REVIEW: ‘Ant-Man’

BF-08760_REver since Marvel teamed with Disney to create the Marvel Cinematic Universe, attending movies has been more like reading a serialized soap opera in Spandex that film-going. We’ve had three Iron Mans, a pair each of Avengers, Thor and Captain America, a few out outliers (Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy) and many more in the pipeline. And that doesn’t even include the tangled web of Spider-Man reboots, which makes it seem like we’re all reliving Groundhog Day. Eventually, it’s a cacophony of sound effects and needless 3D extravaganzas. Some are better than others (Cappie, so far, gets my vote as the best of the lot), but they all have a sameness to them after a while.

Which is why Ant-Man stands apart. Like the first Iron Man, it has a snarky star (Paul Rudd, a sort of less cynical version of Robert Downey Jr.) and a comedic sensibility that lightens up even some of the nastier bits (when the mad scientist unsuccessfully experiments on minimizing a cute lamb, what’s left is a teaspoon of goo, meaning this is the first lamb to become its own side of mint jelly). It’s a hip caper film, gussied up in a comic book adventure. (Marvel considers Ant-Man the final film in its “Phase One” of the movie series of the three proposed phases. Phase Two starts next spring with Captain America: Civil War.)

HEL0680_comp_v083.1173And because Ant-Man comes so late to the game of MCU, it doesn’t have to spend a lot of time on backstory: We know who some of these characters are already, which means its both an “origins movie” and a “mission movie” — we don’t get bogged down in either. (A mid-movie comic duel between Ant-Man and Falcon gives a gimmicky but not unwelcome nod to the MCU, and Stan Lee eventually makes his requisite cameo … about 30 seconds before it’s over.)

Surprisingly, the minimization set-pieces — with Ant-Man the size of an insect, where water from a tap looks like a tsunami — don’t seem as cheesy as they have ever since the days of The Incredible Shrinking Man. It’s all in fun.

Especially with Rudd and much of the supporting cast, including an endearing Michael Douglas as the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. But the kickiest performance comes from Michael Pena as Rudd’s unexpectedly sophisticated criminal running buddy — he shines with so much good will and energy, you almost forget what a sourpuss Evangeline Lilly is as the budding love interest. Who needs lame romance when you have ginormous Thomas the Tank Engines and a villain with a kick-ass stinger? This summer actioner really has legs … like, six of ‘em.

Now playing in wide release.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Things I learned from my first Dallas Comic Con

Over the weekend, Dallas Comic Con went down in Irving. Throngs of people wonderfully embracing their comic book geekdom journeyed to Mecca just off 114. Now, there are people who like comics (like me). And there are people who love comics. And love dressing up like characters in comics. I wasn’t blind to this fact, but when I saw this line wrapped around the Irving Convention Center on Saturday, I almost instantaneously turned my car right back toward home.

After talking to a tiny Asian woman dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi, I learned that my media credentials were waiting for me inside and with her Jedi power, I could bypass the line. And once I was in, all I could mutter in Keanu-Matrix fashion was “whoa.” After about an hour, my head finally got wrapped around what the hell was going on. I expected a crowd. I didn’t expect hordes. And my conclusions began to draw from my Saturday excursion.

—  Rich Lopez

Dallas Comic Con this weekend

Professor X in the flesh

What is likely the Super Bowl for comic and sci-fi fans in Dallas, this year’s Dallas Comic Con looks to impress big time. With guests like Patrick Stewart, pictured, from X-Men films  and Marvel godfather Stan Lee in the lineup, the two-day event is like Nirvana. And we’re kinda hoping to see a bunch of hotties in tight superhero costumes as well.

DEETS: Irving Convention Center, 500 W. Las Colinas Blvd. Through Sunday. $20–$25.  DallasComicCon.com.

—  Rich Lopez