Of all the Marvel 4K upgrades released in the past year, Ant-Man 4K is the one to get. Even for folks who have the Blu-ray already, the UHD is a clear improvement, and we mean clear. There were many chances to get it wrong, too. What with the use of micro-photography, digital facelifts, and high-contrast lighting, a lazy upgrade could really have shown the seams of the process. But even in the brightest, most over-exposed scenes, every line on every actor’s face is visible. When Ant-Man goes tiny, a viewer can hit pause, and walk right up to the TV screen to see the details.
Sharpness matters for this film, and it’s here in all the right places. Like the movie itself, which shouldn’t work as well as it does given all the behind-the-scenes drama, this is a 4K that will make completists happy it not only didn’t drop the ball, but ran with it instead.
Ant-Man, as longtime Marvel movie fans know, was originally conceived more like Todd Phillips’ Joker. Marvel Studios initially planned a non-MCU series of movies in which distinctive directors would pick more obscure characters for standalone films. Edgar Wright grabbed Ant-Man, who, despite being an Avenger, was never a character well-known to the general public. He also came with some baggage: alter-ego Hank Pym had been portrayed in comics as a wife-beater.
Wright put together an exciting test reel, but at some point Kevin Feige decided the character was more key to the primary storyline. The boutique film idea got scrapped, with Feige saying Ant-Man was a good end to Phase 2 because it set up fantastical elements like the Quantum Realm. The claim at the time? This helped to set up Doctor Strange‘s dimension-hopping. In hindsight, however, we have to wonder how early Feige determined the Quantum Realm would be key to his Endgame.
So now, with Peyton Reed at the helm, Ant-Man begins with Howard Stark and Peggy Carter meeting Pym, signaling that this is very much connected to everything else. Still pugilistic and problematic, Pym never actually hits wife Janet onscreen, yet neither Ant-Man film shies away from showing his arrogance and temper as his own worst enemies. Nonetheless, the MCU’s decision to focus on his superhero successor Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is savvy. Not just because Lang’s character flaws are forgivable (he’s a thief who only robs rich jerks) but because for all the lead heroes around with daddy issues, Lang is the first to experience them as the dad.
Ant-Man is a long movie that possibly tries to do too much. It sets up the Quantum Realm, yes. But it’s also both a hero origin story and the “first real mission” sequel in one. It features the best supporting cast outside of Asgard, with Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale as Scott’s ex and her new husband, Abby Ryder Fortson excellent as young Cassie, and Michael Pena an all-timer as Luis. Falcon shows up for an extended cameo, and Corey Stoll adds a twinkle which elevates an otherwise generic villain. (He is basically Obadiah Stane from Iron Man all over again, but Stoll makes him more.) David Dastmalchian and T.I. similarly work wonders with small sidekick parts, and of course Evangeline Lilly lays the groundwork for her own future superheroics.
This may be a controversial call, but Ant-Man in the end is better than most Edgar Wright movies. Sorry, but it is. Wright makes agreeable action comedies, but Reed nails even the tiny moments, literally and figuratively. From a Thomas the Tank Engine gag to Luis whistling “It’s a Small World” under his breath at a key moment, Reed keeps the narrative beats entertaining while making the effects look effortless. Even something as simple as a reaction shot from a goat hits the sweet spot.
As with all the older Marvel 4K upgrades that came out this year, the transfer is the sole new feature. But for the first time, it is unequivocally worthwhile. It contains not just some of the best visual effects in the series, but also some inspired cinematography choices for less super-stuff (Luis’ flashbacks, for example). These aspects benefit from the clearest, cleanest, sharpest look possible. To date, this is it.