Monday, July 20, 2015


Ant-Man ~ I could talk about what Ant-Man is like in the comics, but really I already have elsewhere. I could take on the tact of how the film is different from the comics too, but I think where I'll go is with the burning question I had at the end of the movie, and no, I'm not talking about the mid-credits and end-credits stingers (at least not yet). Why does the Marvel Cinematic Universe treat Hank Pym with more care and respect than the Marvel Comics do? It's a puzzler, and I still don’t know the answer - but it makes me happy.

Ant-Man is a terrific heist film, settled into the wonderful tapestry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, perhaps one of the best shared universe continuities out there. It is fun and exciting on a level matching Guardians of the Galaxy. At this point however, I'm going to caution you folks, we're entering spoiler territory, so if you haven't yet seen the film or don't want to know what happens - vamoose, or prepared to be spoiled.

I was sold on this film right from the 1989 flashback opening featuring some actors in various stages of youth and age through CGI. Michael Douglas, looking as young and sharp as he did back on "The Streets of San Francisco," is Dr. Hank Pym - the original Ant-Man - and he's quitting S.H.I.E.L.D. Also there are John Slattery of "Mad Men," who has played Howard Stark (Iron Man's dad) in a couple of the Marvel movies, and Hayley Atwill, the amazing Agent Peggy Carter. Enraged by the mention of his late wife, Janet, Hank punches Martin Donovan's Mitchell Carson. Carson, in the comics is a disfigured SHIELD agent who opposed the third Ant-Man - here's he's just a minor bad guy, later revealed to be Hydra, holding with storylines from "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Flash forward to the present as burglar Scott Lang, played by slob-com actor Paul Rudd with the same unexpected and cool finesse that Chris Pratt took on Star-Lord. Is released from prison as paying his debt to society. While trying to stay on the straight and narrow, he falls in with his old crowd, buddies on the not-so-straight path - that steal our hearts, and steal the movie. Michael Pena and rapper T.I. are sidekicks that rule and roll, bring the humor and making this flick all the better as the serious comic relief - keeping it real while keeping it fun.

The gist is this. S.H.I.E.L.D. wants the Pym particle formula which allows a man to shrink to ant-size. Pym quits rather than give it to them, and then builds his own company, which while successful, does not take advantage of the Pym particle. New boss, former Pym mentee Corey Stoll as complete villainous a-hole in the comics Darren Cross, is actually trying to duplicate it, and thinks he's finally got it. His masterpiece, a miniaturized battle armor called the Yellowjacket (very little resemblance other than name to one of the Marvel Comics identities of Pym). Pym, and his daughter Hope (who hardcore comics fans might remember as the alternate future daughter of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, also known as the Red Queen in A-Next) want to stop this from happening.

Enlisting the help of Scott Lang through trickery and convincing him to become the new Ant-Man, Hank begins to train the new hero. These are entertaining sequences, and make the film. I weary of origin stories told over and over again in the movies (yeah, I'm looking directly at you, Superman and Batman), but this was fun, and fun is what Ant-Man is all about. The comedic bits are great, especially the cameo by Garrett Morris. As someone old enough to remember his appearance on "Saturday Night Live" as Ant-Man nearly four decades ago, that was a treat.

The plan is to break into Pym's own company and destroy the Yellowjacket suit along with all the data on the Pym particle to keep Cross from selling it from Hydra, but first a side trip - one that leads to a very interesting encounter. I have talked about the Justice League Europe theory before, and the idea of posing a superhero to fight another superhero is another way to do this. I suppose that's why this side trip pits Ant-Man against the Falcon.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Anthony Mackie show up as the Falcon when Paul Rudd's Ant-Man has to break in and steal something from the Avengers' new headquarters as seen in the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron. And I guess this kinda makes up for the Falcon's noted absence during the final battle of that last film. What I liked about this clash, different from classic superhero battles from the Silver Age of Marvel Comics where you knew who would win based on the name on the front of the comic, is that neither character was made to really look bad in the fight. Ant-Man is a proven contender to anyone out there who still doubted it, and though defeated, the Falcon isn't humiliated. He comes off looking good, and I was glad.

While the previews give away Evangeline Lilly's scenes, except for the hopes that she'll become the Wasp (or that the original might return), I need to caution folks that the Thomas the Tank Engine scene is the least of the final battle between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket. There is much much more and way cooler aspects to it that cannot be missed. This is sooo not Minions where the entire movie is in the preview. Speaking of the Wasp, there is a wondrous flashback scene, and she's features indirectly in the mid-credits stinger. And stay to the very end for the Captain America: Civil War teaser.

And then we come back to the question I posed at the beginning of this lengthy review. Hank Pym in the comics is really only known well for a few things, and most aren't good. He's had a variety of identities, a history of mental illness and domestic abuse, and of course, building a monstrous AI dead set on exterminating the human race. They could have gone a number of ways here. For the film to portray him as a hero, I can't be happier for my favorite Avenger. I loved this movie, the last and perhaps the best of Phase Two.

If you'd like to hear more of my thoughts on the movie, as well as my lovely wife's, please check out this week's special Ant-Man episode of The Make Mine Magic Podcast.

1 comment:

  1. This movie had what I felt Avengers: Age of Ultron lacked...heart.