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Before we once again enter the Marvel Universe, readers who are old enough to know the meaning of the phrase "printer's ink stained fingers" in relation to comic books are probably too old and certainly out of the demographic for Ant-Man, even with a heavyweight like Michael Douglas playing Hank Pym. Fanboys of a certain age will react to this phrase: "Scott Lang is Ant-Man" with screams of denial, for Scott Lang is a detested character for that demographic as well. Marvel's parent Disney is committed to bringing its new universe (sic) of characters to the big screen and that means the younger Ant-Man wins out. This film's story does its best to bring a convoluted continuity into line. SO . . . if you have no idea who Ant-Man is, read on. For everyone else, Yours Cranky is of that certain age and we found this film, which features the original Ant-Man in one VFX flashback sequence . . .
IN SHORT: Incomprehensible. [Rated Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. 117 minutes]
Ant-Man begins in 1989, with a very angry scientist named Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), founder of Pym Technologies, swearing before a board of suits that no one will get his formula for something called Pym Particles, which can shrink (or grow) organic matter to sizes great or small. Pym has, apparently, lost his company to someone called Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) and, we're guessing, he's beyond pissed that his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly) stands on Cross' side in the argument. That she is named "Hope Van Dyne," her mom's maiden name, in the credits is a clue since, somewhere else early in the film, we learn that Pym's wife, is dead. Fanboys -- who know that wife better as the superhero called The Wasp -- drop their jaws. Eventually we'll get some details about that, and the only appearance of the "original" Ant-Man, which I won't recount here.
In the Present Day, we are introduced to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), newly freed from San Quentin. Lang is a burglar, specializing in safecracking. He considers this less of a criminal activity since he is aggressively avoiding confrontations which could lead to violence. But an ex-con can't get work, unless he lies (probably the least of the seven deadly sins) which Cross does to get work at a Baskin-Robbins. Sure, he's living with ex-cons, all planning their next big score but, hey, it moves this story along. Lang's motivation to stay clean and sober, so to speak, is his young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) now being raised by ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer).and some guy named Jim Paxton (Bobby Canavale). That this "some guy" happens to be a police officer helps keep Scott at an arms length from his daughter, who just wants her daddy back. It should break your heart. Emphasis on should.
The supporting "gang" of ex-crooks is led by one guy called Luis (Michael Pena), and the film uses them for laughs. It's a strange choice since the "gang's" next job involves a huge safe with something very valuable inside. It turns out to be a body-encasing suit with a strange helmet and a big red button on one of its gloves. Once Lang pushes the button, we're off to the races in special effects city, as he shrinks to great comic effect. While in the suit Lang also hears a voice in his head prompting him to get through a test, or something. The voice belongs to Pym and the test involves stealing Pym tech back from the Avengers facility where The Falcon (an uncredited Anthony Mackie) is training a new Avengers team.
After the confrontation at The Avengers base, Lang is to break in to the Pym Technologies building, -- everyone inside is calling it "Cross Technologies." For some reason, even after 25 years of control, Darren Cross hasn't changed the name on his own building. Go figure. -- to steal 25 years of Cross' own work seeking to duplicate Pym Particles. At least we think that's what the deal is. Cross, who was Pym's protege, sees only profit in weaponizing the technology, which he code names after the more vicious bug, Yellowjacket. Cross is ready to sell his Yellowjacket work to HYDRA, the super-baddie criminal organization that has had a part in Marvel Movies for a long time.
After 25 years, Hope seems to have crossed back to her father's side in the conflict, even as she continues to work at Cross' company. She trains Lang to fight, multi-talented girl that she seems to be. There is a hint of attraction but the film jumps all over the place trying to establish its motives and find its pace. Eventually we see the ability of Pym particles to make ordinary objects shrink and grow and it establishes the terrifying prospect of shrinking "to sub-atomic" places. That seeds are planted early for a continuing series -- including 1) Pym's disdain for the work of Howard Stark and his son Tony. Lang names the flying ant that carries him about "Anthony." 2) Fanboys already know some sub-atomic places from over in The Hulk comic books so 3) The Wasp will reappear. Maybe two of 'em -- is just good planning on Marvel's part.
We've just written four paragraphs that outline story ideas for four movies. It's a lot of stuff to pare down and try to mix together and all of it collapses in a gigantic battle with lots of things shrinking and growing. Parents won't care that the film is a mess, since it's all riding on special effects technology built to make ten year olds happy. In the end, a family friendly mess is a good thing for the summer. We've left out details that are just more fun if you see 'em first hand.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Ant-Man, he would have paid . . .
Fanboys will be outraged as the Scott Lang Ant-Man was created by David Micheline and John Byrne, who are not credited in this film.. That credit goes to writers Stan Lee and his brother Larry Lieber and artist Jack Kirby, who created the Original. And yes, there is a Marvel Extra added to the end of this film. No, I'm not telling you what it is . . . I've already dropped hints for the fanboys (and they already know where Ant-Man is supposed to be in the Marvel Universe so, yeah, now you know. Maybe.
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