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Ant-Man: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Ant-Man (2015) movie poster Ant-Man

Theatrical Release: July 17, 2015 / Running Time: 117 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Peyton Reed / Writers: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish (story & screenplay); Adam McKay, Paul Rudd (screenplay); Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby (comics)

Cast: Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Michael Douglas (Dr. Hank Pym), Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne), Corey Stoll (Darren Cross/Yellowjacket), Bobby Cannavale (Paxton), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon), Judy Greer (Maggie Lang), Abby Ryder Fortson (Cassie Lang), Michael Peρa (Luis), David Dastmalchian (Kurt), Tip "T.I." Harris (Dave), Wood Harris (Gale), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), John Slattery (Howard Stark), Martin Donovan (Mitchell Carson), Garrett Morris (Cab Driver), Gregg Turkington (Dale), Stan Lee (Bartender), Tom Kenny (voice of Hideous Rabbit) / Uncredited: Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes)

Buy Ant-Man from Amazon.com: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital HD • Blu-ray • DVD • Instant Video

Marvel Studios has been so busy developing and expanding their Cinematic Universe with sequels and team-ups that they haven't introduced a solo film-leading hero in four years. There is a thrill to being introduced to new characters that even the most sharply-plotted follow-up cannot recreate.
That is one reason why Guardians of the Galaxy stands as arguably the most enjoyable film in this large, lucrative empire of Avengers-affiliated tentpoles.

As those who know their Marvel Comics can tell you, the original Avengers line-up consisted of Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man and Wasp. Captain America was discovered three issues later and soon joined their ranks. But both the 2012 box office behemoth and this year's slightly more coolly-received sequel were completely void of Ant-Man and Wasp. Not everyone made it into Joss Whedon's dream team and those that did had received their formal introduction in earlier movies. The insect-like resizable two were evidently not high priority for Marvel a few years back, but now the line is successful, productive, and interconnected enough that even a box office performance as modest as the first Ghost Rider seems unlikely.

Ant-Man sounded especially promising from conception. Firstly, there was the casting of Paul Rudd in the title role, an actor certainly talented and charismatic enough to endear as Robert Downey Jr., the three Chrises, and Mark Ruffalo have before. Even before that, though, the movie was being developed by Edgar Wright, a British filmmaker beloved for his Cornetto trilogy of genre comedies (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World's End) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Sadly, Wright, attached to the independently-developed project as early as 2003, would bow out over creative differences, leaving the director's chair to be filled by Peyton Reed, an American whose filmography (Bring It On, Yes Man, The Break-Up) didn't breed the same amount of optimism. While we'll always be left wondering what if Wright's vision hadn't been deemed too far out for Marvel, the good news is that Reed has kept Marvel's hot streak going. With two phases now complete, the Cinematic Universe remains unsullied by anything you would feel comfortable labeling a bad movie.

Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, an ex-con turned the world's tiniest superhero in Marvel's "Ant-Man."

The film opens in 1989, with widowed genius Dr. Hank Pym (a drastically digitally youthened Michael Douglas) butting heads with colleagues over his scientific corporation's vision. Jumping to the present day, we follow Scott Lang (Rudd) out of prison. Lang -- who likes to point out that he is a burglar, not a thief -- has done his time and come out reformed, ready to be straight and narrow. Unfortunately, ex-cons have difficulty finding work and even a stint at Baskin-Robbins ends abruptly when his boss (film buff Gregg Turkington) discovers his criminal record.

Sharing an apartment with three fellow offenders (Michael Peρa, Tip "T.I." Harris, and David Dastmalchian), it's only a matter of time before Scott reverts to crime in a misguided effort to obtain visitation rights to see his young daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson). The plan calls to break into the mansion of a wealthy pensioner and Scott is up to the task, even some improvised safe-cracking following unforeseen complications. As you can guess, the house belongs to Dr. Pym. Unfortunately, the only thing inside his heavily-guarded safe is Pym's old Ant-Man costume. Scott tries it on, inadvertently shrinks himself down to the size of a bug and rapidly tries to adapt to his new dimensions, which make deadly threats out of dance shoes and sewer rats. With Pym giving directions in his ear, Scott narrowly survives and wants nothing further to do with the powerful suit.

Alas, one arrest later and looking at more jail time and less family time, Scott accepts Pym's escape and an offer to do his bidding. Pym's old protιgι Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has become obsessed with the legendary, officially disputed size-altering experiment. He's hard at work to develop a superior version of Pym's carefully-guarded secret, even testing the technology out on lambs and critical co-workers. Pym and his 35-year-old daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) are determined to stop Cross from realizing his dream and getting the power to do evil with it. They train Scott to use his shrinking abilities against opponents and teach him how to direct various kinds of ants to assist him in different ways.

