Marvel chief: Sexist backlash is ‘ludicrous’

16 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

No small feat: ‘Ant-Man’ wins over critics.

As perhaps befits a movie about a superhero who can shrink to insectoid scale and return to normal size in the blink of an eye, expectations for Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man” have shifted wildly during the course of its scrambled production process.

So the prospect that Ant-Man, the minuscule Mighty Mouse of Marvel’s stable of powerhouse superheroes, might join the brawny big-screen ranks of the Hulk, Thor and the rest has long held some pleasing irony. Originally developed by genre-savvy filmmaker Edgar Wright, who departed the project over creative differences with Marvel, “Ant-Man” was ultimately helmed by Peyton Reed, a director known for comedies like “Yes Man” and “Bring It On” but short on action bona fides. One just crawled across my laptop screen, and as I crushed its tiny body between my thumb and forefinger, an alarming thought crossed my mind: They know what I’m up to. That’s why lots of curiosity ensued when, just weeks before shooting on “Ant-Man” was to commence, Edgar Wright, the British blender of genre and comedy who had worked on the project for eight years, departed over “creative differences.” It was a sacrifice, seemingly, to the Marvel colossus.

That Ant-Man is Hank Pym, super-scientist creator of the Pym Particle that allows a man to instantaneously shrink down to the size of a … see character’s name. ‘Ant-Man,’ with Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Thomas the Tank Engine. The precise source of the dispute is unknown, but it’s clear enough from the final product, pushed forward with the quick insertion of director Peyton Reed (“Bring It On,” “The Break-Up”) and a rewrite by Adam McKay and others, that “Ant-Man” was bedeviled on one hand by staying true to its more modest size and idiosyncratic nature and on the other by meeting the larger, blander demands of being a Marvel movie complete with superhero cameos and sequel potential. The Times’ Kenneth Turan writes, “Playful in unexpected ways and graced with a genuinely off-center sense of humor, ‘Ant-Man’ (engagingly directed by Peyton Reed) is light on its feet the way the standard-issue Marvel behemoths never are.

He has an ethnically diverse group of petty criminal friends: Tip (T.I.) Harris, David Dastmalchian and Michael Pena, the only actor in the movie who’s rightly convinced he’s in a comedy. Lang is trying to right himself for the sake of his young daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston) and for the purpose of paying child support to his ex-wife (Judy Greer, an actress too good to be twice relegated to the domestic sidelines in this summer’s blockbusters). Business as usual this is not.” Turan goes on to say the movie benefits from the presence of Rudd (a “genial and charming everyman”) and Michael Douglas (bringing “invaluable gravitas”), as well the “anarchic popular culture spirit” imprinted by the initial writing team of Wright and Joe Cornish. Through some strained plot mechanics, Lang is recruited by the original Ant-Man, the scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), to succeed him in the suit. Like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” last year’s off-brand Marvel hit, “Ant-Man” dabbles in the bright, playful colors of the superhero spectrum, reveling in moments of cartoonish whimsy and smirky humor.

Recruited by Pym to battle a bald baddie named Darren Cross (Corey Stoll, smarmy and smirking), Lang dons the shrink suit, gets real small and goes running and flying with swarms of CG ants to thwart the nefarious schemes of Cross, who wants to use Pym’s invention for evil purposes. But it also stands as “proof that no matter how silly some ideas sound at first, good things often do come in small packages.” Not all critics have been charmed by “Ant-Man,” though.

He also gets belted around and roundly scorned by Pym’s judgmental daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly, her stare disapproving, her hair severely styled). During training, while Lang tries to perfect his communication with other underground ants, he sometimes pops out of the ground like a sprouted cabbage. The truly great Marvel superheroes struggle with hubris. ‘Ant-Man’ mostly panics and yells and falls down a lot.” He continues: “Sometimes Rudd is just a little too cute and dimply, and sometimes Reed … pushes things a little too hard, particularly with Christophe Beck’s comic, pastiche soundtrack, or some oh-those-funny-minorities! characters. … As hard as everyone here works, ‘Ant-Man’ emerges only as a minor hero – fine for occasional gags and cameos in upcoming Marvel ensembles, but undeserving of all this attention.” OMG and LOL — not so much of the first (unless you are still astonished by the sight of guys in mechanical suits punching each other), but a decent dose of the second. Change, we are told, is afoot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Ant-Man” is the final movie in the studio’s Phase Two, and there are promises of bigger intergalactic battles looming in Phase Three.” Still, you have to squint pretty hard to spot the differences from Marvel movie to Marvel movie.

Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale show up as Scott’s former wife and her new husband — stepfather to Scott’s adorable daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) — but for fans of these wonderful actors, the main satisfaction will come from the knowledge that they earned some money. (The continued marginalization of the brilliant Ms. Scott’s Ant-Man suit allows him to change size instantly, which adds novelty to some of the fight scenes (notably one with Falcon, an Avenger played by Anthony Mackie). The most ingenious sequence comes near the end, during a climactic battle between two miniaturized dudes, which toggles between their perspective and that of normal-size people. What appears to the combatants to be a noisy, screen-filling, no-holds-barred struggle looks, at human scale, like a minor disturbance in a room full of toys.

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