Thursday, December 10, 2015

Ant-Man 3D / 2D Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduces the newest member of the Avengers: Marvel’s Ant-Man. Armed with the amazing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang joins forces with his new mentor Dr. Hank Pym to protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from ruthless villains! With humanity’s fate in the balance, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a daring heist against insurmountable odds. Filled with humor, awesome special effects and exclusive bonus features, this action-packed adventure takes you to new levels of pulse-pounding excitement!
Film (4 out of 5 stars)
Originally meant to kick off phase three in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man instead brings Phase two to a satisfying close as it closes some of the last threads of the overall MCU while offering a great start to a new superhero chapter. It's been a long time coming as the writing for the film kicked off in 2006 by Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright with Wright set to direct. That version of the movie almost came to fruition several times but eventually Wright and Marvel agreed to part ways after the film had already been cast. Star Paul Rudd and his frequent director Adam McKay revised the script while keeping a lot of the previous story content and that's the version that was filmed. I'd love to see the differences between the two scripts, but according to Evangeline Lilly, the revised version blended with the MCU much more than the previous version.

While I'd probably have really enjoyed Wright's version of the film, I'm glad that Ant-Man has been incorporated with the rest of the Marvel universe as it helps continue the story left off from The Age of Ultron and it sets the stage to allow Ant-Man to join in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War and most likely Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 and 2. As Age of Ultron changed the comic continuity of Hank Pym creating Ultron to Tony Stark, Ant-Man instead shows that Pym was one of the founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. and an active agent. In fact, the film opens in 1989 where we see Pym (Michael Douglas) angrily quit the organization when he learned that Howard Stark (John Slattery), Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell), and Mitchell Carson (Martin Donovan) have tried to develop their own version of the Pym particle so that they could replicate the Ant-Man technology.

Skip to many years later, and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is getting released from prison. He had been sent there because he took it upon himself to refund customers that had been defrauded by VistaCorp in a Robin Hood-esque move. Despite the pleas of his friend and former cell mate Luis (Michael Pena to return to a life of crime, Scott is determined avoid all that and get a normal job, which he thinks will be easy due to his Masters in Electrical Engineering. He quickly learns that his degree is worthless thanks to his criminal record. Because of his lack of income, he's not even able to pay his child support, which puts him on the wrong side of his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her fiancee (Bobby Cannavale) who don't want him around his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) until he gets his life together.

In desperation, Scott decides to do one more job with Luis and his gang that he's assured will be an easy one. Scott breaks into a house to open up a safe that's he's been told in the basement, only when he does, he finds Hank Pym's Ant-Man suit inside. He takes it and runs before he's caught, but when he tried it on, he learns that it was all a set up by Pym and that he wants to test Scott. Pym has been looking for someone with Scott's talents for a long time to help him stop his former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from weaponizing his technology. Pym's estranged daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) is also trying to stop Cross by working on the inside of the company that her father built and lost thanks to the machinations of Cross. They learn that Cross is not only trying to usurp the technology for personal gain, but he's also planning to sell it to HYDRA which raises the stakes even more.

I really enjoyed Ant-Man for a variety of reasons. First off, it's really funny as all of the cast bring a lot of humor to the movie, I also really liked the action, especially when it's been miniaturized as that really sets the film apart from the other movies. Plus, the cast for this movie is perfect. When I heard that Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas were cast in this I was immediately excited. That has to be the best remaining part of Edgar Wright's legacy for this film. The rest of the cast is also good and they're people you've seen in other movies in smaller roles but they've been given a chance to shine here, especially Micheal Pena and Corey Stoll. I also liked the fact that the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) got to make an appearance here (twice if you count the after credits scene with Captain America).

Ant-Man is a lot of fun and it has a surprising amount of heart thanks to the relationship between Scott and the daughter that he's trying to reconnect with. The film also offers a nice look at how co-parenting between divorced parents and their new partners can transcend pettiness to focus on what's best for the child. The film also promises us the chance to see a new female superhero in the future with Evangeline Lilly assuming the role of The Wasp in the upcoming Ant-Man and The Wasp. IT may not be my favorite Marvel movie, but Ant-Man sure is a lot of fun and a nice change of pace.
2D Video (5 out of 5 stars)        3D Video (5 out of 5 stars)
Both of the 1080p transfers look fantastic, but I have to go with the 3D version as my preferred choice. They both offer some razor sharp detail and brilliant color delineation, but the film benefits so much from 3D that it's hard to recommend the 2D version. All of the set pieces in the film were obviously planned with 3D in mind and the conversion to 3D that was done looks great. Scenes like when Scott is shrunk down in the bathtub and trying to avoid the water looks even better in 3D. Even the regular scenes look better in 3D as every shot gains extra depth and dimension. I usually let people know that both versions are good, but in this case I have to recommend the 3D one without hesitation. 
Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
Ant-Man's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix is as good as I expected it to be. By this point, Disney has an unequaled record as far as the quality of their audio and video efforts on Blu-ray. They are consistently excellent and this one is no different. This lossless mix offers it all - immersive atmosphere and it packs a punch during action scenes when it's needed. I especially liked how the sound shifts from big to small correspondingly to what's happening on the screen. The music by Christophe Beck sounds great and is blended well with the rest of the sound effects. The rear speakers do a great job of putting the viewer in the middle of the action whether it's during a fight inside a briefcase or inside a prison. This is an amazing mix that adds a lot to the movie.
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
There's a decent amount of extras included but of course I always want more. It makes me wonder if there will be a special edition down the road with even more special features. All of these are in high definition.
  • Making of an Ant-Sized Heist: A How-To Guide - This fifteen minute overview of the film has a lot of good info in it but I wish it was a lot longer. We learn about the character and see a lot of behind the scenes looks at the making of the film. The content here is interesting but it should have been even more in depth. Of course, that;s what I say about every Marvel Blu-ray release. 
  • Let's Go to the Macroverse - A quick look at how the miniaturization sequences were accomplished. This is pretty cool and will interest anyone that wants to learn more about how the effects were done.  
  • WHIH NewsFront - This is an interesting addition. These are "in universe" news clips that cover people and events from the Marvel movies as if they were real. The news program is hosted by Iron Man's Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb). The clips include various bits including: the WHIH Promo, coverage on the Vista Corp Heist, an uncomfortable interview with Darren Cross, and a live prison interview with Scott Lang. Make sure you read the teletype at the bottom of the screen for some cool info about what's happening in the Marvel universe.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes - Here's a collection of deleted and extended scenes including:  "Fixing the Cable," "Hank Vaults the Suit," "Paxton and Gale," "Qubit Defense Matrix," "Scott and Cassie," "Wish Fulfillment," "The Future of Pym Particles," and "History of Ant-Man." There's also optional commentary by Peyton Reed and Paul Rudd. Honestly, I think most of these should have remained in the film. 
  • Audio Commentary - Director Peyton Reed and Actor Paul Rudd talk about the making of the film and how the film changed from Edgar Wright's version to theirs along with some anecdotes from filming. This is a great commentary and the two have a good chemistry together.
  • Gag Reel - A look at the cast screwing up and having fun along with some of Paul Rudd's crazy but good dancing.
Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Part heist movie, part comedy movie, and part action comedy, Ant-Man has it all. The cast is superb in these roles and it's just a fun movie to watch. This Blu-ray is also top notch as the video and audio quality are fantastic (especially the 3D), but the extras could have been more extensive. I highly recommend this purchase!

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