It may be about Marvel's tiniest action hero, but this quick-witted blockbuster is packed with big ideas
Earlier in the year, superhero sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron lit up the box office but failed to capture the energy and thrills of the original. 2015 suddenly looked set to be the year that the cracks started to show in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After all, what hope was there for the studio's next outing; a film about a hero whose powers consist of shrinking and talking to ants? Let alone one that had already been tarnished by the acrimonious departure of fan-favourite filmmaker Edgar Wright. Could it be that we were looking at Marvel's first major flop?
In a word: no. Ant-Man turned out to be one of the most entertaining Marvel movies to date, and is certainly its funniest outside of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Okay, so it adheres to the familiar Marvel origin movie template, is saddled with yet another of the studio's underdeveloped villains and the script could have done with another polish (is Scott Lang an accomplished cat burglar or a one-time corporate whistle-blower? What the film shows us and what it tells us are two different things). But, at the same time it's a smart and enjoyable comic book flick that marries an Ocean's Eleven-style heist plot to a deconstruction of the whole superhero genre.
Key to this is director Peyton Reed's playful approach to the material. Macro photography immerses us in traditional superhero action as miniaturised hero and villain knock lumps out of one another, before cutting to wider shots that make these epic battles look like nothing more than child's play (the final showdown even takes place on a Thomas the Tank Engine train set...).
Ant-Man also continues Marvel's impressive track record when it comes to casting. Paul Rudd brings a likeable sense of weariness and self-deprecation to the role of Lang (alongside the obligatory six-pack) and gets plenty of support from Michael Douglas as original Ant-Man Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly as Pym's smart and tough daughter. Meanwhile, Michael Peña rustles up the biggest laughs as Scott's friend Luis and Corey Stoll brings some much needed manic energy to the villainous role of Darren Cross.
Movie rating: 4/5
Picture: According to Peyton Reed in this disc's director's commentary: 'Ant-Man lends itself just conceptually to 3D – it really does enhance the experience.' After watching this stereoscopic Blu-ray you'll find yourself agreeing.
It wasn't shot natively in 3D, but the conversion here is an extremely effective one – particularly when it comes to the movie's VFX-heavy action scenes. Volumetric depth in the 1.85:1 picture is palpable, creating a sense of scale that really aids the central shrinking concept.
The 2D AVC presentation (on a second HD disc) offers a modest uptick in fine object detail and colour saturation. However, this is just one of those films that works that bit better in 3D.
Picture rating: 5/5
Audio: Ant-Man hit compatible cinemas with a Dolby Atmos mix; Disney's Blu-ray opts for DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. Thankfully, unlike Avengers: Age of Ultron's bodged Blu-ray track, this is a dynamic, bruising soundmix that should satisfy even the most demanding cinephile.
Scenes such as the tiny Scott's race to escape from a deluge of water in a bath (Chapter 6), his fight with Falcon (Chapter 12) and his flight through the short-circuiting server room (Chapter 13) provide a potent, multilayered soundscape that is a sumptuous accompaniment to the three-dimensional imagery.
It's not all bombast, though. Dialogue is exemplary and perfectly balanced in the mix, while music is well defined and delightfully lyrical.
Audio rating: 5/5
Extras: A fair selection. Making an Ant-Sized Heist: A How-to Guide (15 minutes) offers a whistle-stop tour of the film's production. Let's Go to the Macroverse (eight minutes) looks at the camera techniques and VFX used to bring the shrinking sequences to life. WHIH Newsfront (nine minutes) consist of four in-universe news reports. Peyton Reed and Paul Rudd also provide a feature-length audio commentary.
Rounding things out are eight deleted/extended scenes (with optional commentary) and a gag reel.
Extras rating: 2.5/5
We say: Top-tier picture and sound ensure that Marvel's smallest hero is a massive hit on Blu-ray
Ant-Man 3D, Walt Disney, All-region BD, £28 approx
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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