One saturday morning, near the top of the world, a three and a half year old Eric, all hopped up on sugar cereal and the newness of a three and a half year old life, sat on the floor in front of a TV set. What his young eyes saw … blew his freak-ing mind!
It was a man dressed in a blue and red skintight suit and had a spirograph drawing on his forehead. Through the course of the show I would find out the man was the DC Comics character, The Atom and the show was, The Super Friends. My mind wasn’t blown because of how The Atom looked. Instead, I was amazed at what he could do. To save some snotty troublemaking kids, this big strong super hero shrunk to the size of a dime … much, much smaller than my three and a half year old frame. The Atom fit himself through the key hole of a malfunctioning roller coaster control panel and fixed the circuitry, saving a kid’s life and the day!
As a very tiny being at the time, the thought of a super hero becoming even smaller than me, and still being strong and heroic had unlimited appeal to my three and a half year old self. It was my first exposure to superheroes in pop culture and in that very instant I was hooked.
For reasons I won’t go into, that period of my life, near the top of the world, is incredibly dear to me … and anything that brings me back there, if even just for a moment, is infinitely special.
A decade later when I started collecting comics and getting to know the characters and companies, I discovered that Marvel was the “newer” company and that many of their heroes were … “inspired” by DC characters that came before them. One of those “inspired” Marvel characters was ANT-MAN, Marvel’s answer to The Atom. As soon as I found out about ANT-MAN, I was a fan!
So I just got back from the early Thursday night screening of ANT-MAN. Marvel CRUSHED it! (Did I just spoil my own review??? I should have put a spoiler-warning, “DON’T READ THIS LINE UNLESS YOU WANT THE KNOW HOW THIS REVIEW ENDS!”)
The ANT-MAN movie has been in the works for years and years. It was circling “development hell” for awhile. At one point Edgar Wright (director of the amazing Shaun of the Dead and the wonderful End of the World) was attached to direct and he even released a “proof-of-concept” short a few years back with ANT-MAN taking out some security guards. I was really disappointed, and a bit worried, when Wright bailed on the project because of creative differences with Marvel. (Wright has a co-story credit in the movie, which is good to see.) The “disappointment” may be justified because I’m a fan of his work but the “worry” was pointless because ANT-MAN delivered on all fronts. It’s right up there with Iron Man I, Captain America II, The Avengers I&II, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
The movie is a mixture of action and comedy. It’s full of super hero action and eye candy, and the chuckle out loud humor that’s become the hallmark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The story is ultimately a story of fathers trying to do right by their daughters, and it’s a good one.
Casting for this movie is terrific. Star Paul Rudd does an excellent job as Scott Lang, down on his luck ex-con and the new ANT-MAN. Michael Douglas, who somehow looks older than his 140 year old father (I may need to fact check that …) Kirk Douglas, is outstanding as the original ANT-MAN, Hank Pym. In the comics, Hank Pym is a deeply flawed individual, and there are elements of Douglas’ performance that hint to those flaws. Evangeline Lilly is great as Pym’s daughter, Hope Van Dyne. Corey Stoll is exceptional as the film’s villain, Yellow Jacket. You believe he is an evil, dangerous man. Judy Greer is having an amazing summer as a professional movie mom. First Jurassic World now ANT-MAN! As great as the main players are, I think Michael Peña steals the show. His schtick as Scott Lang’s small time crook buddy is laugh-out-loud hilarious! He’s going to get a lot of work from this movie.
The Marvel Universe is well represented throughout the movie. Howard Stark (Iron Man’s dad), the Avengers, and even Hydra are all present. For the uninitiated, the story and characters diverge from their comic source material. In the comics Hank Pym (as ANT-MAN) and his future wife Janet Van Dyne (as the Wasp) are original members of The Avengers (they were on the team before Captain America!) Also in the comics, through the years, Hank Pym switched alter egos several times and one of those alter egos was Yellow Jacket. One last thing, in the comics, it was Hank Pym, not Tony Stark that created Ultron! (“Have I done it? Have I blown your mind?”)
There are a ton of cool nods to the comics sprinkled throughout the film, my favorite being the line “Tales to Astonish” (which is the comic series ANT-MAN debuted in.) In a weird twist, they repurpose Captain America’s silver age comics origin when dealing with the fate of Hope Van Dyne’s mother, the Wasp. The movie also gets bonus points for featuring (in a fight sequence no less) the titular track from the greatest album ever, The Cure’s Disintegration!
So tonight while I was in the theater watching the lasers and epic action sequences, hopped up on soda and Twizzlers, laughing at the jokes and sight gags, caught up in the drama and adventure, awed by the high fantasy. I was transported back to that three and a half year old self, in that living room, near the top of the world … if only for a moment.
5 out of 5 ants in my pants :).