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Friday, July 17 2015 08:00

Movie Review: MARVEL's ANT-MAN Scores Big by Going Small for the First Family Film in the MCU...

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Last month, prior to spending some time with the cast and filmmakers behind MARVEL's ANT-MAN at Walt Disney Studios, I had the opportunity to attend the very first press screening of the film at an AMC in Burbank. It's always best to see the finished product before delving into interview territory for those involved, but that can be a tricky situation - depending on the film itself. Fortunately, I exited ANT-MAN with a smile on my face, and a ton of thoughts racing through my head as I worked to digest the multi-layered approach to a comic book character that most mainstream audiences are likely unfamiliar with. MARVEL's ANT-MAN scores big by "going small" - the first true "family" film in the MARVEL Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Despite the long, strange road that ANT-MAN took to get to the big screen (production issues that have been beaten into the ground at this point), the end result is a superhero film like no other, and no matter what those issues were, they've all led us here. It's a heist film with elements of OCEAN'S ELEVEN; a sci-fi action-comedy; and a family drama that has a three-pronged approach between father/daughter (Paul Rudd's Scott Lang and his little one), another father/daughter (Michael Douglas' Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly's Hope Van Dyne), and the villainous Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) seeking a father figure in Pym. 

More self-aware than the origin story told in IRON MAN, there's plenty of details and references to connect ANT-MAN to the rest of the MCU. That said, like Netflix's DAREDEVIL or last year's GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, there's also enough of a separation to make the ANT-MAN world also work on its own as a hyper-local space, and part of that goes back to Pym's past rivalry with Tony Stark's father - the exact reason why the "Pym Particle" technology has not been passed along to THE AVENGERS. Those Pym Particles are what makes changing in size (both shrinking and growing) possible, and the secrecy and potential for weaponization (The Yellowjacket Project) that surrounds them makes for compelling reasons for others to get their hands on them - or take a stab at replicating the tech themselves. That's where Cross really enters the picture, obsessed by the Pym Particle, but feeling scorned that the man he looked up to like a father would keep the secrets from him. A lust for power becomes rage, and it all builds into a fantastic third act that plays out in the bedroom of Scott Lang's young daughter. In small scale, of course Ant-Man vs. Yellowjacket with a Bachmann train in the mix.

With so much going on,  I noted in my interview with Lang's crew (the "Antourage") that sometimes it's the supporting characters that make a film, and we have that happening right here. David Dastmalchian, Tip "T.I." Harris and Michael Pena make a classic crew for Lang's criminal mischief, and they're downright hilarious. 

One of the surprises for me is how good the original score by Composer Christophe Beck (FROZEN, THE PEANUTS MOVIE) is. From the fittingly heroic theme to the surf-tastic closing number "Tales to Astonish!" (named for the comic in which Ant-Man made his first appearance), Beck's music perfectly reflects the genre-layering story, really working a perfect balance of whimsy and peril, criminal and hero. 

Bonus: Listen to Composer Christophe Beck's "Theme from ANT-MAN"

Overall, ANT-MAN is a film based on some absurd ideas - ones fleshed out by characters with silly insect-based names - characters that are usually second or third-tier at best. But this space is where MARVEL has really done well - taking a character like IRON MAN or a crew like the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and turning them into billion-dollar household names that are totally believable on screen.  ANT-MAN is a fun film for a variety of audiences, and despite its PG-13 rating (two instances of a four-letter word for poo), it's the first MARVEL film that I feel 100% cool with showing to my little ones - though I did let them see GUARDIANS already.

Highly Recommended!

MARVEL's ANT-MAN is in theaters now. Buy tickets via Fandango.

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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