to control an army of ants to do his bidding. In this film, Pym has a specific goal in mind, to destroy a dangerous weapons system before it falls into the wrong hands. A company founded by Pym has rediscovered his shrinking formula, and plans to sell it to the highest bidder, which turns out to be the evil organization known as Hydra (Hydra is like the Marvel Universe's version of Spectre).
Ant-Man's task is to destroy the weapon and all of the computer files that hold the secret to the shrinking formula before Hydra takes possession. So, it's a heist. Three of Lang's old criminal buddies are recruited to help with the heist, led by Luis (Michael Peña of “Fury”). They are small-time crooks, but it turns out they have just the right skills needed for this heist.
As in the last “Avengers” movie, this film takes some pains to insinuate itself into the Marvel Universe of stories, including the obligatory cameo by Marvel pioneer Stan Lee. Several characters from other recent Marvel films appear in this one, including Peggy Carter, Howard Stark, and, most notably Sam Wilson (The Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) who has an extended fight scene with Ant-Man. Hints are dropped that Ant-Man is being recruited by Shield to become part of the Avengers Initiative.
This movie is somewhat lighter in tone than some other recent Marvel films with more humor. That's probably due to a couple of the screenplay writers, Edgar Wright and Paul Rudd. Wright has written and directed some of the funniest, cleverest spoofs in recent years, including “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”
The film has a nice mix of action, drama and comedy, aided by a very effective villain, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll of “Non-Stop”) who is a lot like the evil corporate character that Jeff Bridges played in “Iron Man.” While the lead characters are well played, there are some excellent performances from the supporting cast, including a great comic performance by Michael Peña and a nuanced performance by Bobby Cannavale (“Blue Jasmine”) as Jim Paxton, a cop married to Lang's (Rudd's) ex-wife, Maggie (Judy Greer of “Jurassic World”).
In the movie industry, the winners are those who have a story to tell and who know how to tell it. Marvel is a winner because of that capability. There are too many people working in the movie industry in Hollywood that don't have the talent, or know how, to create and tell good stories.
This movie opened at number one over its first weekend. That's 12 for 12 first-place openings for recent films that are part of the Marvel Universe. You can complain about Marvel all you want, but they are going to rule Hollywood, and box offices around the world, as long as they keep telling stories like this. Besides, everybody wants to be a hero, and everybody wants to think they could be one if they got the chance. This film rates a B.
The science in this science fiction is basically nonsense. Ant-Man is supposed to control the ants with pheromones (chemicals released into the air) but in the film, this acts like telepathic remote control, which certainly would not work when the pheromones are released inside a closed helmet. Even if the pheromones were released promptly and efficiently, it still takes time for them to disperse, but there are no such dispersal delays in the film. It would also require a level of intelligence beyond the capabilities of ants, because they are able to complete complex tasks when they are being controlled indirectly.
In one scene, Ant-Man shrinks down to atomic, yet his equipment is made to function normally in this quantum reality, which should be impossible. Afterward, Ant-Man is unable to remember what happened, and how he was able to return from this atomic level trap from which Pym's wife had disappeared years before. This memory loss is unexplained.
The special effects in the film are very good. In the film's opening scenes, Michael Douglas is made to appear years younger in a flashback scene through movie magic. This effect is flawless, and astonishing. And, there are not one, but two teaser scenes after the credits start rolling. The second teaser scene is at the very end, and it appears to preview the next Captain America movie, “Captain America: Civil War.” Filming began on this movie in April and it is scheduled for release in May of next year.
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