MOVIE MAN

Ant-Man becomes next big Marvel hit

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, July 22, 2015

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Marvel Comics has mined its catalogue for its most popular heroes: Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, and the Avengers all have made a ton of cash. (It looks like the upcoming FF is going to be much better than its predecessors.)

“Iron Man” (2008, Movie Man No. 771, an 8, Best of Year) – still the top Marvel movie for the Movie Man – was a second tier character, much like this week’s “Ant-Man.”

ABOUT THE FILM (SPOILER)

Comic nerds know that Ant-Man was actually an original Avenger. And it was super scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) – the original Ant-Man – who created Ultron, the villain in the current Avengers’ hit, not Tony Stark.

But, of course, external sources and their movies seldom match.

DC Comics is making a big push to catch up with Marvel on the big screen. Like Marvel, DC is lining up a series of movies that will cross over and occasionally merge.

Marvel’s “phases” are well publicized. DC is betting the ranch on “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” With its wizened, older Batman (Ben Affleck) and younger Superman (Henry Cavill returning from “Man of Steel” [2013, MM #1040, 7]), plus an appearance by the new Wonder Woman (Gal Godot), the Flash (Ezra Miller), and even Aquaman (Jason Momoa), it’s clear DC is heading toward its own Avengers – The Justice League of America.

The first Justice League is set for Nov. 17, 2017 and Part 2 arrives June 14, 2019.

Meanwhile, Marvel keeps on being Marvel. With “Ant-Man,” once again, a mid-and/or post-credit scene keeps viewers in their seats long after the movie ends.

It’s pretty hard to top the buzz created at the end of Iron Man when Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury showed up.

“Ant-Man” continues the tradition. There are two stingers.

The first is Dr. Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily) finally getting a chance to be the new Wasp. (The original, Pym’s wife, went missing years ago saving the world.)

The second stinger requires a memory jolt and is more of a bona fide set-up for another Marvel movie. The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Captain America (Chris Evans) discuss how to protect Bucky (“the Winter Soldier,” Sabatien Stan). Mackie thinks he has an answer, intimating the arrival of Ant-Man in the third Captain America movie, “Civil War” (due next May 6).

Stingers were quite a rarity for years. “Smokey and the Bandit” (1977) showed out-takes and “Airplane!” (1980) was an early example of a final unexpected laugh.

Today, audiences are trained to sit through several minutes of rolling credits for what is sometimes just a quick glimpse or a teasing snippet; the Movie Man certainly waits for them.

THE PLOT

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a genius cat burglar whose imprisonment cost him time with his young daughter. Out of the slammer, he tries to go straight. But, no one will hire an ex-con, so he agrees with his low-rent criminal pals to break into a rich man’s safe.

That wealthy guy is Dr. Hank Pym who is at odds with former prot g Cross (Corey Stoll) who is on the verge of recreating the “Pym particle” that allows humans to shrink thereby becoming formidable weapons, potentially.

Pym’s daughter Hope is undercover as Cross’ right-hand woman and there to help her dad stop Cross. But Pym needs a way to enter the super high tech security of Cross’ lab. So Pym trains Rudd – much to the disdain of Hope who wants to be the infiltrator wearing Pym’s super suit that allows him to not only shrink and return to human form in the blink of an eye but gives the wearer dominion over ants.

The master plan created by the good guys eventually needs some more help and Lang’s old goofy gang is recruited. In the end, Lang as Ant-Man and Cross as Yellowjacket – the name for his super suit – fight to keep Cross from selling the suit to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s archenemy HYDRA.

WHAT WORKS

The acting is solid all the way through. Rudd has a cocky yet casual demeanor who knows commanding ants is kinda dumb but kinda cool, too. He’s good.

So is Douglas as Pym, Stoll as the bad guy, and, especially, Michael Pena as funny gang member Luis.

Lily, so glum early, isn’t that great in the beginning, but she rises and, by the time of the stinger, it’s believable that she could be the next Wasp.

What makes Ant-Man so different is that it’s more of a character study than a comic book action movie. It takes half an hour to get into the suit then there’s ample training for many more minutes.

That makes the one real battle – over the final 15 minutes – worth waiting for. The Movie Man raised the film one point because of its nice, action-packed conclusion.

Also of value in that end scene is the excellent use of 3-D. Things get psychedelic and mind-bending and that’s just what the process excels at.

BEST SCENE

Ant-Man is fighting the Yellowjacket. They fall into the backyard pool of a family grilling outdoors and playing ping-pong. Ant-Man returns to human form, picks up a paddle, and swats the still-teeny Yellowjacket across the yard and into a bug zapper.

It’s the funniest and wittiest scene in the movie.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

There are times when the film is too slow. And, like Marvel movies often are, it’s too long.

While it was refreshing not to suffer through superheroes throwing each other through skyscrapers endlessly (looking at you, “Man of Steel”), a little more action would’ve broken up some lengthy exposition.

An Avenger shows up in the only other action scene. (Don’t get too excited – it’s not a top tier Avenger).

The Movie Man was hoping there would be more laughs. Rudd has his one-liners – where Marvel is much more fun than the ultra-serious DC – and Douglas snaps a couple off, but, overall, it’s not as funny as you’d think.

The trio of Rudd’s often-inept former gang coming in to help in the complex caper really stretches things.

THE RATING

There is some minor cussing and the usual comic battling. The PG-13 is mild.

SUMMING UP

Ant-Man fits in with the Marvel pantheon. It has its moments, it’s entertaining, and the characters will keep showing up in future movies. The fans of second tier comics afraid that the movie would fail have no reason to get antsy. (Just one ant joke from the Movie Man; you’re welcome.)

NEXT UP

Pixels.

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