Marvel reverses scale, elevates comedy with compact hero ‘Ant-Man’ | News Entertainment

Marvel reverses scale, elevates comedy with compact hero ‘Ant-Man’

17 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ant-Man Is Marvel’s Weirdest Movie, and That’s a Good Thing.

He may be only the size of an ant, but there are big expectations for “Ant-Man,” the lighthearted superhero saga opening Friday. For a movie that looked as though it might get squashed before it ever got out of the larvae stage, Ant-Man has turned out to be a quirky and almost brilliant addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The big question surrounding “Ant-Man” is whether it will be the one that tips the balance from “a lot of superhero movies” to “too many superhero movies.” And the answer is … kinda.If superheroes are one of the ultimate expressions of individualism, what are we to make of Ant-Man, a Marvel Comics character based on one of the least individual, most collective creatures on the planet?

Forced out of his own company by former protégé Darren Cross, Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) recruits the talents of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a master thief just released from prison. Here are some little-known facts to carry into the theater with your popcorn: There are actually TWO Ant-Men: The first Ant-Man, introduced in the 1962 Marvel Comics story “The Man in the Ant Hill,” was Hank Pym, a scientist who found a way to shrink in size. The miniature hero must use his new skills to prevent Cross, also known as Yellowjacket, from perfecting the same technology and using it as a weapon for evil.

Michael Douglas plays him in the movie, while Paul Rudd stars as the second Ant-Man, a thief named Scott Lang who became a bug-sized good guy under Pym’s guidance. Hank Pym (an impressively, presumably CGI-enyouthened Michael Douglas) storms into S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and storms out with the only sample of his Pym Particles, a serum that can shrink the distance between atoms, and therefore everything else. He’s an underachiever: Even though he was a founding member of the mighty Avengers, Ant-Man generated insect-size sales for Marvel Comics. “Ant-Man never became one of our top sellers or had his own book,” writer Stan Lee admitted decades after introducing him, blaming the character’s artists for not drawing him next to objects that dramatized his tiny size: “You thought you were looking at a normal guy wearing an underwear costume like all of them. Evangeline Lilly plays Pym’s daughter Hope who helps train Rudd, while Corey Stoll plays Pym’s protégé and the main antagonist Darren Cross/Yellowjacket. The stakes are relatively low – no planets were endangered in the making of the movie – and the set-pieces are a departure from the city-destroying tableaux to which Marvel has become increasingly hooked.

That’s it for scene-setting; now that you know how Pym and his tech fit into Marvel’s world, you’re free to sit back and enjoy the side-quest without worrying about Infinity Gems. Kakalios points to his helmet, which he thinks compensates for diffraction effects when he’s ant-sized, “keeping his voice from sounding too squeaky and adjusting his hearing range so he can actually hear what is being said about him — though maybe he does not want to hear all that.” It’s that very tangential nature that gives director Peyton Reed’s film an air of lightness in the beefcake-weighted world of Marvel—and probably what gives it permission to get away with things like Thomas the Tank Engine sight-gags and jokes about The Cure.

The early scenes that focus on Lang’s struggles — a post-prison job at Baskin-Robbins, a young daughter he’s kept from seeing — feel off, possibly because Rudd’s immense likability means he’s just not believable as a bad guy, even a good bad guy. The ants — all of which are CGI — are undeniably cute. “It’s really hard not to get attached to them over the course of the project.” But Morrison aimed higher than just adorable. Stoll’s villain suffers the most with not a lot on his backstory, which can often happen in an origin movie. “I think the fact that Paul Rudd’s character has a six-year-old daughter he cares deeply about reconnecting with is what instantly adds a more family-friendly layer to the movie,” Erik Davis, contributing editor with Fandango, told msnbc.com. “That and the action isn’t as battle-heavy as, say, Age of Ultron or Captain America: The Winter Soldier – this is a movie with more heart than bullets or lasers. Same with the clunky, telegraphed setup of villain Darren Cross (Corey Stoll): You’d think people would learn to never trust the bald billionaire with daddy issues slash a disregard for human life. It delivers a lighter tone, and really succeeds with inventive action sequences that play well to a younger audience because they’re imaginative and just straight-up funny.” Director Peyton Reed and the visual effects team did a stellar job.

