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New Escapist Column! On The “Ant-Man” Movies as the Most Marvel of the Marvel Movies…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the upcoming release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp, and the way in which these films – for better and worse – feel like the statistical mean of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Part of what in interesting about the Ant-Man movies is how little they actually adapt from the source comics, largely marginalising characters like Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne in favour of porting over out-of-continuity characters like Hope van Dyne. They deliberately structure themselves to avoid key character and plot beats from the comic book franchise, and so offer the purest distillation of the adaptation storytelling of the comic book film franchise. The Ant-Man franchise is the Marvel Studios franchise that feels most generic, most cribbed together using the studio’s narrative shorthand.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the “Back to Basics” Message in the Marketting of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. This week saw the release of the final trailer for the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. What was most interesting about the trailer was the extent to which it contained no surprises or teases. It was a very matter-of-fact “this is what the movie is” trailer.

It’s an interesting approach, particularly for a studio that takes pride in keeping secrets and teasing the audience. The trailer for Quantumania looks very much like a blueprint for the movie, mapping a lot of its character and narrative arcs very clearly, including a third act twist. It’s an approach that feels a little desperate, very much in keeping with the general sense of how Marvel Studios has been packaging and selling Phase Five. The past two years have seen some small erosion in the studio’s cachet, and the trailer for Quantumania feels like the studio trying to convince audiences that it still adheres to the old template.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Ant Man and the Wasp

Marvel doesn’t get quite enough credit for its skill at scheduling.

Ant Man and the Wasp is an incredibly light film. Befitting its size-changing central characters, it might even be described as a very small film. In some ways, a distractingly small film. It doesn’t really have a central story so much as a collection of events and complications that occur as a variety of characters attempt to accomplish a number of varying small-scale objectives. It doesn’t really have a central villain so much as a collection of forces working in opposition to one another, locked in a handful of small-scale skirmishes over a variety of macguffins.

Ant Man’s reach exceeds his grasp…

None of this is a problem. Indeed, the relatively intimate stakes of Ant Man and the Wasp feel very welcome in this era of apocalyptic scale and epic urban devastation. At no point in Ant Man and the Wasp does a villain threaten an entire city, let alone the country or the planet or reality itself. That said, the disjointed and low-key nature of the film could easily be a problem under other circumstances; the central conflicts in Ant Man and the Wasp are never defined in any real detail, its characters never really grow, its outcome is never in any real doubt.

However, much like the original Ant Man worked very well as a contrasting counterpoint to the bombastic and bloated Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant Man and the Wasp benefits as a refreshing change of pace from Avengers: Infinity War. The film seems almost tailor-made to serve as light relief following the epic stakes and universal devastation of the summer’s other Marvel Studios release. It’s debatable whether this serves to make Ant Man and the Wasp a better film on its own terms, but it does make it seem much stronger in contrast.

“We need some theme music!”
“Nah, just a nice sting.”

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Non-Review Review: Ant Man

Ant Man was always going to be a tough one to crack.

There are obvious reasons. Some of them involve the unique production history of the film, which arguably serves as an example of the downside of the tight managerial style operated by Disney and Marvel. Some of them are more fundamental, tied into the legacy and impact of the source material that make adapting Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne to screen a particularly dicey proposal for a family-friendly blockbuster movie studio. There’s a lot of pressure on the film, and a lot that could go wrong.

"You couldn't have called him 'Giant Man'?"

“You couldn’t have called him ‘Giant Man’?”

As such, director Peyton Reed does a pretty good job bringing the character to screen. Adam McKay and Paul Rudd adapted the original story written by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, providing a movie that sits more comfortably within the framework of the ever-expanding shared universe. Ant Man is a little clumsy in places, suffering from some of the stock weaknesses of the Marvel film franchises, but it is also clever and fun. All involved shrewdly play to the Marvel house style, offering a light run around populated by likable characters with clear-cut conflicts.

However, Ant Man‘s real strengths become obvious when the film deviates (even slightly) from the standard formula. After seven years of watching superhero films grow bigger and bigger, it’s nice to have a smaller story.

"One size fits all, eh?"

“One size fits all, eh?”

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Pixar’s Ant-Man!

Yes, I can’t resist the urge to post every bit of awesome Pixar-related news that comes to my attention. This week it’s the potential payoff on the humongous (yes, I’ve been waiting to use that word a while now) Marvel-Disney deal that broke last week and sent ripples through the geeksphere. I was less-than-interested because I knew it would be years before we say any payoff (given the long Hollywood development cycle) and even more years before Disney got its hands on the movie rights to any ‘big hitters’ (as all the big franchises are tied up with other studios at the moment). There was the thought at the back of my mind that I dared not articulate, but it has happened: Pixar are apparently doing a comic book movie. An Ant-Man movie!

Wait, who?

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na, Antman!

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na, Antman!

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The Incredible Avengers…

The Avengers has gone form being the movie project I was most skeptical about to one of my most anticipated movies of the comic years. Indeed, the summer of 2011 is looking to be one for the books with a whole rake of massive cult and comic book films coming out – Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern and, should Gary Oldman be believed, Batman 3. However, the culmination of Marvel’s planning within the cinematic world will be the release of The Avengers in 2012. I’ve never been much of a Marvel fan, but I will concede that they have pulled off an amazing movie-making feat. They have created a fully-integrated film universe from a variety of disparate sources building to to a clear target.

Avengers Assemble...

Avengers Assemble...

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