The Wright Stuff: Marvel’s “Ant-Man”
Edgar Wright helps Marvel’s Ant-Man stand out from the MCU—Peyton Reed helps it fit in.
Low on action and high on exposition, Marvel’s Ant-Man is pretty much the antithesis of Avengers: Age of Ultron; tone-wise, it’s a perfect cross between Guardians of the Galaxy and the first Iron Man movie. But tempting as it might be to make comparisons, Ant-Man, with its sleepy first act and relatively small stakes, is unlike any other Marvel film. This is likely due in large part to original director Edgar Wright’s influence. Wright, who had been developing the property since the early 2000s (long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe came to be), left the project and was replaced by Peyton Reed in May of 2014 following Marvel’s request that the film be better integrated into the MCU.
Despite Wright’s departure, one of Ant-Man’s biggest strengths is that it’s free of the weighty mythology that pervades most of the MCU, that heaviness having been replaced with his unique brand of comedy. In fact, it’s hard not to spend the entire film playing the “guess which scenes are left over from Wright” game (surprisingly, he had nothing to do with one of the most Wrightian beats in the film, a running gag in which one character’s stories become increasingly convoluted).
The fight scenes certainly have his fingerprints all over them. Though sparse, they’re some of the best in the MCU, and Ant-Man’s ability to shrink makes for some truly engaging choreography. The best fight of the film takes place inside of a briefcase, and everyone’s familiar with the scene from the trailer, where Ant-Man and Yellowjacket fight atop a Thomas the Tank Engine train set, but Ant-Man’s ability to rapidly change size between punches makes even the less gimmicky fights feel new and surprising.
But while Wright may have been responsible for the most inventive fight sequence in the film, it was Reed who masterminded the most talked about (and the most Marvel) of the fights, a scene that pits Ant-Man against an Avenger, which integrates him into the MCU far more successfully than the awkward, crammed-in Howard Stark and Peggy Carter cameos at the film’s beginning.
One of Ant-Man’s biggest strengths is that it’s free of the weighty mythology that pervades most of the MCU.
Paul Rudd is the ideal Scott Lang (the second Ant-Man; Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas, was the first and passes the mantle to Lang in the film). The impeccable comic timing and everyman likability that have become Rudd’s signatures align perfectly with Matt Fraction’s depiction of the character in the brilliant FF comics. But Michael Peña steals the show as Luis, Scott Lang’s excitable former cellmate who just can’t seem to get it together for long enough to be a real criminal.
Darren Cross/Yellowjacket, played by Corey Stoll (you’ll remember his scene-stealing Ernest Hemingway from Midnight in Paris), may not be as nefarious as Red Skull, or as destructive as Ronan, but he is the perfect douchebag. Everyone has met and hated someone like Cross—the entitled businessman who places a strategic hand on your shoulder and pontificates about his morning meditation while stabbing you in the back—making his inevitable defeat all the more satisfying.
Blue Jasmine’s Bobby Cannavale is equally douchey as Jim Paxton, Lang’s ex-wife’s cop fiancé—both he and Stoll’s Cross are perfect foils to Rudd’s insuppressible likeability and give the impression that the film’s true villain is just assholes in general.
Without a doubt, Ant-Man is deeply indebted to Edgar Wright, and it’s hard not to wonder what his fully realized Ant-Man would have looked like. But it’s also hard to criticize the Ant-Man we ended up with—one that stands out, but still feels at home in the MCU, thanks to Reed’s masterful mediation of two warring visions. FL