'Ant-Man' works out the bugs in superhero genre
Zade Rosenthal/Disey/Marvel via AP This photo provided by Disney shows Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man in a scene from Marvel's "Ant-Man."
The first reaction was: Not another Marvel Comics movie.
After seeing "Ant-Man," the reaction is: Yes! Another Marvel Comics movie.
"Ant-Man" is this summer's best popcorn movie, and even more entertaining than one of the other top films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, "Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014).
That's because director Peyton Reed ("Yes Man," 2008; "The Break-Up," 2006; "Down with Love," 2003; "Bring It On," 2000) has dispensed with the Armageddon aspects of many of the Marvel movies. Instead, the approach is that these are basically comic book stories translated to the big screen. We don't need to know all the whys and wherefores of what happens between the panels.
The screenplay is by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish ("The Adventures Of Tintin," 2011; "Hot Fuzz," 2007), Adam McKay ("Anchorman," 2013, 2004) and Paul Rudd ("Role Models," 2008) from a story by Wright and Cornish, based on characters created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby.
"Ant-Man" emphasizes the "Pow! Zap! "Bang!" quality of the comic book, er, graphic novel, with judicious framing, precise and quick editing, and close-ups on main characters, allowing the numerous quips to sink in. "We still haven't worked out all the bugs," it's stated.
The storyline is set up nicely and without a lot of complications. The Pym Technologies headquarters and labs are impressive to behold. Pym's mansion is well-done.
The cinematography is superb. There are beaucoup special effects, with the miniaturization and scale of Ant-Man and his army ants incredible and fascinating. A hilarious Thomas the Tank Engine scene is an homage to the earliest days of Hollywood westerns.
Visually, "Ant-Man" is a combination of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" (1989), "Fantastic Voyage" (1966) and, of course, the "Avengers" series (2011, 2012, 2015).
Still, the best special effects don't outweigh good casting and acting. Paul Rudd is a great choice as Scott Lang, a small-time crook who's recruited by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to become Ant-Man.
Pym doesn't always see eye to eye with his daughter, Hope (an excellent Evangeline Lilly). When Hope and Scott meet, it's dislike at first sight.
Rudd is engaging and likable as Lang. He's plays an affable man-child. He gets a lot of screen time as Lang, which is good. In the Ant-Man suit, unlike as with Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, we don't get an inside-the-helmet facial view. When he's in the suit, we can barely see Rudd's eyes. Outside of the suit, as Lang, Rudd's arched eyebrow and cute facial expressions serve the character well.
Douglas is in fine form as Pym, striking just the right balance of mentor and inventor.
Corey Stoll is Darren Cross-Yellowjacket, playing the role at his heinous best.
Judy Greer plays Lang's ex-wife. Bobby Cannavale is her husband. Abby Ryder Fortson is excellent as the young daughter of Lang and his wife.
Anthony Mackie is again a strong presence as Falcon and seems to be given more screen time here than in the "Avengers."
Michael Pena is a hoot as Luis, teamed with memorable sidekicks Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (T.I.).
While "Ant-Man" was seen in 2D for this review, it's worth a second viewing, and, if so, probably in 3D. It's dazzling fun.
"Ant-Man," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.) for sci-fi action violence; Genre: Action, Adventure. Science-Fiction; Run Time: 1 hr., 57 min.; Distributed by Marvel Studios-Disney Pictures.
Credit Readers Anonymous: Stan Lee has a cameo as a bartender toward the end of "Ant-Man." Midway through the closing credits, there's a scene between Hank Pym and his daughter where he shows her a prototype Wasp suit. At the end of the closing credits. Steve Rogers-Captain American and Sam Wilson-Falcon are shown with Bucky Barnes, a lead-up to "Captain America: Civil War" (2016). At the very end, it states: "Ant-Man will return."
Box Office, July 24: "Ant-Man" hung on at No. 1, with $24.7 million, $106 million, two weeks, barely keeping "Pixels" from opening at No. 1 and instead settling for No. 2, with $24 million, opening;
3. "Minions," $22.1 million, $261.6 million, three weeks; 4. Trainwreck," $17.3 million, $61.5 million, two weeks; 5. "Southpaw," $16.5 million, opening; 6. "Paper Towns," $12.5 million, opening; 7. "Inside Out," $7.3 million, $320.3 million, six weeks; 8. "Jurassic World," $6.9 million, $623.8 million, seven weeks; 9. "Mr. Holmes," $2.8 million; $6.4 million, two weeks; 10. "Terminator Genisys," $2.4 million, $85.6 million, four weeks;
Unreel, July 31:
"Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation," PG-13: The Mission, should you accept it, is to see Tom Cruise in his latest feats of derring-do. The action-thriller also stars Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson.
"Vacation," R: Rusty Griswold takes his family to Walley World." Didn't we already see this? Several times? Ed Helms and Christina Applegate star. No word as yet as to whether or not Chevy Chase is strapped to the hood.
Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, thelehighvalley-press.com; the Times News website, tnonline.com; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6-6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, wdiy.org, where the movie reviews are archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ tnonline. com. Follow Paul Willistein on Twitter @ PaulWillistein and friend Paul Willistein on Facebook.
Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes