If Marvel was going to try something outside-the-box with one of its properties, Ant-Man was the perfect opportunity.
Ant-Man is a weird premise, a cat-burglar-turned-Robin-Hood in a suit that shrinks and expands him at will and allows him to communicate with and control his fellow ants from the natural world. Marvel hired Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), a guy who knows a little something about making ensemble films with weird characters, to write and direct. Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) called Wright’s Ant-Man story “the best script Marvel ever had.” Star Paul Rudd knows comedy and is just as comfortable going broad as he is trying something a bit more out there. Plus, there was no pressure for Ant-Man to be a huge hit. It didn’t have the budget or the starpower of The Avengers and its related solo films, and the Ant-Man character wasn’t nearly as high profile when compared to Marvel players such as Captain America or the Hulk, meaning not only less pressure regarding box office, but also reduced concerns about viewers’ expectations for both the character and the film.
But given the opportunity to change it up a little bit, Marvel stuck to its well-worn script. Wright was fired/left/whatever, and the powers that be brought in Adam McKay, the man behind the camera for films such as Anchorman and Talladega Nights. And that’s kind of what you get with his Ant-Man. Rudd’s criminal sidekicks – played hilariously by Michael Pena, David Dasmalchian and, of all people, rapper T.I. – are the equivalent the of Ron Burgundy’s Channel 4 crew. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope is a reeled in Veronica Corningstone, Michael Douglas suffices in the role of the Channel 4 news producer played by Frank Willard and Corey Stole’s Yellowjacket baddie is significantly less scary than Vince Vaughn’s Wes Mantooth.
OK, I’m pushing it with those last few comparisons. You get my point. Ant-Man isn’t bad, and in some ways – a Marvel film where no big city was destroyed! – it can stand toe-to-toe with the rest of the Avengers’ universe. I just get the feeling it could have been much, much better.