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

17 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Movie Review: Ant-Man.

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.The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time , with Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man.LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 29: A view of the atmosphere at the world premiere of Marvel’s “Ant-Man” at The Dolby Theatre on June 29, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney) Paul Rudd stars as ex-convict Scott Lang, an ex-cat burglar in the Robin Hood mold who is recruited by a scientist armed with a suit that allows him to shrink while gaining super-strength and then re-enlarge whenever he wishes.

A pleasant surprise despite the replacement of fanboy fave Edgar Wright by director Peyton Reed (“Bring It On”) and an awful eye-gouging 3-D conversion, Marvel’s San Francisco-set “Ant-Man” arrives, and only one building gets blown up. 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. At the same time, Lang is trying to get back in the good graces of his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and young daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) by being more reliable in terms of employability and child support. 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.

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. Hank Pym, based in San Francisco, who long ago invented a suit dubbed the “Pym particle” that allows the wearer to drastically shrink in size while simultaneously gaining considerable strength. He’s an aging scientist who holds no punches and was the original Ant-Man, shrinking himself down to bug size and learning to control ants and bend them to his will and even befriend them. So Pym, against the strenuous objections of his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), recruits Lang to don the suit and become the new Ant-Man, which will at least keep the suit out of Cross’s manipulative hands while Pym trains Lang to become an effective superhero. And until the extended climax, he avoids the summer-movie-season temptation of letting conflict-filled set pieces overwhelm and suffocate the narrative.

Pym tries to find a young scientist with a bad attitude to take his place and fight to keep the technology out of the hands of Cross, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra. 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. Also in on the action is Pym’s beautiful daughter (Evangeline Lilly in a scary wig), who appears to be aligned with Cross, although appearances can be deceiving, including a tank on a key chain.

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. The script by Edgar Wright (who was originally set to direct as well), Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, and Rudd concentrates on family relationships – especially father-daughter bonds, which give the film a strong emotional undercurrent – rather than destructive action, although there’s plenty of that as well. Scott is a corporate whistle-blower with a master’s degree in electrical engineering, who was unjustly sent to San Quentin for three years for breaking and entering, where he met his motor-mouthed fantasist, best friend Luis (a priceless Michael Pena). 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. Marvel Studios’ latest tries to walk the line between the serious social commentary of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and the goofy heroism of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and it can’t match either movie.

Luis and his buddies, brooding, spooky-voiced, tech-whiz Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and insolent heist expert Dave (T.I.), are enlisted by Scott to help him break into Cross Industries after first breaking into the Pym mansion, stealing Pym’s old Ant-Man suit and helmet. With imagery and language evoking the Richard Matheson-scripted 1957 classic “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” undoubtedly an inspiration for the original 1962 “Ant-Man” comic book as well, “Ant-Man” also recalls those “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” comic spinoffs. Complete with cameo appearances by Falcon (Antony Mackie), Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Howard Stark (John Slattery) and shoutouts to “The Avengers,” “Ant-Man” is firmly planted in the Marvel genealogical tree.

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