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Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/8/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/2/2015
While he is still quite popular and well-known today, there was a time in the mid-1980s when Stephen King was white hot. Each of his books shot to the top of the best sellers list and even before they hit the streets, the novels were being prepped to hit the big-screen. A common running joke at the time was that King good publish his laundry list and it would become a best-seller. Marvel Studios seem to find themselves in a similar situation. Even though they are working with some arguably second-tier characters from the Marvel Universe, the popularity of theIron Man, Captain America, and The Avengers films have given this group and amazing amount of power and clout. Does this mean that they can take any character from the comic books, no matter how obscure and ludicrous, and give them a movie? On the surface, Ant-Man certainly seems to prove this idea.
As Ant-Man opens, we meet Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a scientist who has invented a formula which shrinks the space between atoms. Pym refuses to turn the formula over to a group (which includes Howard Stark (John Slattery)), which apparently wants to weaponize the invention. The story then leaps ahead three decades, as Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is released from prison after serving a sentence for robbing his former employer. Scott has a hard time making it on the outside, so he accepts a burglary job from his friend, Luis (Michael Pena). While inside the target house, Scott finds a strange suit. He takes it home and tests it, finding that it makes him shrink to nearly microscopic size. Scott is then approached by Pym, who asks him to help steal another suit which has been developed by Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who plans to sell it to the highest bidder as a weapon. So, Scott, with the help of Pym's daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), begins to train, mastering the abilities which comes with being tiny. Can this former burglar become a hero?
Imagine a first-time writer pitching the idea of Ant-Man to a producer. They would be laughed out of the room. The title character is not called "Ant-Man" just because he can shrink down to the size of an ant. Pym also gives Scott technology which allows him to communicate with ants and utilize them for assistance. So, not only is this the unlikely story of a former burglar who become a hero because he can shrink, but he also talks to, rides on, and befriends various kinds of ants. The whole thing is completely ludicrous.
And yet, somewhat Ant-Man works and emerges as exactly the kind of shot-in-the-arm the super-hero genre needed. This occurs for several reasons. First of all, the movie makes the all-important decision of not taking itself too seriously. Yes, there is plenty of action and peril here, but the movie also knows that it's about a guy who works with ants to stop crimes. Director Peyton Reed, who went to the best college in the world and also helmed Bring It On, may not have seemed like the most likely candidate to replace Edgar Wright when he left the project, but Reed brings a much needed degree of levity to the piece and he also keeps the pace moving very briskly. This latter point is very important, as it gives the audience very little time to stop and think about just how ridiculous the movie is. As with Reed, Rudd probably doesn't pop into your head when you think of superhero movies, but his natural goofiness and charm help to make the viewer feel at ease with the film, and allow us to buy into the weird proceedings.
But, if it's superhero action that you're after, you won't be disappointed either. While the movie doesn't contain the protracted fight scenes seen in The Avengers films (which is a blessing), it does contain some well-crafted set-pieces, which involve some very impressive special effects. For decades, we were treated to "shrinking" movies which featured obvious forced prospective shots, horrible green-screen, or cheesy sets. Ant-Man is able to avoid this by deftly mixing live-action with digital effects to create a seamless world in which a tiny Scott maneuvers through his tiny surroundings. It doesn't look "real" per se, but we buy what is happening.
In a time when superhero overkill is easily sinking in, Ant-Man is a welcome reprieve. Yes, it's still a Marvel character and yes, one of the lesser members of The Avengers makes an appearance here, but it's also a fun movie which is just lightweight enough and has enough charm to appeal to those general audience (read: not hardcore comic fans) who are ready to turn their backs on the genre. At it's core, Ant-Man is very similar to other super-hero origin movies, but it just weird and wacky enough to set itself apart and make it a must-see for those who want something a little different.
Ant-Man was way too calm about that ant which shows up in the third act on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, most notably the all important reds and yellows, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc shows off some of the best depth that I've ever seen in a 2D movie, as the foreground and background are clearly distinct, and the level of detail is notable, as we can see the texture on Scott's suit. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a stellar track, as it delivers highly detailed stereo and surround effects. These effects highlight individual sounds and often place us in the middle of the action, as the audio moves seamlessly from front-to-back and side-to-side. The subwoofer effects are palpable, but never overpower the dialogue. The set also includes a Blu-ray 3D. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an MVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30/12 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source materials. The image shows impressive depth, as the background and foreground are clearly delineated, and it looks great when objects pass through the foreground. In even better news, the picture doesn't suffer from the dark look which can often plague live-action 3D movies. The level of detail is impressive as well. Overall, a nice 3D presentation. The audio here is the same as that found on the Blu-ray Disc.
The Ant-Man Blu-ray Disc contains a small, but not miniature, assortment of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Peyton Reed and Paul Rudd. "Making of An Ant-Sized Heist: A How-to Guide" (15 minutes) is a making-of featurette which offers comments from Reed and the cast. They discuss the story and themes of the film, as well as the characters. We also get a nice amount of on-set footage which highlights several key scenes, as well as a look at the suit and the stunts. "Let's Go to the Macroverse" (8 minutes), which allows us to see that the movie was shot under the title "Bigfoot", shows us how macro (super close up) cameras were used to shoot super-small sets or details of full-size sets to create Ant-Man's tiny world. We see how the various elements were combined to make the final product. "WHIH Newsfront" (9 minutes) offers four segments from a "newscast" that shows stories which tie into the film. (This features Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb), a character also seen in the Iron Man films.) The Disc contains eight DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about 9 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Reed and Rudd. Finally, we have a 3-minute GAG REEL.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long