In 2006, Marvel Studios went independent, secured a ton of funding to finance multiple big budget comic book movies, and hired Jon Favreau to bring Iron Man to the screen. At the same exact time they hired Favreau they hired Shaun of the Dead’s Edgwar Wright to write and direct Ant-Man. Since then, there have been 3 Iron Man films, and Robert Downey, Jr. has appeared as Tony Stark in at least two other movies, one a cameo (The Incredible Hulk) and the other a co-starring role (The Avengers). Plus, obviously Tony’s going to be just a tad bit important to this summer’s Avengers sequel considering that’s he’s the one who will more or less create the Ultron of Age of Ultron. As for Ant-Man, we…finally got to see his first trailer during Agent Carter last night. So, clearly, it’s about dang time, right?
There’s all of that baggage and more with the Ant-Man film, which instead of coming to us from Edgar Wright is now coming to us from Peyton Reed. Wait, who? The guy who made Yes Man, The Break-Up, and Bring It On. It’s a story you likely already know, and I discussed it at length elsewhere on the site: Edgwar Wright either left or was fired, Peyton Reed (who has some of his own nerd credentials) was hired to replace him, and Anchorman’s Adam McKay did a pass on the script to add more jokes, with the delay in production essentially holding all of the actors Wright cast (Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily) hostage. By last summer’s Comic-Con, Evangeline Lily hadn’t even seen the script yet, and that was a mere couple of weeks before they were set to start filming. For as long as this film has waited to finally happen, from the start of filming to release it will go down as the most rushed production in Marvel Studios history with precious little time for any of Marvel’s notorious and usually very necessary re-shoots (e.g., several of Thor: The Dark World’s best moments were added during re-shoots).
So, there are a lot of reasons to be nervous about this movie from a practical, “How are they going to get this done in time?” point of view. That’s on top of all the actual story-based concerns, such as how do they avoid the inevitable jokey Honey, I Shrunk the Kids comparisons with a central character who shrinks down to teensy tiny and uses a helmet to psychically control ants. Moreover, does Ant-Man actually work without Ultron, his signature villain from the comics which has now been re-purposed for Age of Ultron? Will Paul Rudd actually manage to pull the “action hero” schtick off when we’ve never seen him do that before? We don’t know, but that didn’t stop Chris Pratt from kicking ass in Guardians of the Galaxy. Will Michael Douglas actually make sense in a Marvel film, playing the original Ant-Man Hank Pym? Maybe, but the similarly legendary Robert Redford blended right into Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
That’s why it would have been so great if the Ant-Man trailer had come along and cast aside all of our doubts in one fell swoop ala the masterful Guardians of the Galaxy trailer. That’s why it’s disappointing that it didn’t do that.
It’s not that the Ant-Man trailer is bad; it’s just that it’s not quite good enough. You can do the empowerment-disempowerment thing all you want, setting the whole trailer up as a punchline for the fact that, yes, you are aware of the fact that Ant-Man is a stupid name much in the same way that the Guardians of the Galaxy advertising used lines like “Who?”, “What a bunch of a-holes” and “This may be a bad idea” to acknowledge critics while at the same time celebrating the property’s underdog status. There may be more of that on the way from Ant-Man considering that we only actually hear Paul Rudd speak (or make a noise) two times in the trailer, and both times it’s him delivering a punchline undercutting Michael Douglas’ seriousness. He may be riffing like that throughout the entire film, but there’d better be more to it than that. Plus, those shots of Ant-Man riding an ant are, well, going to take some getting used to. It’s one thing to see it in the comics, another to see it in a live-action film.
The thing I most responded to, though, was that Paul Rudd’s character has a kid in this movie, an adorable young daughter. That’s actually new territory for Marvel Studios. None of the Avengers have any kids, not even Tony Stark in his extreme womanizing days. That’s just not something any of those characters have had to deal with. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark both had lingering issues with their dads, which have mostly been worked out by now, Thor is continually making his way through a Shakespearean family drama with his father Odin and half-brother Loki, Captain America’s closest family members are his fellow soldiers, etc. That’s what has made Joss Whedon the perfect choice to make The Avengers films as he deals pretty much exclusively with groups which become family through their shared fight against an outside force. If Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man make his way to the Avengers he might have to find a babysitter for his daughter before rushing to save the world. I’m not saying I want to see that specific scene, or that is something they will ever deal with, but it suggest a whole new dynamic with this character. Tony Stark was placed on a redemptive arc in the first Iron Man to make up for his past sins against the world; Scott Lang’s redemptive arc is simply to become the hero his daughter already thinks he is. I actually like that a lot, even if I may be embracing a cliche just because it seems like something new for Marvel Studios. I don’t honestly know if Paul Rudd actually has the sincerity to pull that story off as he’s wearing a near-constant half-smirk in pretty much everything I see him in, but I bet he can. If so, they will have gotten the heart of the story right, and hopefully everything else will work itself out.
What about you? Are you looking forward to Ant-Man? Were you under-whelmed, overwhelmed, or simply whelmed by this trailer? Are you looking forward to Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas maybe having a bit of a surrogate father-son thing going on this movie, or are you among those who theorize they’re going to do something totally crazy and actually make Douglas the film’s secret villain, turning on his protege by the end? Let me know in the comments.