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Giant 3D ants are something you usually see only after a long night on the town. Ant-Man, not content with being two hours of DTs as licensed entertainment, mimics the same mood trajectory. We start with carefree exhilaration. What fun! Michael Douglas as a suavely teeth-gnashing inventor paying back the tech giant that ousted him; Paul Rudd as the young ex-con he picks for ant mutation; special effects limbering up for the inferno. But — wages of bingemanship — we then proceed to boorish silliness and finally stupor.
The “set ’em up for the sequel” epilogue, as zzz-rated as most, is preceded by the now equally usual biff-bang showdown, overlong and overdone, across skies and stratospheres. Who wants these brain-dead pyrotechnics at the climax of every modern action-fantasy movie? If a troll answers “Everyone younger than you,” I offer to educate the youth by showing them the truly clever denouements to this film’s ancestors, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and The Fly (1958). Tension; wit; humanity. Not just “I’ll bash you if you bash me.”
The wit in Ant-Man is all front-loaded. It is super-boffin Douglas dining ex-jail safecracker Rudd at his home and asking “Would you like some sugar”, whereupon two ants push two cubes Sisypheanly across the tablecloth. It is Corey Stoll, as Douglas’s tech-firm usurper, glinting evilly under a bald pate like a human Belisha beacon. It is the sheen and mischief of the lab sequences. It is the thrilling first danger run as a miniaturised Rudd negotiates vacuum cleaners, mousetraps, plumbing systems . . . This sequence is edited in a kinetic whirl worthy of its Marvel Comics parenting. After that: the deluge and the dumbing down.