Thursday, July 16, 2015

Let's get small

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, also credited as co-scripter) is a burglar with a Masters in electrical engineering. He gets out of San Quentin after doing time for some sort of genius Robin Hood caper. Scott finds he can’t even hold down a Baskin & Robbins starting position with his prison record, which is a problem since he needs a job and an apartment before he can apply for shared custody of his little girl, so he gets lured back into a burgling by his buddy Luis (Michael Peña, who gets the best laughs in the movie in twin sequences involving rapid-fire flashbacks and ridiculous lip-synching). But, a-ha!, the burgling was covertly masterminded by entomologist, physicist and former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who figured out how to “change the distance between atoms.” Which, as it turns out, is dangerous! It means that you can turn normal-sized guys into super-small super-soldiers, which is something Pym’s former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), with the aid of Pym’s foxy daughter Hope (Canada’s own Evangeline Lily), is hot to develop and sell to obviously nefarious fellows in suits. Thus Pym needs Scott to become Ant-Man, right? Complications ensue.

Sound complicated? It is! But no more so than your average super hero movie, which, it always seems to me, would work better as a super hero mini-series, since there are always at least three complete three-act narratives squashed into one of these tent-pole epics. Nevertheless, Ant-Man, directed by Peyton Reed (Bring It On) with the right balance of magnitude and irreverence, feels surprisingly fleet. The film could have done without several of the requisite plot twists or the entirely superfluous Avengers cameo, but these detours are made up for by some inventive set-pieces, including on that involves a giant Thomas the Tank Engine falling out of a suburban house while two guys the size of peas duke it out in the carpet jungle. Unlike some other recent spectacle films (e.g.: Terminator: Genisys), it helps immensely that Ant-Man has experienced actors with actual personalities in the lead roles, and it helps still more to have a writing team like that of Rudd, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Adam McKay fleshing out the boiler-plate plot. Also: there are lots of actual ants doing heroic things. Let’s hear it for ending the cinema’s unjust tradition of demonizing ugly insects.

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