Ant Man (2015) & The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

ant man 9 ISM3The mind can play tricks on you. Recently one morning I was in that half-asleep half-awake mode, and was thinking about a couple I met years ago in Virginia. I was wondering whatever happened to their daughter, and then it hit me; I ended up marrying her!

Rule #1: Sometimes your mind can fool you.

If you saw the trailer for Ant Man (2015), your mind might think ‘Another stupid superhero movie’. Or, if you saw the trailer for The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), your mind might also think ‘A cheap, cheesy 1950’s black and white (gasp!) movie’.

Double wrongness multiplied by infinity, plus one.

Let’s start with Ant Man. The trend toward superhero movies seems to be going in two directions; dark and serious or overblown predictability. Ant Man hearkens back to the time movies like this were more light-hearted and fun.  In fact, Ant Man is one of the funniest, enjoyable movies you’ll ever see.

Actor Paul Rudd, who plays Ant Man, is also one of the screenwriters, but he spreads the humor around to all the performers, most notably Michael Pena, portraying a former prison cell mate of Rudd.

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The special effects are spectacular, not only when Ant Man is shrunk down, but also in a flashback scene where Michael Douglas and another character are computer enhanced to appear 30 years younger. Really amazing. Ironically, an actress in that same scene had to be computerized to appear older.

Also noteworthy is Evangeline Lilly as Michael Douglas’ daughter. She begins resentful of Rudd’s inclusion in her father’s plan, but we all know they’ll fall for each other, at least we hope so, since their on-screen chemistry crackles.

At the heart of the movie, is, F-U-N. Yet it manages to be exciting, and tackles the subjects of the ability to exist at the sub-atomic level, as well as the danger of messing with Baskin-Robbins (“Baskin-Robbins don’t play!”).

At the other end of this miniature-movie spectrum, is The Incredible Shrinking Man.  Unlike Ant Man, there is no humor here. None. Grant Williams portrays a man who after being exposed to radiation and insecticide, starts to slowly shrink.

The movie realistically shows the emotional effect this has on the main character, as well as the effect it has on his marriage.

Director Jack Arnold also directed some of the best science-fiction movies of the 50s, such as Tarantula (1955), and The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). He took his science fiction films seriously. They had great scripts and good acting, and he knows how to pace them. The Incredible Shrinking Man is only 81 minutes long. It manages to fly by yet it feels like you’ve seen the content of a two hour movie.

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The special effects are spectacular. The everyday objects, made to super large dimensions, are perfect, and the combining on film of Grant Williams with what become his “monsters” (a house cat, a spider) are terrifying.

Yes, that was a spider I mentioned. If you have a phobia of insects, beware. Although my wife, Jenny was able to watch it, with only partially closing her eyes. That is a huge victory from someone who made me come home from work one day to vanquish a grasshopper that got into the house. To be fair to Jenny, this was a very large grasshopper. It even had on a collar (we never did find the owner).

A special nod to the director for his addition of the soliloquy where Grant Williams ponders his place in God’s universe as he continues to shrink down to nothing. It’s a beautiful moment that most film makers, then and now, would be afraid to include in their movies, lest they confuse the moviegoers with such deep thoughts.

So, looking for something fun? Looking for something serious? A double-feature of these two movies would be gargantuan, enormous, stupendous! Well, maybe just a little.

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