The former provides the laughs, the latter the gravitas of a man who knows that, in a roundabout way, it’s kind of his fault that the world is in danger. Lang wants to get his life back on track and reconnect with his daughter, but after getting fired from Baskin Robbins he decides to join Luis and his friends in one more heist. And fire ants actually build rafts and bridges with their bodies. “I thought it was a great movie,” says Ana Jesovnik, a graduate student who works at the Ant Lab at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. The movie is full of unexpected cameos and in true Marvel fashion the credits offer some post scene extras, so be sure to stay until the lights come up in the theatre.

After a summer of deafening climaxes and exploding planets, the dramatically-lowered stakes have the welcome effect of humanizing this most unlikely of superheroes. This seems like a good idea to everyone except Hank’s daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), who would be happy to take up an Ant-Woman mantle if her dad would just let her. It shows some respect for the actual biology of the ants,” Brady agrees. “You see other ant movies and the ants don’t even look like ants, and they’re not acting like ants. She might not get her wish, but she does get to take out her frustrations on Scott via old-school training montage. (Dear Marvel: More Lilly ass-kicking in future films, plz.) Plot-wise, that’s all you really need to know. is a by-the-books redemption story wrapped in a Good Guys vs. And here, they clearly took the time to figure out what ants actually do, what they look like.” “Good girls, though,” Brady adds quickly, and they both laugh.

Suggestive of something dredged from the subconscious of HG Wells, Ant-Man’s costume is a retro-future steam-punk wonder – an outfit you can almost picture a person donning in the real world without being laughed off the street or bundled into the back of a police van. And it takes a while to get going, but once it does it’s a fast, fun ride with some brilliant micro-worldbuilding special effects that comes in under two hours, which feels positively brisk considering the, um, fuller comic-book movies we’re used to. They can send dinosaurs to the moon but, until recently, Hollywood special effects houses were unable to persuasively conjure younger versions of older actors.

But in 2015 they have assuredly mastered the challenge, with a plausibly fresh-faced Arnold in Terminator Genisys and now, in Ant-Man, a “young” Michael Douglas, who looks as if he’s just slithered off the set of Basic Instinct. The “shrinking man” narrative has an exalted tradition in Hollywood, as exemplified by (obviously enough) The Incredible Shrinking Man, Fantastic Voyage and – yes, we’re going there – Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. Wright exited the movie last May over “differences” with Marvel, and the studio finally tapped Reed as an eleventh-hour replacement; meanwhile, Rudd and his writing partner Adam McKay (Anchorman) reworked the script.

He most certainly would be female in reality. “So it should have been Antoinette really, then,” Morrison says, sounding slightly abashed when told about the scientists’ reaction to the movie. “It’s certainly not a deliberate bit of ant sexism. But unlike recent forays, where the action on screen seemed to exist simply to provide a link to the next movie, Ant-Man is more or less stand-alone – a solid chunk of entertainment that can be enjoyed on its merits, without additional context. We’ll never know what Wright’s version would’ve looked like (probably awesome), but the story as it is plays perfectly to Rudd’s strenghts; he may not come off as a superhero type, despite the new contractually obligated six-pack, but his sardonic humor is so unique it could be trademarked.

When he comes in with lines like “I think our first move would be calling the Avengers,” it feels as natural as Robert Downey Jr. delivering a Tony Stark zinger. For those who like to keep track of these kinds of things, Ant-Man marks the end of Marvel Studios’ second phase. (Phase 3 begins next spring with Captain America: Civil War.) It might be the weirdest—and it’s definitely the least splashy—note to go out on.

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