Ant-Man (4K UHD Review)
Release Date(s)2016 (October 1, 2019)
Studio(s)Marvel Studios (Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C+
A not so ex-thief becomes the world’s smallest and most unlikely superhero in Ant-Man, directed by Peyton Reed (of Bring It On and Yes Man fame).
When Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is released from prison, he finds himself unemployable and unable to pay his child support. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so he joins his former cellmate Luis (Michael Peña) in a burglary. They break into the target house and Lang cracks the safe, but all he finds is a strange motorcycle suit. When he tries it on, however, the suit shrinks him down to bug-size. Freaked out, Lang returns the suit and meets its owner/creator, an ex-SHIELD scientist named Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Pym reveals that the theft was actually a test; he wants Lang to replace him as the new Ant-Man to steal back his shrinking technology from the company he founded, which now intends to use it for military applications. Pym’s daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), will train Lang to do this… if reluctantly. But he’ll have to earn her trust in the process.
Sound complicated? Well, it is. But the film is clever, occasionally cute, and it manages to squeeze much humor out of its kitschy scale gags. It offers a somewhat different gear for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with a story that’s more personal and character driven. It also has smaller stakes—if you’ll pardon the pun—not just in terms of its threat but by adding the quantum realm to the MCU landscape. Rudd is a likable aw-shucks and down-on-his-luck everyman, his on-screen daughter steals scene after scene, Peña provides amusing comic relief, Lilly grounds the story with a strength that hints at a greater role in films to come, and Douglas is excellent as an iconic character in the Marvel Comics cannon. He even plays a younger version of himself in scenes that feature groundbreaking use of de-aging CG effects. Ant-Man certainly isn’t a top tier film in the MCU, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. And be sure to look out for the cameo by comedian Garrett Morris, who once played Ant-Man in a funny SNL sketch back in the 1970s—his appearance in the film is a very nice touch.
Ant-Man was shot digitally in the ARRIRAW codec (at 2.8 and 3.4K) using Arri Alexa, Phantom Flex, and Canon EOS cameras with Panavision Primo and Nova lenses. It was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate at the 1.85:1 flat aspect ratio, then upsampled for its UHD release and graded for high dynamic range (HDR10 only is available on the disc). The larger frame serves this film well, given how often the cinematography plays with scale. Combined with its already bright image and the expanded contrast, the result is a very clean looking and cinematic image with good detail and pleasing depth. The improvement over regular Blu-ray is modest, but it’s the HDR that really makes the difference here. Ant-Man’s metallic helmet and suit fittings have a lovely red and silver metallic sheen. Rain, water, lighting elements, and energy effects have genuine luminous pop. Shadows are very dark and yet retain detail. The film’s palette is a little muted by design, but colors are accurate and more nuanced than they appear in HD. It’s far from a reference title, yet is still very solid and a modest but nice image upgrade over standard Blu-ray.
The same is also true of the film’s English Dolby Atmos mix, which offers somewhat smoother panning and more natural staging vs. the previous Blu-ray mix. The soundstage is big and dynamic, with crisp-clean clarity and lots of atmospherics. Bass is robust, while the rest of the mix has a full and pleasing sound. The height channels aren’t super aggressive, but they kick in nicely with the surrounds when Lang changes size, joins the battle with the Yellow Jacket, and interacts with the insects and micro-sized objects around him. Additional audio options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Quebec French in 5.1 Dolby Digital, and 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus in French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Japanese. Optional subtitles include English for the Hearing Impaired, Quebec French, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, and Swedish.
The Ultra HD disc includes no extras, but the package adds the previous Blu-ray version of the film with the following (video features in HD):
- Audio commentary with Peyton Reed and Paul Rudd
- Making of an Ant-Sized Heist: A How-to Guide (14:34)
- Let’s Go to the Macroverse (8:06)
- WHIH NewsFront (4 clips – 9:12 in all)
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (8 scenes with optional commentary – 8:39 in all)
- Gag Reel (3:25)
The extras are nothing special, but they’re worth a look. The commentary is especially entertaining. Rudd is as likable as ever; disarming and engaging to listen to. There are some cute deleted moments as well and the WHIH news clips are fun. The Blu-ray 3D version of the film sadly isn’t included here (it’s available separately), but you do get a Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert.
Ant-Man is a charming (if a bit unremarkable) superhero film. I wouldn’t say it’s a must-have Ultra HD upgrade, but it is a solid one and fans who’ve upgraded the rest of their Blu-ray collections to 4K will certainly want to grab this one too. Just always remember: Baskin Robbins don’t play.
- Bill Hunt
(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)