Film review – Ant-Man (Peyton Reed, 2015)

The problem that many British viewers of this film will have when viewing this film is a pining for what could have been. Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish had for a long time both been attached to the film, the former as director and both as co-writers. Both are extremely well-known amongst the geeks of Britain and the fact they were teaming up was an absolute dream. Edgar Wright proved what he could do when given the freedom of the source material when he directed the excellent Scott Pilgrim vs The World in 2010. Whilst the Ant-Man series wasn’t as well known as the likes of X-Men and Spiderman, in the right hands it had the potential to be a great film.

Phenomenal powers, itty bitty living space.

Phenomenal powers, itty bitty living space.

However, it slowly became apparent that Marvel had a different idea of the direction it should take. In an interview with Mike Ryan of the Huffington Post, Edgar Wright said “It is pretty standalone in the way we’re linking it to the others. I like to make it standalone because I think the premise of it needs time. I want to put the crazy premise of it into a real world, which is why I think Iron Man really works because it’s a relatively simple universe; it’s relatable.” Clearly Marvel wanted the film to be set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the compromises required to slot it in with Thor, Iron Man and the clan didn’t sit well with Wright and Cornish. With not long to go before release date – 420 days to be precise – the pair (along with director of photography Bill Pope) co-announced with Marvel Studios that they were leaving the project, citing “differences in their vision of the film”.

So what are we left with? Well, Peyton Reed has come on board as emergency director. His previous work has been pretty much exclusively romantic comedies (Down With Love, The Break-Up) and the impression is that he was brought in to do what the studio needed rather than drive his own vision of the narrative. Ironically that makes him a kind of yes man. [1]

What’s really frustrating is that the script has some very Wright/Cornish-esque humour in there. One of the large scale fights near the climax of the film happens around a Thomas the Tank Engine toy train track. Anyone familiar with Joe Cornish’s route to fame in the 90s will see the likelihood that this was one from him. Or maybe Peyton Reed is a big fan of Series 2, Episode 18 of the original Thomas the Tank Engine series “Thomas Comes To Breakfast”, which first aired in the UK in October 1986.

The one saving grace of the film is Paul Rudd doing and excellent job as Scott Lang, the thief-turned-hero who wants to make up for lost time with his daughter. His humour and sharp wit make the journey through the film entirely pleasurable. He is a great comedic actor and the film has benefited from his presence on the rewriting team.

However, for all the good that is done by some great work in the cast (Michael Peña is hilarious throughout), we keep getting reminders that this is two films woven into one. The worst moment of the film comes when there’s an oblique reference to The Avengers, which sticks out like a sore thumb. Just as we are forgetting about it, Falcon arrives on the scene. Yes that’s right, Anthony Mackie has his very own cameo role in everyone’s eleventh-favourite Avenger (12th if you include Ant-Man, 13th if you include Nick Fury… who knows where by the time Civil War is released). It’s so pointless and so clearly an afterthought that it not only doesn’t help fit it in with the Marvel Cinematic Universe but rather actually just causes a detrimental effect on the absorbing world that was almost being created in this film.

It’s a shame that we will never see that Wright/Cornish film that never was. It must be said that it was unlikely to ever see the light of day without some serious compromises, but as two huge fans of Marvel comic books that was never going to happen. Instead we’re left with a reasonable film with some rewarding moments, which never really gets going because it is so disjointed.

Ant-Man is out at cinemas globally now.

[1] Yes I went there.

Films I’m Excited About (Summer 2015)

2015 looks set to be a huge summer for visiting the cinema. I’ve already been blown away several times at the high standard I’ve seen (Birdman, The Tales of Princess Kaguya, Whiplash and The Theory of Everything are all very special films, and Avengers: Age of Ultron blew me away too). Looking forwards, there’s plenty more to be excited about. Here’s some of the film’s I’ve got in my diary.

German Concentration Camps – A Factual Survey

germanconcentrationcampsafactualsurvey

Probably the most historically important film of the decade.

A British documentary film covering the exploration of the Nazi concentration camps. Fourteen locations were visited in Poland, Austria and Germany. The purpose of this film was that it would be shown to all the freed prisoners leaving the concentration camps and sites of atrocity after the fall of the Third Reich. Unfortunately there were delays in production and by 1946 it was deemed to be inappropriate and the footage was shelved.

Thankfully the footage has been finished off and there have been some screenings schedules around the UK (which can be found here). I can’t wait to see this historically important and inevitably moving film.

Jurassic World

Is this going to be the return to form we've been waiting for?

Is this going to be the return to form we’ve been waiting for?

I’m sorry. We’re all thinking it. The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III were both utter dross. The first in the series was, in my opinion, one of the greatest films ever made. In the action genre it should be held up as a sepcimen of near perfection – its relentless and frequent peaks and troughs take you on an exhausting adrenaline rollercoaster as soon as things start to go wrong. It was also a hugely significant film in terms of advancing special effects. Since the sequels thus far have been huge let downs, the announcement of a new franchise reboot was met with groans across the internet and beyond. Then the trailer dropped and hope was restored. So far there doesn’t seem to be anything to quash the hope.

The release date is set for 10th June. The world is waiting!

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

I can't wait for fourth film in the franchise to be released.

I can’t wait for fourth film in the franchise to be released.

I’m a big Star Wars fan. I’m not the kind of person who knows the facts inside-out, certainly not on the same level as some people I know, but the original films are just absolutely fantastic action sci-fi films. It’s a shame that Episodes I-III were so dreadful. I do believe there is one good film to be found within their bloated running times. They just got them wrong.

The Star Wars community groaned when Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, but I immediately knew it would be a positive move. Disney know how to make a great live-action action film. The first three Pirates of the Caribbean films were actually not as bad as people have remembered them (our memories may be tarnished by the lackluster fourth installment). John Carter was actually far better than the first twenty minutes suggested. The Tron reboot wasn’t bad either. With a captive audience ready to give the new films a chance and no George Lucas around to mess things up, we’re set to finally be rewarded with a film worthy of the originals.

Terminator: Genisys

I do hope Arnie says "I told you I'd be back" just one more time.

I do hope Arnie says “I told you I’d be back” just one more time.

I don’t think this will be the return to form as the two franchise reboots above, but it will be good fun to see how it turns out. Since his retirement from politics, Schwarzenegger hasn’t really done any films that fully stand up to his releases in the late 80s and early 90s. I hope this is the one that shows us he’s still got it and with Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones favourite Daenerys Targaryen) on board we should have something to keep us entertained for a couple of hours.

Ant-Man

Films like this are in short supply.

Films like this are in short supply.

Paul Rudd, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. It’s Ant-Man. It has been a troubled creation process, but I still think this is going to find the balance of comedy and action that was sadly missing from The Green Hornet, the last superhero film that went down the comedy route. I’m hoping it’s successful enough to see him included in future MCU films. I guess time will tell.