This weekend, Ant-Man opened with a modest $60 million as comic fans love Marvel's latest while critics seem to pan the movie. So why the big difference in opinion?
In a surprising turn of events, Marvel Studio’s Ant-Man is looking to be a pretty moderate hit for the superhero production company. Unlike Iron Man, Captain America, and The Hulk, most people aren’t familiar with Ant-Man, be it Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) or Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Which is pretty funny considering it was Pym’s wife, Janet Van Dyne, who named the Avengers after all.
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Oh, and where’s Janet? Fridged, of course. But everyone’s seen the swishing away of competent superheroines on the large screen, save for Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). So that’s no surprise. But what’s unexpected is the fact Box Office Mojo predicts an opening of $60 million. Not exactly setting records, but for an unknown hero? That ain’t bad. The site also notes that Ant-Man’s still opening better than 2008’s The Incredible Hulk.
Maybe some of the gaps that fans may have noticed comes from the fact scripts are locked down, even from the actors. Speaking to Movie Web, rapper T.I. discussed playing Dave thief for Marvel, and the process of working with Peyton Reed. So how did he create the character? Well, a lot of it is improve and memorization.
“I hadn't read the entire script. I don't think I was allowed to. You're just handed scenes as the film goes along, and when you do that, it's like a blank canvas, 'This is what I'm going to do for this scene,' and you can remember previous performances and remain consistent with that.”
Interesting since BBC’s Owen Gleiberman called the movie “a big-screen Marvel behemoth that’s as slapped together as it is expensive.” In other words: it’s flashy without any of the flair that made earlier films stand out. The critic also felt that even Rudd’s on-screen charisma couldn’t save Ant-Man from being “tamed and diluted.”
Deadspin agrees with the critic, too. Calling the film's "fairly straightforward, conventional superhero story, where a mere mortal gathers the ability to be extraordinary and then becomes a hero" storyline a disappointment may seem harsh. However, both critics agree on one thing: the lack of tongue-and-cheek, silly, over-the-top silliness keeps the film from being people expect when the superhero's main power is shrinking to the size of a Wayne Szalinski project gone wrong.
There’s always been a question mark on the appeal of the man who can go ant-sized to a larger audience. One of the reasons everyone initially was excited was the fact Edgar Wright had been championing the film’s production for almost a decade. When the passionate director behind the project leaves, what’s left? Twitter fan reactions indicate a well-received film. So why the critical stings?
Perhaps Marvel expected a Thor re-run, where a rather tertiary character would suddenly blow up and become a cornerstone of the cinematic universe. But what made Thor soar was Hemsworth’s ability to play the sheer innocence of being powerless in a new world. It’s a different story entirely from Lang’s cat burglar heist gone wrong. Lang’s more aware after a stint in prison. Hard to recapture the same effect with different origins.
Plus, it seems like the usual Marvel over-the-top pranks and the like weren’t really done on set, at least according to T.I. “We didn't really prank each other, but everyone just took turns telling jokes.” Continuing, he adds that even though something with a bit more edge would have been appreciated, “Everyone just had a ball. It was just a pleasant experience.”
Pleasure’s definitely an important element, right? Plus, Movie Web noted the chemistry between the cast helped to balance the story line, too. T.I. agreed, saying, “There was no tension, no hesitance. Everyone was just really genuinely happy to be there and to be a part of it.” That is something you hear a lot from Marvel actors across the board. So some elements seemed to have worked, just may not have translated.
And as Gleiberman points out, it’s not solely Rudd that seems to separate the chemistry on screen for some members of the audience. But Rudd does seem to lack the interest in the film while playing Lang. “Rudd, in his first fantasy blockbuster, is like an obedient soldier going through a drill.” Then again, Rudd spoke to Coming Soon and said that working on the script allowed him "to understand the character."
So was the character meant to be less than thrilling after the reworks?
Another surprise pops up when it’s actually Douglas who manages make things work since he “seems to be the only person on screen who didn’t get the memo: that there’s nothing at stake in Ant-Man beyond a franchise marketing plan aimed squarely at 10-year-olds.” Ouch.
Is Ant-Man going to move mountains and create a franchise frenzy like Captain America or Iron Man? Probably not. But it’s good for at least bridging the time gaps between the meatier films. And not everything has to be heavy and deep, either. Sometimes mindless entertainment without a lot of thinking can be just as fun. Like a good car chase with a wheel man that can make the audiences heads spin.
T.I. definitely knows who he’d like Dave to meet up with, though. “I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Iron Man. I think the sarcasm would make for an interesting conversation, and he has cool cars, and since my character is a driver, a wheel man, that would be cool to do, and cool to see.”
Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to drive Iron Man’s cars? Or maybe a suit or two. I’m sure Pepper has one available somewhere. In the meantime, Ant-Man will hobble through the first weekend, creating a disappointing by larger film standard bank. However, it may eventually turn out to be more interesting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a couple years when fans reflect on what happened.
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Anything is possible, right?