Marvel has their Ant-Man, and he’s kind of a Baldwin.
Marvel officially confirmed on Friday that Paul Rudd has been cast in the title role of director Edgwar Wright’s forthcoming 2015 comic book movie Ant-Man. Rudd had previously been rumored to be competing with Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the role thus making the timing of this announcement rather curious considering that just a couple of days ago Gordon-Levitt was confirmed as attached to a Sandman movie for rival WB/DC. Marvel mostly ignored all of that in their official press release, although they did include this curious little sentence, “The casting of Rudd represents the actor that Marvel and Wright had long ago identified as its first choice to play Ant-Man.” Translation = Suck it, Gordon-Levitt! Here are the typically nice things Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige had to say about Rudd:
“When Edgar Wright came to us with the idea of Paul Rudd, we felt a huge sense of relief because the first step in creating any Marvel Studios film is finding the right star,We knew early on that we had found the right person in Paul. When he not only agreed to do it but became as enthusiastic as any actor we’d ever met with about doing the work, we knew we’d found the right guy. We couldn’t be more excited for our audiences to see what he’s going to do to bring Ant-Man to life.”
For any other studio, this would be a rather curious casting decision. Paul Rudd has never done anything remotely close to this type of movie in his career. He’s mostly the guy who co-stars in comedy ensembles, as even those films you might argue are starring features for him are actually ensemble movies (Our Idiot Brother) or see him as part of a two-person comedy team (Dinner for Schmucks, Wanderlust). Granted, Rudd is hilarious, and although he’s 44-years-old he does not age the way normal human beings do. He arguably looks better now than he did back in Clueless in 1995. However, action star?
You could have said some of the same things when the 43-year-old Robert Downey, Jr. starred in Iron Man in 2008. That worked out pretty well for them as has all of their curious casting decisions since then – Chris Evans as Captain America?, an unknown Australian as Thor?, Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk?
So, Paul Rudd is not really the concern here. The real concern is whether or not Ant-Man will actually translate well to screen. In the comics, Ant-Man was originally your typical scientist-Henry “Hank” Pym-whose experiment goes awry, this time giving him the ability to either shrink himself or enlarge himself. In other word, he can either be an inch-high PI, or he can be a tall-scraper high giant. Out of necessity, he creates a helmet which he uses to control ants when he is miniaturized, otherwise the ants would kill him. His girlfriend and eventual wife, Janet Van Dyne, gets size-altering abilities of her own and becomes The Wasp. The two helped co-found The Avengers. Pym’s time as Ant-Man and an Avenger is mostly characterized by him frequently either voluntarily leaving the team or being expelled, suffering from repeated bits of depression and self-doubt, and being repeatedly manipulated or brainwashed by enemies. Even Janet eventually divorces him.
In 1979, a new Ant-Man was introduced in the form of Scott Lang, an electronics expert who has to become a professional thief to support his family. When his daughter becomes terminally ill, Lang steals Pym’s ant-man suit and technology to help break out from prison the only doctor who can save his daughter’s life. Lang succeeds and tries to return the suit to Pym and turn himself in, but Pym is impressed by Lang and allows him to just continue being Ant-Man while Pym took on different superhero names like Giant Man (really stretched their creative brain with that one, didn’t they?). This origin was depicted beautifully, albeit with a couple of new wrinkles, in an episode (“To Steal an Ant-Man”) of the animated series Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Wright has said that the script he co-wrote with Joe Cornish features the Hank Pym Ant-Man and not Scott Lang, but those more familiar with the comics have argued Rudd is a perfect fit for Lang’s personality. Plus, the film has been described as a kind of techno-heist, which falls more in line with Lang. Either way, regardless of the advances of technology making such a thing look far more realistic will we be able to take seriously a movie about a guy who miniaturizes himself and controls ants with a special goofy helmet? And shouldn’t we be worried that they’ve taken Ant-Man’s most significant contribution to the comics, the sentient robot Ultron which he created, and put it into an Avengers sequel which will not feature Ant-Man and apparently attribute Ultron to Tony Stark in some way? At this point why should we ever bet against Marvel, and as CinemaBlend convincingly argued Paul Rudd might be set up to be Marvel’s new Robert Downey, Jr.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
All of the concerns one might have about Ant-Man’s translation to screen are nothing compared to the potentially supremely goofy Guardians of the Galaxy, which features a talking alien who looks like a raccoon but is not, a talking and walking tree, a green-skinned badass female, a lead character named Star-Lord, and Benicio del Toro doing whatever he wants as The Collector.
Well, now that talking tree, Groot, officially has a voice-Vin Diesel, officially confirmed by Marvel.com today after months of rumors. At this point, one might be tempted to crack a joke about the notoriously gravel-voiced, marble-mouthed Vin Diesel being cast in such an important role. However, as inscrutable as his line deliveries might sometimes sound the dude did voice the Iron Giant in, well, The Iron Giant, one of the all-time great animated films of the past 20 years.
In the comics, Groot is a plant monster who was initially used as a villain before rethought as a hero alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy. He was featured somewhat hilariously in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” episode of the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man:
Yeah, that’s all fine and good for a cartoon, but what about a live-action movie? We’d probably say this will be dreadful if we hadn’t seen the Ents in Lord of the Rings and realized it’s far easier to take walking and talking trees on film than expected. With all of the sci-fi freakout that will be happening in Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot will be but one of many things to either accept or reject along with Chris Pratt as Star-Lord and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket Raccoon.
Guardians of the Galaxy is scheduled to come out in the US and Canada on August 1, 2014, and Ant-Man currently has a scheduled release date of July 31, 2015. It is unknown how Guardians will connect to the continuity of the other Marvel films, but Ant-Man will kick-start Marvel’s Phase 3, coming out mere months after The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Full disclosure: I will forever have a soft spot for Paul Rudd and root in his favor due to his continued fandom as a boy from Kansas City for the Kansas City Royals.