Typical Marvel fare, but not typical movie fare…

19 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A fanboy’s review of ‘Ant-Man’: 5 takeaways (and an Easter egg) great and small.

For years, this oddball addition to the ever-expanding Marvel movie universe range was slated for direction by Edgar Wright, with a script co-written by fellow Brit Joe Cornish.Marvel and Walt Disney got off to a merely okay (for Marvel) start with Ant-Man, as the superhero adventure earned a $22.644 million on its debut Friday.Director Peyton Reed said of the film, ‘Because it’s a heist movie, it’s a very strong comedic tone that we were after.’ ‘Ant-Man’ is the newest Marvel film and centers on ex-con Scott Lang, who is recruited by scientist Hank Pym to save the world from villainous corporate tycoon Darren Cross (Corey Stoll).

In the months leading up to Ant-Man’s release (it hit theaters on Friday), it was rumored that Evangeline Lilly’s character, Hope van Dyne, could become some iteration of the Wasp. But when Wright and Marvel parted company in May 2014, leading man Paul Rudd undertook a late-in-the-day rewrite with Anchorman alumnus Adam McKay, while Yes Man’s Peyton Reed stepped into the director’s chair.

Not only does the name alone not strike fear into the hearts of criminals — it also, for months, has created doubt even in the minds of those who are true believers in the Marvel movie machine. As I mentioned yesterday, there have been so many Marvel movies over the last eight years that one need only look at the weekend multipliers of the previous installments to get a pretty good idea of where this one is going to end up. After going intergalactic with “Guardians of the Galaxy” and hanging an entire city from the sky in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Marvel is reversing its scale but still packing the punches with an insect-sized superhero. “Ant-Man,” now in movie theaters, sees a new addition to Disney-owned Marvel’s expanding universe as Paul Rudd steps into the Ant-Man suit, which allows the wearer to shrink and gives him super strength. In the comics, Hope was introduced as the daughter of Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, who are, respectively, the original Ant-Man and the Wasp (both are also founding members of the Avengers). Unsurprisingly, the resulting film looks like a bodge, torn between the quirkiness of Wright and Cornish’s original vision and the more blandly mainstream sensibilities of its ultimate key players.

So when I tell you that Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man earned $22.644 million last night, well there is little to do but run the numbers and see what we come up with for the weekend total. In director Peyton Reed’s big screen adaptation, meanwhile, Hank is at the center of the story, but Janet is noticeably missing — fueling the rumors that Hope would follow in her mother’s footsteps. The good news: Fans who love their Marvel comic books, as well as their Marvel live-action adaptations, can watch “Ant-Man” and feel as though the company hasn’t missed a beat. Yes the $22.644m Ant-Man Friday is the second-lowest opening Friday on record for the Marvel Cinematic Universe outside of The Incredible Hulk ($21.4m in 2008 and in 2D) and it’s just a touch higher than the 2D debut Friday of X-Men: First Class ($21.39m) and the 3D debut Friday of Green Lantern ($21.39m) both in 2011, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Unlike Iron Man’s billionaire alter-ego Tony Stark or Captain America’s patriotic soldier Steve Rogers, Lang is decidedly less heroic – a deadbeat father and petty criminal who has spent time in jail. And if you go a step further and happen to be a fan of writer Nick Spencer’s ongoing, very funny Ant-Man book from Marvel Comics, you’ll especially enjoy a movie that could be Marvel’s funniest — it’s right up there with “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Marvel, after all, made you love a tree. At the film’s Hollywood premiere earlier this month, Reed (Bring It On, Yes Man) and Lilly (Lost, The Hobbit series) addressed Hope’s new undertaking. “Evangeline is unbelievable in the movie, and a large part of [it] really is her journey as a character,” Reed says. “One of the fun things when you see the movie is, there’s an issue at hand.

