Review of "Ant Man (DVD)"
Brighton Marathon done in 4:32:01, London Marathon in 4:38:47. A little over £1200 (including Gift Aid) raised for Macmillan Cancer Support.
As much as I’ve enjoyed virtually every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve never been a fan of the comic world. So when “Ant Man” was announced as a film, it wasn’t something that particularly moved me, as I had never heard of the character before. But he seemed quite impressive in “Captain America: Civil War” and so it wasn’t just the previous “Captain America” film I had to check out to try and catch up with a bit of the universe’s back story.The film opens on a couple of men who feel they are getting a bad break from life. In 1989, Hank Pym leaves his position at S. H. I. E. L. D. in protest at their plans to weaponise an invention he has made. In the present day, a man called Scott Lang is released from prison after doing time for a Robin Hood style crime, but is having trouble going straight, as his boss at the only job he can find wants to use his old skills and his ex-wife wants child support. The only way Scott can think of to find the money to see his daughter and keep on the right side of his ex-wife’s police officer husband is to take on a job suggested by his former cell mate Luis and break into an old man’s house, as he apparently has a huger safe in his basement.
Much to Scott’s disappointment, the safe contains only a suit. Even more worryingly, when he puts it on for the first time, he has a strange voice in his ears. Perhaps predictably, the safe and the suit belongs to Hank Pym, who wants Scott to use it to break into his old company, Pym Tech, where his former protégé is very close to replicating the very work that caused Pym to quit S. H. I. E. L. D. in the first place. Pym refuses to let his daughter, who still works at Pym Tech, wear the suit for this job, so it is up to Lang to put it on, shrink himself down and steal some technology. For Hank Pym used to be Ant Man and now that he is too old to do it, Scott Lang has to become the miniature warrior.I thoroughly enjoyed “Ant Man”, as it offers something different to other superhero films. In an era where enemies are getting bigger and badder, or where in the absence of anything worse, superheroes are being each other’s worst enemies, it’s refreshing to see a film where the enemy is just another man with slightly more advanced and better technology. The plot very much requires our hero to go through and under obstacles and enemies rather than over and around them, which requires a different outlook and a different approach that I found quite refreshing.
Admittedly, there were a couple of things where the film did fall foul of the same old clichés. There are the predictable divisions between the Pym father and daughter, particularly as she still works in the old company and he has never told her the whole story about how her mother died. She also feels a sense of entitlement to wear the Ant suit, so she also resents Scott for being chosen to wear it over her. Indeed, that it should be the old company and Hank Pym’s protégé that comes up with the alternative to Pym’s original technology is itself something of a cliché. Given that Scott has to be trained to use the Ant Man suit, this requires a training montage which has been seen in so many films of this type that its inclusion was inevitable, although as part of the training involved getting the ants on his side and persuading them to do his bidding, that aspect at least added something a little different from the norm.I’ve never watched a film like this to be enthralled by the acting and “Ant Man” certainly doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Paul Rudd certainly seems to be enjoying himself in the lead role, as did the other three members of his team and Corey Stoll played up to the Darren Cross role as his main opposition quite nicely. Some of the other performances were a little less relaxed, with Michael Douglas seeming a little stiff as Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly slightly disinterested as his daughter, Hope. To be fair, their roles do call upon them to be largely disapproving of much that is happening around them, but they come across more as not caring than unsatisfied.
What this film does require and lean heavily upon is the effectiveness of special effects. After the early segments prior to Scott Lang becoming Ant Man, virtually the entire film requires an effect of some type, whether it’s of Ant Man in his ant form, or what he is seeing or going through in that form, or his ant companions. Admittedly, some of the ants themselves do look a little artificial, but as we’re seeing them far more closely than usual, it’s difficult to determine whether that’s how they should look in real life. A lot of the shots rely a little too much on the detail when Lang is shrunk into Ant Man, but they are generally very well realised, regardless of whether it was the best thought out of uses for all the computing power to hand.The script wasn’t the best, as there were a few too many obvious and repeated jokes and some of the personal confrontations seemed a little forced, but that is so often the case with these kinds of film. There was also an overreliance on some of the set pieces such that some points were rammed home a little too forcefully, like the keyhole training and the overly long sequence when Scott Lang first tries on the ant suit and ends up in a huge range of places that he couldn’t possibly have reached from where he was. There were some decent moments and some of the humour came across a little better and the sequences where the characters were carrying out some of their heists were relatively good and I did like the prison opening and the safe cracking scenes early on, although these happened prior to the discovery of the ant suit and the more predictable moments.
For all that the script, at least at the base level and the story telling fell into some genre clichés and a few poor jokes, I very much enjoyed “Ant Man”. The main hero at least had something unique and whilst this may have been overplayed, the difference was enough to set this film apart from many others. Perhaps I was more enthused by knowing nothing about the character and being able to enjoy the film on its merits rather than worrying about what they had done to the comic book character. There was more to like here than there was not to like and that makes the film very much worth watching, although it is unlikely to appeal to those who aren’t fans of the genre, as there are too many genre familiar aspects to the film to set it apart from the genre.For the DVD as a whole, the Bonus Features start with three Featurettes. The first is “Making of An Ant-Sized Heist: A How To Guide”, which is the now-standard trailerette. It is made up of fifteen minutes of cast and crew saying nice things about the film and trying to promote it as best they can, getting overly enthusiastic in some cases and trying to make out the film is something more important in cinematic history than a comic book spin off action comedy film. There is the odd behind the scenes shot, a few scenes from the film itself, but this is nothing more than a glorified an extended trailer, although it does have something different from the standard trailerette in that it is divided into distinct sections rather than dotting about all over the place just trying to take all the best bits.
