The latest evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time. Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang (Rudd) must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym (Douglas), protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
"Sorry I'm late, I was saving the world. You know how it is."
Marvel Comics and Disney are on a winning streak that doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. As Phase Three of their cinematic superhero universe is about to get underway with 2016's 'Captain America: Civil War,' it's important to look back and take stock of the comic studio's output thus far. Some were winners some were duds, but all of them were financially successful enough to spawn sequels to their relative characters while introducing new heroes who will also be getting their own franchise sendoffs in the near future. Marvel's most recent outing, 'Ant-Man' directed by Peyton Reed and starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, and Evangeline Lilly may not feature Marvel's biggest hero (in terms of size as well as popularity), but he proves to have a big heart wth a sense of humor that makes for a movie that's a heck of a lot of fun.
Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) was an under-the-radar hero during the close of the cold war. As a brilliant scientist, he discovered the Pym Particle, which allows someone to alter the space between atoms. In practical application, that means he could become smaller… a lot smaller. About the size of an ant in fact - dubbing him "Ant-Man." After the death of his wife, Hank learns that S.H.I.E.L.D. was trying to rip off his research. After resigning his position and casting aside the Ant-Man, Hank turned into a recluse, estranging his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) in the process. Now that his former - and slightly unhinged - protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is on the verge of replicating and militarizing Hank's research into the "Yellowjacket" suit, Hank needs a ringer. He needs a man who has everything to gain and nothing to lose by becoming the new Ant-Man. A former tech-savvy convict looking to go straight like Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) may be the right man for the job.
After serving a stretch for burglary, Scott is on the outs with his wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her cop fiancé Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) and stuck in the middle of this Maury Povich Show-worthy domestic drama is their adorable little daughter Cassie. Scott wants more time with his daughter, but he's in the rears on child support. When Scott - who has a Masters Degree in electrical engineering - can't even hold down a job dishing out mango smoothies at a Baskin Robbins because of his criminal history, he has little choice but to take on a job with his former prison cellmate Luis (Michael Peña), Luis' hacker friend Kurt (David Dastmalchain), and expert car thief Dave (T.I.).
What should have been a quick and easy safe crack of a job with simple cash at the end turns out to be an audition. When Scott steals the Ant-Man suit, he isn't at all prepared to be a hero. Fortunately, there is still time before Cross sells his technology to the bad guys in order to help get Scott up to speed. With the help of Dr. Pym and a very reluctant Hope, Scott learns to control the suit, he learns how to fight, and he also learns how to formulate a symbiotic relationship with various species of ants in order to perform the greatest heist ever pulled off by man - and ant. Only when it comes time to thwart Cross' schemes, Scott, Dr. Pym and Hope soon learn that their plans may not be enough to stop Cross and his Yellowjacket suit.
To put it simply, 'Ant-Man' has no problem just being fun, and what could be more fun than a heist movie within the world of star-spangled supermen and guys with red and gold armor? Marvel hit on a smart notion with their Phase 2 universe by setting the individual films within other genres. 'Iron Man 3' was a detective movie, 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' was a 1970s era paranoid thriller, 'Guardians of the Galaxy' was a space opera, I'm not sure sure what 'Thor: The Dark World' or 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' were beyond being clunky sequels, but 'Ant-Man' works as a high-tech 'Oceans 11' style romp. Sure, some of the plot mechanics are a bit clumsy and the film relies on a lot of exposition to get the audience caught up to speed, but once Scott Lang gets into that suit and the world around him becomes infinitely huge, the film is a great ride.
Where 'Ant-Man' suffers is in some of the smaller character details. Scott's crime that landed him in prison was almost "Robin Hood-inspired" as he stole from a company that was ripping people off and gave the money back to customers. In the modern economic world, the guy would be considered a hero to some and would have had very little trouble finding decent-paying work once released from prison. To that end, the estrangement to his ex-wife and their daughter feels a bit tacked on. She doesn't need to be marrying a cop nor do they even need to be divorced for Scott to have some sort of personal stake in what is going on. Thankfully the kid played by Abby Ryder Fortson is adorable - especially when she opens her birthday present! Added to that bit of clunky characterization is Corey Stoll playing yet another bald-headed (although the baldness is not his fault) insane villain with a similar evil suit as that of the main hero. Stoll is pretty good here, but his entire character arch is pretty much photocopied from the script for 'Iron Man.' Thankfully these shortcomings don't upend the entire film as the rest of what's on display is a visual treat.
What really helps make this film work is the impressive cast. At the head of this small giant is the always fun Paul Rudd as Scott Lang. Rudd has always been able to play the amiable guy with a witty sense of humor well enough and here he's in fine form. He plays the concerned father well and manages to pull off a man with the weight of the world on his tiny shoulders. Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym provides a nice sense of legitimacy to the film. Evangeline Lilly does well enough as Hope - but she's not given a whole lot to do beyond being angry at her father. Thankfully as the title implies, she's going to have a lot more to do in 'Ant-Man and the Wasp' which is due out sometime in 2018. After the big three, you have the three little guys who steal every scene they're in, Michael Peña, David Dastmalchain, and T.I. After all, what would a heist movie be without an entertaining crew? I especially have to give a shout out to Michael Peña. I've only really ever seen him in dramatic roles, so watching him get to just be silly and play a total goofball character really pumped up the film's comedy quotient. Here's hoping they bring him back for the next one!
