Monday, September 7, 2015

Ant-Man (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Marvel's "Ant-Man" directed by Peyton Reed (The Break-Up) is now in the Tropic building. Thanks to the everyman persona of Paul Rudd from Judd Apatow fame, the film has a wonderful charm which works well as a comedy as much as an adventure.

Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is a physicist and entomologist who is hard at work with a formula for miniaturization, presumably to bring the molecular realm together with our own. Pym is not supported by his selfish peers.

Darren Cross (Corey Stoll, House of Cards) is a former student of Pym's, who now (of course) is mad with power. Cross takes over Pym's beloved company with dreams of war-lust. Zounds! What can stop him?

Certainly, we have yet another good vs. evil conundrum, but the story is greatly helped by tremendous effects (which give some Disney credit to the reality of quantum physics) and healthy doses of refreshing humor.

Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, the former jailbird but earnest dad, has never been better with just the right blend of self deprecation and wild sarcasm. Stoll, too, seems to have a lot of fun, mincing for the camera as a smarmy bad guy accompanied by all the fanfare of a Saturday Matinee.

The film delivers a retro feel of Kitsch and Circumstance. The suit for one, resembles the scarlet and silver days of Flash Gordon in his heyday of the 1930s.

Stoll, in his amarillo and sable alter ego, Yellow Jacket, has the danger of something vague and difficult to define, recalling the Creature Features from the 50's as well as a smattering of Lovecraft.

The action is the shade from Spielberg of old.

In one scene, Ant-Man and Yellow Jacket fight it out during a backyard party. One false move has Yellow Jacket flying into a hanging bug zapper. The combat scenes are as comic has they are entertaining. This is one film that actually feels and sounds like a comic. During such segments, the whole audience bubbled into laughter.

This is a rare thing in an explosive hero film as there have been so many.

"Ant Man" is both heartfelt and nonchalant by turns, yet full of  real surprise.

The episodic narrative moves swiftly in apprehension like a campy serial. We are not bogged down by pseudo-scientific explanations. Events merely happen as they do as in a Max Fleischer cartoon.

When Scott robs a two ton safe, there is not much fuss; it merely freezes and explodes like over-baked bread.

Silliness aside, there is also some poignance when Pym describes the sub-atomic world as a place where all that you love ceases to exist when time and space lose their finite power.

Say what you will about all of the electrifying tumbles, but for a pop art film, this touches on the profound. When our reluctant hero Lang is in that position, hearing the voice of his daughter, it is just as potent as any James Cameron thriller.

Also well done is the emphasis that the story places on the importance of ants in our natural world. Corny it may be, but whenever Lang or Pym interact with or speak of the insect world, it is with a sense of awe and respect.

As we are faced with a very real decline in our bee population, this is a very progressive and compelling awareness to have in an escapist film, especially as it is aimed for younger audiences.

Michael Pena as Lang's friend Luis provides good comedy in his own right. He's a henchman who gets so excited, he can't stop talking in long-winded bursts. Engaging as well is Abby Ryder Fortson as Lang's stereotypically cute daughter Cassie. In her role, she has genuine chemistry with Rudd and her pluck recalls the Spielberg sweeties of Drew Barrymore and Heather O' Rourke.

For added "ah-has", SNL's Garrett Morris who played Ant-Man in a seasonal sketch, has a cameo.  

The most miraculous aspect to "Ant-Man" is that it tells a conventional story with a smoothness and free whimsy that also recognizes the wonder of the natural world. Underneath all of the explosive punching is the idea that our universe is interconnected and dependent on all life, from Tony Stark to tortoise beetles.

This underlying concept is no small trifle.

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