‘Ant-Man': Big punches, big laughs

16 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Box Office: ‘Ant-Man’ to Tower Over ‘Trainwreck’.

When Ant-Man hits the screens, it’ll open up a whole new world of possibilities for Marvel Studios — not just in the sense of introducing a character that’s not quite on the same scale power wise as the Avengers, but also one who’s not on the same scale in terms of height.Paul Rudd gave up alcohol and carbs to tone his body as “Ant-Man’s” Scott Lang, which apparently is pretty hard for a guy who says he has a pub in his basement.

The now-toned “Clueless” star — who went the way of his “Parks and Recreation” costar Chris Pratt and physically transformed for the role — gives audiences a gratifying peek at his buff physique in the caper. (Hello, washboard abs!) Rudd, 46, who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay, told People that he had never exercised that diligently for an extended period of time, but it was much easier to stick with the routine than he thought. “Everything else about my day kind of had to fit in around the workouts. Though hardly a household name, the man with the powers of an arthropod should show some box office heft when the adventure film that sports his name debuts to $62 million this weekend.

That’s roughly in line with what “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Thor” did in their initial weekends in theaters, even though “Ant-Man” is a lesser star in the Marvel universe. “The Marvel brand is strong enough to bring a familiarity to any movie they shepherd to the marketplace,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “It carries weight with an audience. No, not Corey Stoll’s character from the movie, nor the original Hank Pym version of the character that appeared in the comic books (Strange but true; Pym got started as Yellowjacket in the comics after a psychotic break that left him with multiple personalities) — the second Yellowjacket was a criminal called Rita DeMara who stole Pym’s technology and became a supervillain for a brief period before traveling to the 31st century to serve with the original comic book incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy. But it’s hard to deny that the concept of a guy whose superpowers are shrinking and talking to ants is a bit goofy in this world of Iron Man and the Nazi-slaying Captain America.

Originally, Goliath was an alternate identity of original Ant-Man Hank Pym, but by 1969, it became the second super-heroic identity of another Avenger: Hawkeye. So with “Ant-Man,” the producers of the Marvel cinematic universe turned over the reins to a bunch of goofballs. “Ant-Man” relies heavily on comedic influence: It’s led by Reed, whose comedy-heavy résumé includes directing episodes of “The Weird Al Show,” “Mr.

After his trusted bow broke in battle, he turned to super-science to save the day as the suitably over-sized hero from Avengers No. 63 through No. 97. Show,” “Upright Citizens Brigade,” “New Girl” and the 1997 film “Bring It On.” In the leading role he put Paul Rudd, the most charming comedic actor working today, whose self-deprecating humor has lifted everything from “Parks and Recreation” and “Wet Hot American Summer” to “Anchorman” and “Knocked Up.” Rounding out the cast are comedy actors Judy Greer (“Arrested Development,” “Archer”), Bobby Cannavale (“Louie”) and Gregg Turkington (a lot of offbeat comedy, including “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”).

As Goliath, he didn’t really accomplish much besides making bombastic statements and confuse readers by wearing a costume that seemed to have an “H” motif after abandoning the name Hawkeye, which might explain why his tenure was so short-lived. That’s good news, since some feared “Ant-Man” would struggle to stay quirky after original director Edgar Wright (beloved by geeks everywhere for his Three Flavours Cornetto film trilogy) left due to those pesky “creative differences” and was replaced by Peyton Reed (“Bring It On”). Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios, is a comedy connoisseur. “We love the idea that there’s a real direct correlation between choreographing comedy and choreographing action,” Reed says. “There’s a setup and payoff of a joke, there’s a setup and payoff of an action scene.

The film has been knocking around in development for ages, with Edgar Wright on board as director at one point. (He is still credited as a producer and co-writer.) It would have been interesting to see what Wright (“Shaun of the Dead,” “The World’s End”) could have done with this movie, with this cast. Based on the West Coast, unlike the majority of Marvel’s superheroes, his crime-fighting career was relatively short-lived, with appearances sporadic until his untimely death in the Civil War comic book series at the hands of a cloned Thor.

The Disney production cost $130 million to produce, so the studio is banking on fanboys and fangirls across the globe to check out the latest masked vigilante, even if his powers are unorthodox. “Ant-Man” will roll out in 50 territories, where it should pull in an additional $60 million. Pym and his lab assistant-turned-girlfriend-turned-wife-turned-ex-wife Janet Van Dyne invent “Pym Particles,” which can alter a person’s size and increase their strength in the process.

It definitely applied to ‘Ant-Man.’ ” It’s a departure from form for superhero movies lately, which tend to lock in major hunks for their roles (Chris Hemsworth playing “Thor,” for example) or go so irrepressibly dour with their movies that it’s easy to forget the comics were meant to be fun divergences (the depressing-looking trailer for the new “Batman v Superman” film that was released last week). The hero known as Atlas actually started life as the third — fourth, if you include Bill Foster — Goliath, a supervillain who, like Yellowjacket (and even Scott Lang’s Ant-Man), came to the size-changing technology by less than reputable means. In the movie, however, a device that looks similar to a hearing aid is used to communicate with insects, while the helmet is used to protect Ant-Man’s mental stability when he shrinks and enlarges at will. No world-threatening alien invasions here: Ant-Man’s main motivation is to get to see his daughter again. “I actually think it’s liberating,” Reed says of having lower expectations for the action. “Fewer people actually know a lot about Ant-Man, so it gives us a little bit of free rein to create in the cinematic world who that character is.

He wants to go straight so that he can be with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), but when you’ve got a record, jobs are hard to find and harder to keep. (Funny line: “Baskin-Robbins don’t play.”) Meanwhile, the clearly unhinged Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is making great strides in continuing the work of his mentor, Henry Pym (Michael Douglas), a scientist who long ago figured out how to shrink himself. (It isn’t mentioned explicitly here other than quick footage in a newsreel, but Pym was the original Ant-Man.) But Pym decided that the technology was too dangerous and shut down the suit and the technology. The look at a commitment-phobic woman co-stars Bill Hader, was directed by Judd Apatow and proves that NBA superstar LeBron James is the rare professional athlete who can deliver punchlines. The daughter of Scott Lang — yes, the one who’s just a cute little moppet in the Ant-Man movie — Cassie Lang ended up taking up her father’s legacy when he was presumed dead for some time. Universal, the studio behind the brash comedy, has been trying to build momentum, hosting a high-profile screening at last spring’s SXSW to generate buzz.

They didn’t exactly produce a gag-filled laughfest, but the script is light enough to show that everyone is in on the joke (that joke being: Ant-Man is a pretty silly name for a hero). Hope wants to tackle the mission herself, but grudgingly agrees to help train Lang in how to use the Ant-Man suit, and how to control the various types of ants that will serve as his miniature army in his battle against Cross. Still, there’s one element to Rudd’s character that even Reed couldn’t quite understand: what superhero technology the 46-year-old actor has that allows him to look seemingly younger in every movie.

Inside the sub-atomic universe, there are a number of characters who stand on the side of right, including Commander Rann, Marionette and Bug, all of whom belong entirely to Marvel separate from any licensing deal with Hasbro, which currently owns Meco’s IP. By and large, the effects are good, and a micro battle atop a Thomas the Tank Engine train is edited cleverly — a joke Reed evidently found so funny he uses it twice in a couple of minutes. There is the obligatory Avengers tie-in (hello Falcon!), and the mid-post credits and after-credits blips that Marvel has become known for. (The payoff is pretty meager.) But for all its shortcomings, there are some things to like here.

He uses a different, more militaristic version of Ant-Man’s armor (just like Obadiah Stane does with the Iron Man suit in the first Iron Man movie).

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