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Comic book movie fans may still be coming down from the blockbuster high that was delivered earlier this year in the form of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Marvel Studios isn’t wasting any time giving movie-goers another taste of their Marvel Cinematic Universe. In less than a month, the company will be delivering Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man - and while that date may still seem far away, the good news is that we have some amazing coverage to satiate your hunger.
In addition to visiting the set of Ant-Man late last year with a small group of other film journalists, last week I also had the opportunity to go to the edit bay for the movie at Industrial Light And Magic in San Francisco, and there I got to watch about 30 minutes from the film. Introduced by director Peyton Reed, co-producer Brad Winderbaum, and ILM VFX Supervisor Russell Earl, the various sequences shown gave us an extended peek at the unique and great new elements the feature has to offer, and has gotten us even more pumped to watch the full thing. So what did I get to see? Read on and find out!
The Opening ScenesSimilar to Guardians of the Galaxy, the film doesn’t open with the Marvel Studios logo, but instead with a flashback to 1989. We see what is clearly a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, and sitting/standing around a table are some of the most important members of the organization, including John Slattery’s Howard Stark (last seen in Iron Man 2, Hayley Atwell’s Agent Peggy Carter (who has once again been aged up beautifully), and a character played by Martin Donovan (who the filmmakers/studio wouldn’t identify). While they are working on something together, they are interrupted when a young Dr. Hank Pym – played by a digitally de-aged Michael Douglas and looking amazing – storms in calling Stark’s name.
While the S.H.I.E.L.D. founder attempts to distract Hank by telling him that he is supposed to be in Russia, Hank explains that he instead discovered something in the defense labs: an attempt at recreating the Pym Particle serum that allows him to shrink (shown as a small tube of red liquid). The group debates the proper applications of the miracle technology, with Hank accusing S.H.I.E.L.D. of making him their "errand boy" and stealing his research. It’s at this time that Donovan’s character decides to make a snide remark about Hank’s deceased wife, Janet, and his inability to protect her – which leads Hank to slam the guy’s face against the table.
Hank takes this moment to tender his resignation, swearing that as long as he is alive, nobody will get his formula. Howard tries to make him change his mind, but it’s too late, and Hank gets out the door. It’s debated that they shouldn’t even let the genius scientist leave the building – which Peggy violently protests against – and Howard agrees. He explains that he has known Hank a long time and that he won’t be a security risk… unless they turn him into one.
The Marvel Studios logo rolls, accompanied by some salsa music, and the audience is not only transported to the present day, but also into the story of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who is still in prison. It appears as though he’s pissed off the wrong guy, as our future hero is in the midst of fighting a guy twice his size (Robert Crayton). Scott’s punches do very little against his opponent, and it looks like he is in big trouble – but it turns out that this is merely a friendly ritual being performed because the film’s protagonist is being released from prison.
As he gets out of the gates, Scott is greeted by Luis (Michael Pena), who was his former cellmate and has made space for the future hero in his apartment. Luis begins to talk about how he has some interesting people that he wants his friend to meet, hinting at a connection to the crime world, but Scott adamantly refuses. Now that he has spent some time in prison, he is changing his life and going on the straight and narrow for the sake of his young daughter (dropping in the fact that he has a Masters in electrical engineering). He’s fully confident that he can get back on his feet, but he also underestimates how easy it is to get a job after a prison stint…
Smash cut to Scott working the counter at a Baskin Robbins, where we see him dealing with an idiot who is attempting to order a burger – or at least something "hot and fresh." Bad as this is, the situation escalates when he is called into the manager’s office. It’s revealed that Scott lied on his resume to get the job, and while the boss actually thinks that it’s really cool how Scott stole from billionaires and fought the system, he fires him anyway.
Scott walks home to the apartment he shares with Luis – a building with downstairs neighbors playing thumping dance music at high volumes – and when he gets in he’s introduced to a number of new supporting players: David Dastmalchian's Kurt - a Russian described as being a computer whiz - and T.I. Harris’ Dave. When they bring up what’s referred to as the "Vista Job," complimenting the "robbery," Scott gets defensive and explains that it was only a burglary, as he despises violence and that robbery implies an act of threat. Luis then tells the story of Scott’s big job, which involved him whistleblowing on his old company for overcharging customers, getting fired, and then hacking into their system to redistribute millions to the company’s victims. Scott realizes that the group is attempting to recruit him for a job – one involving a "perfect Scott Lang mark" – but our hero steadfastly refuses. Of course, we know he’ll break eventually, and we’ll get to that on the next page
In a span of five scenes, this opening covers a whole lot of ground, and establishes a lot of information that will surely be important for the rest of the film – though I will admit that the pacing of it all felt a touch rushed. We’ll have to wait and see how it plays with the rest of the film, and the good news is that the rest of the footage we saw was chock full of stuff that you should be very excited to see for yourself.
Learning About The HeistThe next clip shown picked up a bit after the intro sequences, and was set up by Peyton Reed saying that it’s been hard for Scott Lang to be there for his daughter post-prison, and that he has begun slipping back into his old ways. The scene begins with Scott Lang coming back to his apartment clearly furious about something, going to the fridge and grabbing a beer. Luis asks him an innocuous question about his night, and Scott ignores him by instead asking about the job tip that was hinted at earlier. Luis couldn’t be more excited to hear this news, and jumps into game-planning mode.