Michael Douglas is Dr. Hank Pym, the sage inventor of the Ant-Man suit. His daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) is established as not only love interest but future co-superhero.

Ant-Man does not depart from the solo Marvel superhero film formula in any significant way. Nor really does it have to. This is a character who's completely new to feature film. He has a unique origin story and powers dramatically different from the established Avengers. Armed with an old sage, an attractive love interest, and a diabolical foe, Ant-Man easily wins our interest and sympathies. Add the always appealing Rudd and a custody plea into the mix
and there's virtually no alternative but to be invested and enjoy yet another fantastical Marvel ride.

The fact that this is new terrain helps to distract from the fact that at their heart, these Marvel movies are all quite similar. Only one established hero -- Falcon (Anthony Mackie) -- appears at any length and that length is basically just a single fight scene. You can tell that Reed isn't as well-suited to the universe as other filmmakers like Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, and Kenneth Branagh have been. There are little issues that could be cleaned up with sharper direction and better editing. There seems little doubt that the film would have been more exciting, both visually and in general, with Wright at the helm. But Wright is one of the most inventive filmmakers working today; you don't need him to deliver an entertaining adventure. Ant-Man certainly qualifies as that, even with its occasionally heavy exposition and glaring lack of surprises.

Perhaps the biggest surprise may be that the comedy-seasoned Rudd, who also picks up his second screenwriting credit, isn't asked to turn this into a laughfest. He gets his chuckles, but mostly defers to his character's criminal associates (led by the scene-stealing Peρa) for comic relief duties. In fact, this movie is lighter on humor than most of the past Marvel movies, a fact that was clear from the largely muted crowd response at my theatrical screening. There are plenty of gently amusing moments, but there are few of the knee-slapping exchanges that have distinguished past Cinematic Universe productions.

Could Ant-Man be more dynamic, original, and suspenseful? Sure. But as is, it sets a standard for summer popcorn fare, doing more to win you over than the best-attended of its ilk, Age of Ultron and Jurassic World. Rudd's protagonist is someone you'll want to see more of. You might get excited just imagining what his interactions with the likes of Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor might be. Inevitably, the more movies Marvel and chief rival DC Comics put out, the more tiresome the superhero will become. The glut of entries is already starting to weigh down on viewers and rob the genre of some of its luster. There is obvious value in pausing the franchises to introduce new ones every once in a while.

You should expect it by now, but Ant-Man isn't done when the end credits start to roll. The first bonus scene appears about a minute into the closing titles and pertains specifically to this film, while the post-credits scene hints more at what is to come for Marvel at large (with appearances by Captain America and Bucky).

The bald head is a dead giveaway that Pym's old protιgι Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is the villain of the film. Michael Peρa steals scenes as Scott's fellow ex-con friend Luis, the film's principal comic relief.

Despite some concerns, Ant-Man did just fine at the box office. Its $180 million domestic was at the low end of the Marvel pool, narrowly between the first Thor and Captain America movies and a far cry from the $250 million plus the franchise's three prior releases amassed. Still, with a comparably measured production budget of $130 M and robust worldwide returns of $519 M, Ant-Man can only be categorized, like every other Marvel Cinematic Universe entry, a commercial success.

Opening in theaters in mid-July, Ant-Man was perfectly timed to reach home video during the holiday season rush. It did that last week in a single-disc Blu-ray, a single-disc DVD, and the two-disc Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital HD set reviewed here.

Ant-Man: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray 3D & Blu-ray Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Extras Subtitled; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone Blu-ray ($32.99 SRP), as standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

You don't expect any less than technical perfection from a Marvel movie and Ant-Man lives up to those high expectations on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 visuals utilize nearly every pixel available to Blu-ray and show off the sharp, vibrant visuals a big-budget studio tentpole must deliver. The 7.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is also full of life, engulfing you with effects and score during action scenes, while keeping dialogue crisp and intelligible throughout.

Director Peyton Reed discusses the "Making of an Ant-Sized Heist." A stuffed Flounder doll takes a laser in an explosive screen test from "Let's Go to the Macroverse."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Ant-Man is treated to a Marvel standard collection of extras on the standard 2D Blu-ray.

First up: Featurettes,
of which there are three listings.

"Making of an Ant-Sized Heist: A How-To Guide" (14:34) is a brisk, general purposes making-of piece that serves up the talking heads and behind-the-scenes footage you crave and expect.