'Ant-Man' may not be the best Marvel Movie to date - for my money that honor still goes to 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' with 'Guardians of the Galaxy' a close second - but it's a darn good and worthwhile entry in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Had this film had an easier pre-production time (there's no need to rehash all the drama involved leading up to the filming of this movie), I believe that those few clunky plot and character beats could have been smoothed out and worked a tad better. Even with a slightly repetitive villain and some slim character motivation, 'Ant-Man' delivers the thrills, the excitement, and the fun that comes with watching a superhero movie en masse. I am honestly looking forward to seeing Ant-Man in the next 'Captain America' film as well as his next solo adventure. Maybe a pairing with The Incredible Hulk? Ant-Man and the Hulk sounds like a great idea to me.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Ant-Man' arrives on Blu-ray 3D thanks to Marvel Studios/Disney. The regular edition features the 3D version of the film on its own Region Free BD50 disc as well as the 2D version of the film on its own Region Free BD50 disc. Both discs are housed in a black 2-Disc snapper case with identical slipcover. The 3D disc opens directly to the film's main menu while the 2D disc follows the standard Disney Home Video mapping where you can watch a bunch of previews for upcoming releases or skip directly to the main menu. All extra features are found on the 2D disc. Also included is a voucher for a Digital HD copy of the film.
There are also two retailer exclusives worth mentioning one from Target and one from Best Buy. Target's edition is virtually identical to the standard 3D/2D Blu-ray set in artwork and extras but through the Digital HD redemption code you get another mini-featurette. The Best Buy exclusive gives you a StealBook case with no additional extra features content reported.
In 2D, 'Ant-Man' is a colorful delight. The 1.85:1 1080p transfer captures all of the glory from this digitally shot film. Fine details are on full display, allowing audiences the opportunity to soak in facial features, the film's expensive-looking production design, and best of all, the cool costuming! The Ant-Man and Yellowjacket suits look pretty slick - at least the physical versions of them do. Some of the film's CGI'd versions of the actors and their respective costumes lose a bit of the finer details, but they're still pretty solid all around. Breaking from Marvel's tendency for 2.40:1 framing allows this film to offer a greater sense of scale. When Scott puts on the suit and shrinks, the effect of him getting smaller while the rest of the world gets a whole lot bigger is a glorious effect and comes through beautifully. Colors are bright with plenty of primary pop to them. The film also has a nice, warm, summer tone. Black levels are solid as a rock, ensuring that this image has plenty of depth.
The MVC MPEG-4 1.85:1 1080p 3D transfer retains all of the 2D versions best qualities while also working to expand the amount of depth and dimension along the Z axis. Part of the fun of seeing this movie in 3D in theaters was experiencing the world getting larger and how that sense of scale altered every time Scott shrinks and re-enlarges. I am very happy to report that this sense of depth hasn't been lost, even though my viewing screen is decidedly smaller than the theatrical presentation. Depth still feels like it can go on for miles and miles into the background while leaving plenty of foreground material to maintain that sense of depth. Also, a lot of fun is how this film felt the most "3D" of any of the films Marvel has put forth to date. While the image has that fantastic "window into another world" vibe going for it, 'Ant-Man' also has plenty of material jumping out of the screen - especially during the final climatic battle sequence. Colors also aren't drastically harmed by the glasses as brightness levels have been adjusted to accommodate the darkening effect. All around this is a fantastic transfer, either 2D or 3D, but I feel like the 3D gives you the fuller experience of this film.
Sporting a robust and resonant DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio track, 'Ant-Man' brings all of the best auditory elements that we've come to expect from this generation of big-budget superhero films. Dialogue is crystal clear and never a trouble to hear - even when all hell is breaking loose during the film's final act. As dialogue, for the most part, keeps to the front/center channels, that leaves the surrounds and rears to be left open for all of the background and ambient sound effects and the film's playful score by Christophe Beck to occupy. As expected the big action beats sound as amazing as they look with thundering audio that is filled with pleasing amounts of action-packed imaging. Sound effects zip and crash around the surround channels and are constantly engaged. Even during the film's quieter character moments, there is the right amount of background effects to make each set sound like it has a lot of space. Adding to the fun is how the sound effects were tweaked to represent their nature in terms of size, a normal gunshot can all of a sudden become a booming explosion whenever Scott shrinks. It's really fun when these effects fly at you in the span of a second and the audio track never falters. As should be expected from a big studio release from Marvel/Disney, this audio track is absolutely first rate.
Audio Commentary: Director Peyton Reed and Actor/Co-writer Paul Rudd provide a heck of a great commentary track for this film filling in lots of production details, story and script development hurdles, some tidbits about deleted scenes that had to be cut for time and what it was like working with various cast members and accomplishing the numerous special effects shots for the film. A great listen if you're willing to put the time in for it.
Making of an Ant-Sized Heist: (HD 14:34) This is a brief, but solid bit of behind the scenes work providing a lot of history of the Ant-Man comics, as well as casting, shooting the film, accomplishing the film's production design. It doesn't o into too much depth, but this featurette is still better than your average EPK material.
Lets Go To The Macroverse: (HD 8:06) A look at the film's special effects work and what went into creating the visual scale of the film.
WHIH NewsFront: (HD 9:11) This is a collection of four news-style reports from the world of the film. It's kinda interesting but not really relative material.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 8:36) Most of this isn't earth-shattering deleted material, but they do serve as some solid character beats that while maybe a bit extraneous to the A-Story, it does help round out some of the character bits better.
Gag Reel: (HD 3:25) Your standard on-set cut up material. Some gags are funny, but others feel a bit canned.
Marvel continues to provide solid superhero fun. If there was ever a comic property that was a risky bet, 'Ant-Man' was most certainly it. If the casting hadn't come together, if Director Peyton Reed had dropped the ball in any way, if the humor hadn't landed - this movie could have been a bitter pill to swallow. Thankfully, everything turned out well enough and 'Ant-Man' stands as one of Marvel's best "purely for entertainment" ventures thus far. Marvel/Disney has done a bang up job bringing this movie to Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D with a first-rate, demo-worthy A/V presentation and a smattering of some decent extra features. Highly Recommended.