Ant-Man: tiny hero on the big screen

In the 1950s and early into the 1960s, science fiction and horror movies dabbled into a ridiculous but fun era of monster movies. Giant monsters plagued the silver screens and drive-ins of the time. Teens would borrow their parents jalopies and watch these movies while munching on popcorn and drinking sodas. As a whole, the movies were pretty harmless and silly, but ocassionally, they’d have a moral, usually about how nuclear war would imperil and destroy us all. (The downside to duck and cover, I guess.) Movies used camera tricks to make the monsters seem larger than life. Titles such as “Attack of the 50ft. Woman,” “The Beast from 10,000 Fathoms,” and “Them”

BEWARE! 1950’s Scariness below.

Here’s a fear frenzied moment of suspense as mankind totters before a thing that multiplies faster than it can be killed.

Hope that clip didn’t leave you trembling in terror.

Tales to Astonish #40, the first appearance of Ant-Man.
Tales to Astonish #40, the first appearance of Ant-Man.

Kids were reading comics in droves in the 50s and into the 60s. During the late 50s, Marvel comics was producing monthly titles that featured short stories; Tales to Astonish, Journey into Mystery, and Amazing Fantasy. Artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko worked with writer Stan Lee to create monster stories for comics which would include monsters with names like Blip, Krang, or Groot. (Perhaps Stan Lee picked whatever sounded good and ran with it.)

Superhero comics were nearly non-existent by the late 50s and early 60s up until the point where Marvel shifted gears and Stan Lee worked with Kirby and Ditko to create relatable and more human characters. The likes of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and the Avengers were created or fleshed out during the “Marvel Age” of comics. In February 1963, Marvel published Tales to Astonish #40, the first appearance of Ant-Man.

The man behind the hero was Hank Pym, one of the founding members of the Avengers. (Left out of the first movie for some reason. Probably deemed to comic-booky.)

Ant Man: a tiny cry for justice!
Ant Man: a tiny cry for justice!

Ant-Man: the Movie Review Begins:

I gave the history lesson to give context to the character.  Now, onto the movie review.

The character seems to be an homage to the B-movie days of monster movies and the spirit of the original comics. Overall, the movie was fun to watch, moved at a good pace, and didn’t seem to take itself too seriously.

It was surprising. The movie was much better than I anticipated. It seems today that movies are made with the “it’s good enough” mindset; a mindset that basically says, “make a movie that’s good enough to watch where people won’t demand their money back, but we’ll earn us vast mountain ranges of cash.”

This movie has an interesting protagonist, Scott Lang played by Paul Rudd. In the comics, Hank Pym is Ant-Man and Janet Van Dyne is the Wasp. We pick up with an older Hank Pym played by Michael Douglas who wants to stop Darren Cross (Corey Stoll of House of Cards fame) from creating a world filled with tiny supersoldiers.

Bronze Age Marvel Premiere #44.
Bronze Age Marvel Premiere #44.

While the story is fairly straight forward, Rudd’s character is pretty engaging. However, at times, the movie seems to go into some level of predictability, but doesn’t dwell or drag around there too long.

That said, I think the part of the movie that needed work was Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily). She was grossly under-used. Seriously, her character was ready to jump into action and be the superhero the movie needed but sits on the sidelines. We learn why her father wanted Lang and not her. (Watch the stingers during the end credits to get a sense of which superhero she’ll be in the next or future film.)

I’d recommend watching Ant-Man if you’re a Marvel fan of either the comics or the movies. I’m not sure if I’d recommend watching it in theaters, but I would say it’s worth watching. I know it’s one I wouldn’t mind having in my movie collection if it came out, but I wouldn’t run out to buy it either.

It’s better than “just good enough.” It’s fun and entertaining without getting too heavy or dark.

If you’re looking for dark and heavy wait for Batman v. Superman in 2016. I’m sure there won’t be much fun in that movie. (Although maybe it’ll be entertaining.)*

I’d give it 3 1/2 out of 5 Pym particles.

 

*This makes me wonder about what Warner Bros/DC comics are thinking regarding their comic book properties. Batman v. Superman looks dark and is highlighting a fight between Superman and Batman. All the colors in the trailer seem muted and the film looks shadowy and gray. I’m sure the movie will address issues between Superman and Batman, but are people anxiously awaiting a movie where Batman and Superman fight each other? All the other characters look grayed out as well; Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash.

Being dark and gloomy may not be the way go to, DC. Marvel’s doing pretty well with their characters which include a talking raccoon and a man who talks to ants. Lighten up. Add some fun to your movies, guys.

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