Ant-Man (Marvel, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, VOD) takes a slightly different approach for a movie in the Marvel superhero universe. It’s more playful and comic, with a reluctant hero who has a motley crew of buddies and a mentor with a sly sense of humor as well as justice, and while the stakes a big (stopping a tech giant from weaponizing experimental technology and it to the bad guys), it’s not the world-shaking battleground of The Avengers or Thor or Iron Man movies. It’s a movie that wants to have a little more fun with the genre, and it succeeds, even if it never really veers far from an increasingly familiar conventions of the superhero movie.
Paul Rudd, an actor with a guy-next-door quality and easygoing amiability, takes the lead as Scott Lang, a self-described cat burglar as a whistle-blowing Robin Hood who steps out of prison with nothing more on his mind than to go straight and become a part of his little girl’s life. Then he’s drafted by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a scientist and former tech tycoon, to inherit his unique shrinking suit, which also enables him to communicate with ants. Hank was a covert hero for decades, we discover, and he uses subterfuge like a con game to reel in Scott as his successor, a decision that his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) isn’t too keen on, but she helps him train nonetheless. Corey Stoll is the calculating CEO and former protégé who bounced Hank out of the company he founded and wants to use his tech for next-generation weapons. Their plan to stop him is part comic book fantasy, part elaborate heist, featuring an oddball gang of conspirators (Michael Peña, T.I. and David Dastmalchian) and a small army of ants, who prove to be team players and quite personable once you get up close and personal.
And that’s where the film is most fun. All the Marvel movies revel in spectacle but Ant-Man shifts the perspective when Scott goes all incredible shrinking man. The film was developed by filmmaker Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), who left the film over disagreements with Marvel, and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), with additional contributions from Adam McKay and Rudd. Director Peyton Reed, who takes a more whimsical attitude than the usual superhero flick, straddles the line between cartoon comedy and underdog wonder in those colorful forays into the world underfoot. It gives the adventure a whole new perspective, and the energy and invention of the climactic battle, as hero and villain (and other objects) shrink and sprout at will, is a refreshingly different take on the obligatory showdown set piece. It’s a minor film but that’s part of the charm, the lack of bombast and epic scale in a genre that keeps trying to top itself. Rudd is an everyman as hero, Douglas is clearly having fun as the mentor with a sense of humor, and Lilly mostly bides her time. Marvel is better than DC in sharing the screen with women heroes but it’s still mostly a boys club. According to the post-credits clip, that club will get just slightly more estrogen in the next installment.
I assume the Blu-ray looks and sound superb—I received a digital copy to stream via DisneyMoviesAnywhere rather than a physical disc, which looks fine—as Disney has gone all with great transfers for their previous Marvel movies. The digital copy does, however, have most the Blu-ray supplements. I watched the two featurettes “Making of an Ant-Sized Heist: A How-To Guide” (14 minutes) and “Let’s Go to the Macroverse” (8 minutes), which are light and fun with lots of terrific production and special effects footage, and the “WHIH NewsFront” clips of the fake newscasts, but it only features one deleted scene (the Blu-ray lists eight deleted scenes) and no commentary (the Blu-ray has director Peyton Reed and actor Paul Rudd, who I imagine would be entertaining).
Blind (Icarus, DVD), the story of a woman (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) who has recently lost her sight, is a refreshingly inventive and perceptive take on genre that rarely explores the experience from a subjective perspective. Neither uplifting tale of triumph nor blind-woman-in-peril thriller, it is a playful, intimate story of a person who keeps unseen world alive in her mind’s eye. It’s the directorial debut of screenwriter Eskil Vogt, who co-wrote the films Reprise (2006), Oslo, August 31st (2011) and Louder Than Bombs (2015) with friend and fellow filmmaker Joachim Trier, and it has a similar sensibility.
Ingrid (Petersen) is adjusting to her new life after becoming blind. She prefers to remain in the apartment she shares with her husband (Henrik Rafaelsen), an architect, learning to process sounds and learn to do daily tasks without sight. While she can no longer see, she continues to exercise her ability to visualize, and Vogt shapes the film around her perspective. Not just her visualization of what she hears, but her imagination as she turns author and tells the story of a single mother (Vera Vitali) and a porn-obsessed shut-in (Marius Kolbenstvedt) whose fictional odyssey starts to overlap with Ingrid’s real life. Vogt’s play with perspective extends to the creative, as she rewrites and the image transforms with it. It’s a film that demands close attention and rewards it with playful storytelling and inventive associations that reverberate between the real and the imagined.
In Norwegian with English subtitles. The DVD also features an interview with filmmaker Eskil Vogt from the 2014 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Also new and notable:
Minions (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD) gives the goofy little yellow pill-bug henchmen of the Despicable Me movies their own animated feature as they search for a new villain to serve. Features three new animated mini-movies and a featurette.
Jellyfish Eyes (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD), the debut feature from visual artist Takashi Murakami, is a fantasy of childhood innocence and fantastical creatures come to life as playmates in a post-Fukushima world. Criterion offers a filmmaker interview and two featurettes on the film’s stateside disc debut. Full review later.