The latest movie from Marvel Studios looks ant-tastic in 3D, and the Dolby Atmos soundtrack is superb. But it's not for myrmecophobiacs.
I hadn't planned to see Ant-Man, the latest Marvel-superhero movie, but when Tom Norton, senior editor at Sound & Vision, recommended it for the quality of its 3D, I decided to check it out. Tom had seen it in Imax 3D and 5.0 sound, but the movie was also available in Dolby Atmos, so I undertook the harrowing journey through Los Angeles rush-hour traffic from Burbank to the AMC Century City 15 Prime theater, the closest one showing it in RealD 3D and Atmos. (The AMC Burbank 16 Prime theater is now a Dolby Cinema, which was showing Ant-Man in 2D, but even if it had been in 3D, it would have been Dolby 3D with spectrum-separation glasses, which I find very distracting.)
Of the movie itself, I'll only say it's quite silly—and great fun with lots of humor and many references to the Avengers. I especially liked Corey Stoll as the evil Darren Cross/Yellowjacket and Michael Pena as Ant-Man's sidekick Luis. Michael Douglas got an amazing digital rejuvenation as Dr. Hank Pym in 1989. (Of course, he looked his real age—with a sporty Van Dyke—when the story jumped to the present day.) Paul Rudd did a fine job as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, and Evangeline Lilly was effectively ambiguous in her loyalties—at first, anyway—as Pym's daughter Hope, who works for Cross. I thought the story dragged in some spots, and the climactic battle was a bit too extended, but overall, I enjoyed the movie's relatively lighthearted feel.
I was particularly interested to learn that the producers wanted to get at least some of the ant entomology correct, so they consulted with experts. Several different species are identified with certain characteristics—for example, bullet ants deliver painful stings, crazy ants can short out electrical systems, and fire ants build rafts and bridges with their bodies, just as described and depicted in the movie. Of course, not everything portrayed about ants is realistic—most ants are actually female, and the mental communication with the ants seen in the movie is way outside the bounds of reality. But at least the producers paid some attention to detail here, which is commendable.
Tom was right, the 3D is excellent, some of the best I've seen. It's a 3D conversion—it was not shot with 3D-camera rigs—but Stereo D and Prime Focus did a great job with the conversion. I don't recall seeing much of anything pop out of the screen (a good thing in my book), but there are many shots that extend way behind the screen plane, and they are very effective. I'm sure this will be a reference Blu-ray for 3D imagery.
Likewise, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack was wonderful, with lots of sound all around—and above—the room. Especially noteworthy is the scene when Scott first tries the Ant-Man suit and gets sucked into a vacuum cleaner and later when he infiltrates Pym Tech through the water main, not to mention all the fight scenes that careen around the room.
Speaking of sound, the levels were not particularly high, which was surprising for a superhero movie. Leq was 90.5 dBC, Lmax was 113 dBC (that's pretty high, though momentary), L10 was 92 dBC, and L50 was 77 dBC.
While I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, there were several things I didn't like about the presentation at the AMC Century City 15 Prime. For one thing, there was some vignetting (darkening) along the edges of the image, and the alignment with the screen was not perfect—there was some obvious bleed beyond the screen borders onto the masking area, which led to some odd artifacts at the edges when viewed through 3D glasses. Also, as in many AMC Prime locations, the seats have tactile transducers that shake along with loud LFE, which I find extremely distracting. But worst of all, the lights suddenly snapped on at full brightness just as the credits started, even though there were two teasers, one after the initial credits and another at the very end. I'd never seen this before—the lights normally come on gradually during the credits or not at all until the very end.
Despite the problems with the presentation, I thoroughly enjoyed Ant-Man, and I can recommend it to all fans of the Marvel franchise. (Look for Stan Lee's obligatory cameo near the end of the movie.) I encourage you to seek out a theater that's showing it in 3D and Dolby Atmos if there's one near you, but even if not, I'm sure you'll have a good time—that is, as long as you don't suffer from myrmecophobia.
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