While the protagonists of films such as The Incredible Shrinking Man and Fantastic Voyage endured long-term diminution, Ant-Man nips nimbly back and forth between sizes, often within the space of a single leap. It’s a peculiar superpower of which the film never quite gets the measure: bath-tub terrors and in-briefcase battles are kooky fun, but action sequences in which Scott mounts flying insects smack of Richard Burton riding the wings of a locust in Exorcist II: The Heretic.

The rest of the Marvel line-up (Iron Man to Captain America) took place in an environment where Thursday/midnight grosses were a much smaller percentage of the Friday and the weekend. The diminutive size of Ant-Man allows the film to take on a new perspective for the often larger-than-life Marvel, with some of the film’s big action scenes taking place in a bathtub, in the folds of a carpet, or among blades of grass. “It was important to Marvel and they took it very seriously that they don’t want to repeat themselves, they want to try to do different things,” said director Peyton Reed. With the comedic Rudd leading “Ant-Man,” the film ups the laughs with the actor delivering witty, self-deprecating one-liners, while supporting star Michael Pena often steals the spotlight as Lang’s dim, goofy sidekick Luis. Obviously the success of The Avengers took Marvel to a different playing field, and the Phase 2 films have all been remarkably successful especially when compared to Phase 1. Lilly, for her part, is also game. “Anything Marvel wants me to do, I’ll do,” she says. “They’re so fantastic to work for and they’re such incredibly smart filmmakers.

At worst, Ant-Man, which is the first solo hero origin story/franchise-starter since Captain America: The First Avenger, will likely play less like a standard Phase 2 movie and more like a Phase 1 film, specifically Thor ($65m debut/$181m domestic/$449m worldwide) and Captain America ($65m/$176m/$370m). Probably only Robert Downey Jr. himself knows just how many cinematic adventures he has left in a suit of armor, yet the future of other Marvel funnymen is quite bright. I think we would be foolhardy to have shot a thing where Evangeline Lilly is looking at that amazing suit and never give the audience a chance to see her in that suit. [Laughs] That to me would be a bad kind of tease. Ant-Man‘s reviews were mostly of the “It’s fine.” variety, with too many critics using their psychic powers (or travelling to an alternate timeline) to conclude that the Edgar Wright version that we never got would have been vastly superior. Michael Douglas (Hank Pym/the original Ant-Man) and Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne) have to turn the new Ant-Man into a hero, while working under a deadline.

Also not helping was Comic-Con, which caused a week of full-time media drooling over every comic book/fantasy franchise (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, The Fantastic Four, Deadpool, etc.) except Ant-Man, climaxing on Thursday with the Entertainment Weekly cover reveal of the new X-Men movie. But once we had our movie cut, and the whole subplot with the Falcon and Ant-Man crossing paths, the dailies from Captain America: Civil War started to come in, which is of course directed by the Russo brothers. I was actually jealous that Ant-Man was even going to appear in another movie. [Laughs] So, I was dying to see it and I did see that footage and it’s incredible. And then, separate of that, when the dailies came in for the scene which is now the second tag, there was a moment that seemed to really complete the arc in our movie. We know, at the end of the movie, that Falcon is looking for Ant-Man, so now it really made sense to tease Civil War and to tease Ant-Man’s part in Civil War by having that scene with Captain America and Falcon.

The film cost just $130 million to produce, Marvel’s cheapest yet, which means it doesn’t have to play like The Winter Soldier to get in the black worldwide. Because we’ve got a hero and a villain (Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross/Yellowjacket is pretty menacing from the get-go) who spend a lot of battle time being super-tiny, our enjoyment gains another dimension. As Yellowjacket and Ant-Man pummel each other, the epic destruction looks practically apocalyptic when placed under a magnifying glass, but — when we get a big-picture glance — it has the effect of wind knocking over a paper cup.

Bonus takeaway: As “Easter egg” teases to future films, listen to the specific superpowers described by a woman journalist — and pay careful attention to what you may glimpse in the subatomic realm. Marvel is still pretty much the live-action equivalent of Pixar as there is no other company on Earth that would have to get defensive about one of their glorified B-movies (that’s not an insult, but rather part of its charm) opening just under $60m.

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