"Let's Go to the Macroverse" (8:06) considers the Macro Unit's effects on the film, with looks at the techniques that 2015 cinema could use to best convey a miniature view of our world.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) does not particularly enjoy his interview by WHIH NewsFront's Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb). Baskin Robbins manager Dale (Gregg Turkington) features prominently in the Blu-ray's gag reel.

WHIH NewsFront serves up four short "news reports" (9:12). Christine Everhart (Iron Man's Leslie Bibb) reports on Scott Lang in one and interviews him in prison in another.
Between those, surveillance footage depicts Lang's robbing Vista Corp., Wired magazine interviews Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Such original in-character material is fun and an inventive way to promote the movie. Meanwhile, the visuals and pacing are quite true to 24-hour cable news presentations.

A Deleted & Extended Scenes section holds eight short sequences (8:39). They include Scott posing as a cable guy to case Pym's house in front of its infirm-playing owner, a scene of a young Pym hiding the Ant-Man suit away, and a random scene of the ex-cons dancing and tossing cash around their shared apartment following a casino win. The lot of them can also be seen with lighthearted commentary by Paul Rudd and director Peyton Reed.

The HD video extras end with a gag reel (3:25), which includes Gregg Turkington and Michael Peρa improvs, Paul Rudd's Taxi Driver and C-3PO impressions, and various profanity-bleeping bloopers.

Finally, we come to an audio commentary on the film by Reed and Rudd recorded in early August. It offers the right mix of diversion and genuine information, with the two casually remarking about what's on screen and revealing how it came to be. They are, expectedly, enthusiastic of what they see and in awe of their colleagues' work. If you're listening in, you probably are too, though. The amusement runs all the way through the end of the end credits, as Reed tries to get Rudd to spill which side he'll be on Avengers: Civil War.

The 2D Blu-ray opens with trailers for Avengers: Age of Ultron and ABC's "Agent Carter." The Sneak Peeks listing repeats those and follows them with 2-minute, talking head and clip-happy promos for the upcoming animated "Ultimate Spider-Man vs. The Sinister 6" and "Avengers: Ultron Revolution" plus a short ad for Playmation's Avengers.

The menu shrinks down with Ant-Man to serve up a dramatically scored loop of some of his insect-sized adventures.

Gladly for the first time since moving over to Disney for distribution, Marvel has supplied final product and not just a disc in a paper envelope. I can definitively tell you that the two discs share a dark gray side-snapped keepcase that is topped by an embossed, eye-catching slipcover featuring the same artwork below, which relegates supporting characters to small rear cover shots and assigns both spines to Ant-Man himself. The only insert supplies the unique code for unlocking the digital HD copy and rewards points that are included with your purchase. Having gone through everything, I'm still not sure what the slipcover's sticker touting an Exclusive Look at Marvel's Phase Three means, unless it refers to those cartoons advertised.

Dodging dance shoes, sewer rats, and toy trains, the small but mighty Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) saves the day!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Ant-Man is nothing groundbreaking or unexpected, but this fun adventure manages to introduce a new superhero while maintaining the high standard Marvel has established over the productive past seven years. That it could do so after production concerns, personnel changes, and widespread skepticism proves this franchise isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

This Blu-ray 3D/2D edition lacks a DVD but otherwise meets expectations with a phenomenal feature presentation and a nice gathering of entertaining and insightful extras. Whether you have been collecting the Marvel films on Blu-ray or not, there is no reason to stop or start with this typical, enjoyable outing.

Marvel Ant-Man Shop is Open!

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Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital HD / Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Summer's Movies/Fall's Blu-rays: Avengers: Age of Ultron • Jurassic World • Terminator Genisys • Inside Out • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Captain America: The First Avenger • Captain America: The Winter Soldier • Thor • Thor: The Dark World • Guardians of the Galaxy • Iron Man • Iron Man 3
The Amazing Spider-Man • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 • Spider-Man • Spider-Man 2 • Spider-Man 3 • Ghost Rider • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Paul Rudd: I Love You, Man • Our Idiot Brother • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy • Clueless • Knocked Up • How Do You Know
Michael Douglas: Wall Street • Solitary Man • Behind the Candelabra | Evangeline Lilly: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug • Real Steel
Corey Stoll: Midnight in Paris • The Good Lie • This Is Where I Leave You | Directed by Peyton Reed: Yes Man
Bobby Cannavale: The Station Agent • Win Win • Blue Jasmine • Danny Collins • Annie (2014) • Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Written by Edgar Wright: The World's End • Hot Fuzz | Shrinking: Fantastic Voyage • Gulliver's Travels

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Reviewed December 15, 2015.



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