“Let’s Go to the Macroverse” is perhaps the most interesting 8 minutes in the DVD extras, certainly for this DVD, but it’s more interesting than you see on many films’ DVD extras. It’s much more of a technical featurette showing how they made the segments where Ant Man is in his smallest size look as realistic as possible. Given that even films rarely let the viewer look closely at standard household items as this film requires, so it’s quite interesting in seeing how they did some of that from a general perspective, although it does get a little too much when they delve too far into technical specifications. Given the nature of the film, this was quite fascinating, as the film does offer something different from many films and it’s good that the makers have recognised this and taken the time to look into this specific element of the film, if only briefly.“WHIH News Front” is four separate sections running through around 10 minutes in total. The first is a “WHIH Promo”, a 2-minute promo of a mock news programme, “News Front With Christine Everhart”, setting out the scene of how Scott Lang ended up being in prison at the very start of the film, which is quite nicely done as it includes the stock prices and headline news across the bottom of the segment and acting as a promo for an upcoming interview with Scott Lang. The next, “Vista Corp Heist” is around three minutes of security camera footage supposedly used as evidence in the court case that resulted in Scott Lang being jailed, showing him breaking in to Vista Corp to commit the crime he was jailed for and is also quite nicely done, with an amusing ending in keeping with the tone of the film itself. The third is a “Darren Cross Interview”, a 3 minute business segment from “Insider View“, consisting of a brief interview with the head of Pym Tech, the company than made the Ant Man suit and the main bad guy in the film. The final segment is back to “News Front”, the promised interview between host Christine Everhart and Scott Lang where he loses his cool a little and doesn’t come across as the most likely of heroes, which is again a decent set up for the film itself. Again, the stock prices and headlines do add a nice touch and indeed the whole selection of featurettes offers something a little different to what you usually find in DVD extras and I found them to be quite enjoyable, if a little unconnected when they’re all played together.
The Deleted Scenes are 8 scenes of segments that didn’t make the final cut of the film for various reasons, running to just shy of ten minutes in all. None of them would have added a huge amount to the film, but with the optional commentary turned on, you at least get to find out why and at what stage of proceedings the scene was removed. Strangely, the commentary on these scenes is actually a little better than the commentary on the feature length commentary as it’s a little more focussed on the specific scenes rather than being a collection of random comments as that one turned into.The Gag Reel is the standard three minutes of fluffed lines, actors messing around, people falling over. There are a couple of running jokes that run for too long and for some reason there has been a lot of behind the scenes dancing going on, which isn’t particularly funny. All things considered, this is possibly one of the weaker Gag Reels I’ve seen, particularly as a lot of the swearing when things go wrong has been removed due to the film’s rating and this may well have affected what scenes were included here as the majority of the gag reels I’ve seen to tend to descend into swearing when actors forget their lines or miss a cue.
Having heard some decent feature commentaries on Marvel films, I had some hopes for the Audio Commentary with Peyton Reed and Paul Rudd, the director and star of the film respectively, although Paul Rudd also had a hand in the screenplay, so he could potentially offer insight from that perspective as well. Sadly, however, the Peyton Reed sections became a little too technical too often, right from the very start and the whole thing seemed to lack some coherence. Between them they do offer some fun insights into bits they’ve dropped into the film, but it is largely a slightly vague conversation that has no direction and in parts sounds like a shout out to some of the background crew and it seems as if everyone involved “knocked it out of the park”, which is a phrase Peyton Reed overuses so much as to become annoying quite early on and there are also a number of meta moments where they refer to the commentary rather than to the film, as if the commentary is the main thing rather than the feature. It does get a bit better as it goes on, particularly as it seems that the two men get caught up in the finale of the film as a whole rather than the parts of the film, but it’s not an entirely successful commentary as it doesn’t seem to appeal entirely either to film watchers or film students for any reasonable stretch of the commentary.Fortunately, despite a few obvious flaws, the film is good enough to carry the cost of the DVD. At £8.99 for a new copy and around £7.00 for a second hand copy, it’s well worth the price, as this is a film you can sit through more than once for the amusement value, as there isn’t enough intrigue and storyline to worry about a first viewing spoiling too much in the way of plot points. For that reason, I wouldn’t necessarily consider it worth a £15.00 Blu-Ray or £18.00 3D Blu-Ray as, whilst some of the scenes would benefit from the higher resolution, it’s not a film to be watched closely enough on further viewings for the additional costs to be justified.
Product Information : Ant Man (DVD)
Manufacturer's product description
DVD Region: DVD
Video Category: Feature Film
Actor(s): Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll
Classification: 12 years and over
Production Year: 2014
Actor(s) (Last name, First name): Douglas, Michael
Director(s) (Last name, First name): Reed, Peyton
Listed on Ciao since: 04/08/2015