Luis begins launching into the details of the plan, with Roy Ayers’ "Escape" from the Coffy soundtrack in the background and giving the whole scene a fun ‘70s spy aesthetic. While Luis occasionally gets comically off-track with his story at times, he eventually gets down to the heart of the matter, explaining the chain of people from whom he’s heard about the billionaire aforementioned "perfect Scott Lang mark" – who is pretty obviously going to be Dr. Hank Pym.
What’s really great about this sequence is that the footage not only stylistically shows the story that Luis is describing, jumping from source to source, but interlaces the narration perfectly so that when he is talking for other people, it looks like his words are coming out of their mouths in his voice. The sync and Michael Pena’s fantastic delivery mesh together to create a very memorable sequence that’s funny and weirdly feels like a throwback and something fresh at the same time.
Scott’s First Shrinking ExperienceSurely many of you have seen the "Ant-Man in the shower" still featured above, and I imagine many of you have wondered what the hell he’s doing in there. Well, I’m now happy to report that I can tell you, and that it ties into Scott Lang’s first experience shrinking.
Picking things up post-heist, the third piece of footage began with Scott Lang in the bathroom washing his face, and looking over to see the Ant-Man suit he stole sitting next to him. He presses some of the buttons on the hands, discovering they don’t work, and finds the switch that releases the tube of Pym Particles (which looks exactly like it was shown in the first scene). Wanting to figure out what it can do, Scott starts to put his electrical engineering skills to use, and works to make the costume functional again.
Having accomplished this mission, Scott decides to put on the costume while standing in the shower – but he begins to question this choice when he hears through the door that Luis and the others are home. Not wanting to get caught, he clicks one of the buttons on his hands, and instantly finds himself shrunk down to the size of an ant. Scott is stunned by these events, and looks up to see that Luis has entered the bathroom and has approached the tub. In his ear, Scott hears the voice of Dr. Hank Pym, who first notes that the world looks a lot different at a small size – but then adds that our new hero is being exposed to a "trial by fire" and has had his grow button deactivated remotely.
Luis turns on the water, and Scott suddenly finds himself running for his life from gigantic droplets. Fortunately, the novice hero doesn’t get sucked down the drain, but he does get washed out of the tub and falls through the cracks in the floor to the apartment below. He winds up landing on a spinning record – playing the thumping music that’s been constantly present in the building – while Scott tries to run, he gets hit by the needle and knocked to the floor. There, he must escape the peril that is a lot of people walking around (with Ant-Man occasionally being magnified within pairs of clear platform shoes). Even after he escapes this madness, though, the trip isn’t over. After escaping the forest of clomping feet, the new Ant-Man falls through a grate into yet another apartment where he must face his deadliest foe yet: a vacuum cleaner. Scott winds up getting sucked up into the bag, swirled around with all kinds of dust and debris, but manages to successfully leap out. Heading to the wall, he gets in through a hole, but there he has a showdown with what looks like a giant rat. After evading the creature with the help of a trap, Hank speaks to Scott again, complimenting him on the test run, and telling him that he can keep the suit for now. This gets a simple reply from our protagonist: "No thank you."
Of the footage that was shown during the edit bay visit, this stuff was by far by favorite. The movie employed the usage of macrophotography in filming the shrinking sequences – which is to say extreme close-up photography used to make small things look giant – and the effect is absolutely beautiful when Ant-Man is thrown into the mix. I expect that the sequences that take place in these kinds of environments, be it the inside of a vacuum cleaner or an ATM, will be what makes this movie stick out from the rest of the Marvel pack.
The First Battle With Yellow JacketWhen we were on the set of Ant-Man late last year, we actually had the chance to watch one of the most exciting sequences of the movie – specifically the first showdown between Scott Lang and Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross in his weaponized Yellow Jacket costume (which is actually entirely motion-capture created). It was awesome to see such a crucial scene unfold, but the bonus is that they also showed us a near-completed version of the moment during the edit bay visit.
Set on a helicopter, the sequence begins with a tiny Ant-Man falling out the door of the flying vehicle, growing to full size, and quickly grabbing on to a seatbelt to save his life. He manages to pull himself back to the door, but when he looks inside he is greeted with horror, as Darren Cross has put on his Yellow Jacket costume and has his stingers pointed directly at him. Ant-Man immediately starts taking evasive maneuvers, shrinking and diving away, and Yellow Jacket begins to fire, barely missing the hero with every shot. Eventually Yellow Jacket shrinks too, and the two men start bouncing around the cabin fighting. The bad news is that the villain’s blasts wind up taking out the pilot of the helicopter, but the good news is that neither Ant-Man nor Yellow Jacket are around to see the consequences of this happening. This is because the chaos results in the two tiny men getting locked inside a briefcase, which then falls out of the helicopter and begins plummeting to the ground below.
The fact that heroes and villains can shrink and grow while fighting guarantees that the action in Ant-Man will be unlike any Marvel Studios title, and really unlike any big budget blockbuster before, but what’s also tremendously exciting are the various environments that the movie can explore – like the inside of a briefcase falling out of the sky. If all of the footage I was shown is any indication, the next film from Marvel should be a very exciting ride.