The one thing with Edgar Wright dropping out of Ant-Man is that forever gives us a question: what would’ve Ant-Man looked like with the Brit behind the camera? My guess is “not much different” as the Peyton Reed version of his script winds up as a thoroughly mediocre film that one imagines Edgar Wright’s would’ve turned into. This isn’t a matter of who wound ultimately wind up in the director’s chair: this is a problem starting from the script.
Simple premise. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) used to be a tiny hero called the Ant-Man. Now older and unable to withstand the rigors of being the Ant-Man, he recruits an ex-con (Paul Rudd) looking to go straight for the sake of his young daughter. They have one task: break into the headquarters of Pym’s former company and prevent his one time protege (Corey Stoll) from selling a weapon based on his old technology to some very bad people. Lang recruits some people from his criminal life (Michael Pena, Clifford “T.I” Harris, David Dastmalchian) to go with Pym’s daughter (Evangeline Lilly) to pull off a heist of huge proportions using tiny technology.
And that’s where Wright initially saw the film: as a comic book heist film.
It’s at least something new in the Marvel universe and represents the first origin story Marvel has done in some time that dabbles in another genre besides the generic superhero origin story Marvel has perfected on a commercial basis. Wright’s super powered heist film is new and interesting, at least on a conceptual level, as this isn’t the fairly standard origin story as we’ve seen en masse. This is a light, breezy comedy for huge swathes and you can see Wright’s influence on the film throughout. He may not have directed it but you can see his influence on the film from a purely conceptual level.
It has the sort of off-beat, endearing vibe on the whole that one can see that Wright wanted to bring to the character. It feels different and unexpected, thus there’s a fresh feeling to it that few films in the genre have. A handful of scenes, including the set up to the robbery and the usual post credit sequence, are brilliantly set up with Michael Pena’s off-kilter look (and every character given Pena’s voiceover) that are new and original in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There’s so much there that feels like Wright’s even though plenty of it was added in the transition from Wright to Peyton Reed that also included Paul Rudd and Adam McKay working on the script, that the film feels like Peyton Reed trying to make an Edgar Wright movie.
The film suffers from a number of problems, mainly stemming from the film’s biggest problem: it’s lack of a worthy villain.
Corey Stoll is game for the part of protege, and eventual villain Yellow Jacket, but he isn’t given much to work with. The film focuses on Lang, and the heist, for so long that Stoll is only given a handful of scenes until the Marvel patented showdown. It mimics a lot of the final sequence between Jeff Bridges and Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man, with some well placed comedy bits to spice it up, but this film feels like a second rate Iron Man in that this is a film so focused on a hero trying to get his life together that the film forgets to build up a proper villain for him to face.
The film’s final action sequence seems perfunctory, not built up to, as this has the hallmarks of a heist film that has a shootout at the end for no other reason than to have a shootout at the end. This is a heist film that has a big superhero action sequence for the sake of, not because it builds to it. The dramatic tension is because Scott’s family is on the line, not because this is a moment between two well crafted characters coming to a violent conclusion.
Ant-Man isn’t an awful film, nor is it a bad one. It’s just not very good. For all of the interesting and unique things it does the film suffers from many of the same flaws that Iron Man, which kicked off the modern superhero arms race, did.
Director: Peyton Reed Writer: Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish & Adam McKay & Paul Rudd based on “Ant-Man” by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby Notable Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Michael Pena
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.