- by Jeff Beck
Ant-Man: A Highly-Entertaining Action Romp (Blu-ray)
Of all the creations in Marvel Comics, Ant-Man just might be the most bizarre and silliest of the batch, and that’s in comparison to a guy who shoots webs out of his wrist, a powerful alien who smashes his foes with a hammer, and a man who turns big, green, and muscular when he gets angry. The question becomes how do you take a concept like a man shrinking to the size of an ant and fighting his enemies, an idea that seems perfectly suited for the imaginative world of a comic book, and turn it into a film that’s the least bit plausible and satisfying for fans of the character? With so much success in the past in bringing those other “silly” characters to the screen, Marvel wasn’t about to let a high level of difficulty stop them from attempting to breathe cinematic life into this small and lesser-mentioned hero, and as a result “Ant-Man” becomes the latest part of the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In 1989, we witness Dr. Hank Pym resigning from his own technology company in protest over his associates, led by Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), trying to recreate a dangerous particle that could change the world. In the present day, we meet Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who is just getting out of prison for robbery and is having a tough time finding a job with his record. In his desperation, and for want of being able to see his daughter, he takes on a job that requires his talents as a burglar. However, after breaking into a house and a safe, all he finds is a strange suit that he takes with him.
In his curiosity, he tries the special suit on and ends up shrinking himself down to the size of an ant, with Dr. Pym talking to him through the helmet. As it turns out, this is what the Pym particle does, shrinking the distance between atoms to allow organic matter to become smaller, while increasing density and strength. It’s not long before Scott finds himself face to face with Dr. Pym, who wants to recruit him for a job that will require his special skills once more. However, this time his efforts will go towards helping to save the world.
Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but this didn’t seem like an idea that would transition from comic to film very well, not only because of the very idea itself, but because of the massive special effects work it would take to begin to make such an idea work. However, it’s rather pleasing to be able to say that that there was no need to worry as the film ends up being a rather satisfying action romp thanks in large part to the incredible special effects that bring this rather ludicrous idea of an ant-man fighting enemies large and small to life, because let’s face it, if they hadn’t been top-notch, this would have turned out to be a pretty laughable affair.
What’s particularly impressive are the complex action sequences that require Scott to change size multiple times during a fight in order to evade, confuse, or attack his target. It’s all done seamlessly, giving the battles a very polished and smooth look, which results in adding a good amount of thrills. In particular, a fight between Ant-Man and an Avenger in the middle of the film, and the climactic battle between our hero and the insane Dr. Cross do a great job of showing off the film’s dazzling technical skill, while also providing much of the film’s entertainment and excitement, and that’s on top of the thrilling third-act heist.
You also get several photo-realistic scenes of Ant-Man while he’s small, which also goes a long way towards making it more believable than it might have been. The attention to detail here is remarkable, and, as we learn in the special features, was something that was very important in helping to bring the character to life, for as mentioned before, if they couldn’t get this right, it’s more than likely that the entire project would have fallen apart. Luckily the technology needed to pull off this feat was advanced enough to make it possible for them to work wonders in Ant-Man’s small world.
That being said, the film is not without its share of problems. For example, like when any hero gains new technology that they have to learn to use, there’s an obligatory training montage, which in this case goes on a little too long in the second act. There are a few laughs to be had during it, but you’ll inevitably be wishing for it to get a move on after a while. The other issue is that the film’s villain, Darren Cross, comes off as a bit too cartoonish, as though he was a demented bad guy who had been pulled straight from a comic book. Corey Stoll (“Midnight in Paris,” “House of Cards”) does what he can with the character, but there’s just not much there for him to make an impact with.
However, these aren’t enough to stop the film from being the wild and entertaining action-packed ride that it’s meant to be. Sure, the entire concept seems a bit out there, and yet, somehow director Peyton Reed and the team of writers have successfully brought it to the screen in spectacular fashion. It may not have the massive explosive flourish of the other Marvel films, but in a way, it’s actually rather refreshing to have a film of theirs that doesn’t inundate you with an epic battle like we’ve seen in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the two “Avengers” films. “Ant-Man” is indeed a “smaller” film, but it still packs just as big a punch as most of its bigger brethren, and therefore it’s easily worthy of its place right beside them.
“Ant-Man” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. The picture clarity is perfectly sharp, allowing all the incredible special effects work that went into the film to shine. Likewise, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fantastic, giving you all elements of the soundtrack from the dialogue to the multitude of sound effects in excellent quality. Overall, the film has been given great treatment that will be sure to please each and every Marvel fan.
Audio Commentary with Peyton Reed and Paul Rudd: An informative commentary track with the director and the star.
Making of an Ant-Sized Heist: A How-To Guide (14 Minutes): A look behind the scenes, featuring interviews with the cast and crew, that tries to cover a little too much in its 14 minutes, so it doesn’t go into much depth.
Let’s Go to the Macroverse (8 Minutes): A fascinating look at creating Ant-Man’s world.
WHIH Newsfront (9 Minutes): Fake news segments and interviews that are easily skippable.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (9 Minutes): A selection of deleted scenes, only the first of which is worth seeing.
Gag Reel (3 Minutes): A semi-decent collection of outtakes.
“Ant-Man” is a highly-entertaining romp that boasts outstanding special effects and thrilling action sequences, turning this tiny hero into a big-screen success. Along with a compelling performance from Paul Rudd and some much-needed gravitas from Michael Douglas, the film manages to turn what could have been a rather goofy concept into something with an emotional core to help anchor it in the real world, while never losing sight of the excitement it wants to deliver. It’s not without its problems, but when it comes right to it, they just can’t hold this little guy back.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting today.
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