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Sunday, July 26, 2015

ANT-MAN -- Movie Review by Porfle

So, my electricity went off yesterday and, with the temperature inching toward a toasty 100 degrees, I decided to go to the movies for the first time since 2009 (STAR TREK) and see the new Marvel universe superhero flick, ANT-MAN (2015).  Not only was it my first big-screen movie in six years, but it was also my first modern 3D flick ever, which was an added thrill. 

Being somewhat hard-of-hearing and dependent on subtitles when watching TV, I missed out on some of the dialogue details.  But it's a very visual film and I was somewhat familiar with the old "Ant-Man" comics anyway, so it didn't matter all that much, even though the novelty of the 3D kept taking me out of the movie while I sat there noticing how cool everything looked with each new shot. 

Michael Douglas (SOLITARY MAN, BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT) plays Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, as an older gentleman who has locked his special shrinking suit away for fear of its falling into the wrong hands.  But his former protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll, THE BOURNE LEGACY), Mr Wrong-Hands himself, is close to duplicating Pym's shrinking mechanism for less-than-noble purposes.  This unscrupulous young business tycoon even uses a faulty hand-held version to turn certain people he doesn't like into blobs of reddish tissue. (Blecch!)

Meanwhile, ace cat-burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, OUR IDIOT BROTHER, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN) has just served prison time for a politically-motivated crime and is now trying to find employment so that he can pay his child support and visit his cute little daughter Cassie.  Desperate, he ends up taking his friend Luis (Michael Peña, WORLD TRADE CENTER, "Ponch" in the upcoming "CHiPs" movie) up on a job offer to steal something very valuable from some rich guy's practically-impregnable basement safe.  It turns out to be the Ant-Man suit.  Scott takes it home, tries it on, and...suddenly he's the new Ant-Man!

Or he will be when Dr. Pym convinces him that he's the right guy for the job of breaking into the heavily-guarded Cross-Tech fortress, sabotaging Darren Cross' shrink-machine research, and stealing the Yellowjacket power suit that he's working on.  Thus follows a rigorous training montage with Scott learning how to use all the wonderful features of his suit and also how to communicate with actual ants so the helpful li'l buggers can aid him in his efforts.  Which pretty much sets up the rest of the movie.

Paul Rudd is just right when it comes to balancing the serious and comedic aspects of his role as a reluctant hero.  He really sells the heart-tugging scenes between Scott and Cassie (the very cute Abby Ryder Fortson) and conveys the frustration of dealing with his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer, JURASSIC WORLD) and her cop boyfriend Paxton (Bobby Cannavale, 10 ITEMS OR LESS) while still maintaining a wry attitude throughout.

Much of the all-out comedy is handled by Scott's excitable roommate Luis--a nice guy who just happens to be a thief--and two of Luis' like-minded associates, Kurt (David Dastmalchian, the Joker henchman whom Harvey Dent interrogates in THE DARK KNIGHT) and Dave (T.I, GET HARD). These guys turn out to be useful enough during the film's climactic siege on Cross-Tech but bumbling enough to keep it funny.  

Now that we've seen Scott's extensive training in the ant suit, including martial arts sessions with Pym's daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly, THE HOBBIT, "Lost"), we're chomping at the bit to see him in action.  After an early clash with the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) outside Stark Industries, things finally click into high gear when the good guys all converge on Cross-Tech for the big finale which will end with a thrilling battle between Ant-Man and the fearsome Yellowjacket. 

Thanks mainly to Douglas and Lilly as a father and daughter who are both still grieving over the late Mrs. Pym, who died "in action" during a superheroic exploit as The Wasp, there's adequate heft to the film's more emotional aspects.  Michael Douglas is reminding me more of his dad all the time, which is a good thing, and lends real authority to his role.  The lovely and likable Evangeline Lilly, meanwhile, is a real prize here, and I look forward to her possibly taking over as The Wasp in the future.

Director Peyton Reed (DOWN WITH LOVE, BRING IT ON) has done very little that I've seen besides location segments for "Mr. Show" but seems to have a handle on this superhero stuff.  The film is constantly dazzling to look at, with tons of CGI that looks artificial but still has a pleasing degree of comic-book believability.  (Note: keep watching for not one but two "sting" scenes during the final credits.)

It's thrilling to see Ant-Man running or flying bareback on his trusty ant-steed Anthony along with thousands of other ants through underground tunnels, sewers, and other seemingly vast spaces.  The final battle with Yellowjacket uses everyday objects such as toy trains (Thomas the Tank Engine makes a nifty guest appearance) and bug zappers to tremendously good effect. 

All in all, I was quite pleased with my big day out yesterday which was highlighted by the very fun, very enjoyable ANT-MAN (in 3D, no less!)  It isn't a "great" movie by any means, but it does all sorts of fun stuff with "good."


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