Marvel have done it again. They’ve made us care (just) about something we really shouldn’t care about, Ant-Man. With another box office success Marvel are treating the cinematic universe like their kingdom. Is it one way traffic or are there some who will stand in their way in a world dominated by heroes and villains?
Ant-Man is another surprise that Marvel somehow manages to pull-off. Not the most popular of the comics, the film will be full of unfamiliar characters for many but the same successful rules apply: a charming off-beat hero, humour, spell-binding special effects, creepy villain who wants to rule the world, and sexy, strong female character. In this case Marvel were pushing the limits. A man who can shrink and talk to ants, I mean come on! But we must remember this hero is going to be an Avenger, and Paul Rudd is the perfect fit. As a laid back but down on his luck burglar he’s a supremely entertaining protagonist. In fact the comedy is one of Ant-Man’s real strengths (besides the millions of ants). Michael Pena, as Scott Lang’s best friend and former cellmate Luis, nails every joke and becomes a highlight of the film. Overall, the whole cast did a fantastic job. Michael Douglas as the original Ant-Man Hank Pym is suitably earnest and Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne kicks-ass, putting down her elven bow* to literally punch out her family frustrations on Lang while she trains him. It’s clear that Hope could be an even better hero than Lang if her father would only let her. Corey Stoll as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket, a former apprentice of Pym, is menacing from the get-go in his first blockbuster performance.
In saying that, for all it’s strengths there are some ‘little’ weaknesses. The plot doesn’t go much deeper than a redemption story of good vs bad, the melodrama between Hope and Pym can get a little much, and there holes where logic has been scooped out and replaced with abundant silliness. All in all though it’s a satisfying popcorn flick that won’t get less than three stars anywhere.
While it hasn’t been the surprise packet that was Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man has also continued Marvel’s success at the box office. Some deem this as the most important factor. The films $58 million debut is lower than almost all the other Marvel films but the fact they were able to make that from a supporting player in the universe speaks volume about the brand. Speaking to Variety Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations said:
This is not a B-list character. It’s barely even a C-list one. It’s a comicbook that hardly anybody collected.”
So if Marvel can achieve this with only a small part of their puzzle, what will they continue to do with the major players to come? Who can challenge them? Coincidentally Ant-Man ends Phase Two in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Phase Three begins in May 2016 with Captain America: Civil War. Marvel has ambitious plans that stretch out to 2019 with Phase Three also including new instalments of Thor, The Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy. With two movies released every year between now and then, it seems as though Marvel is going to ‘own’ the box office. In addition their reputation for producing blockbusters and superhero films will blast through the roof. This is their plan to conquer the cinematic universe and legitimately be able to claim they’re a premier film studio. I mean after all, who can match it with all these guys/gals? As Scott Lang says, “Pick on someone your own size!”
There are few who can compete but there are a couple who might, and have legions of fans behind them too. One takes place in a galaxy far far away and the other is a battle between a human bat and an alien superhero. I am of course speaking about Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. These two films are represented by Lucasfilm and DC Entertainment respectively, who are no lightweights themselves.
Star Wars, in particular could blow the whole game open because fans have waited in anticipation for a long time for this episode. Surely I can’t stress enough how devout Star Wars fans are. In addition, Marvel have no release slated for the end of 2015, when Episode VII hits theatres. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say it’s a chance of breaking the box office record of $2,787,965,087 (worldwide) set by Avatar in 2009. Star Wars have also planned for the future with Episodes VIII and IX set for the future as well as Han Solo and Boba Fett spin-offs which could take them through to 2020. For fans of both Star Wars and Marvel it will be akin to a dream, for the production companies it will be all out war at the box office, in merchandising, and in advertising/promotion.
Batman v Superman will be interesting because DC won’t have it so easy. For one they’ll most likely be directly competing against Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, and both are in the superhero genre. Were it a just a new Batman or new Superman you’d say Marvel had it in the bag especially considering Christian Bale is not returning to the role of Bruce Wayne. However pitting the two against each other within one movie creates an enormous amount of excitement for the audience. It’ll be a close call. Captain America will have built up a fan base with previous films but Batman v Superman is something never seen on the big screen before. The debates have already been fiercely contested by fans of each hero and will continue to be even after the film is released.
Whatever the result of this cinematic war, it will be an exciting time moving forward for blockbuster film. One can only hope, and expect, the respective studios will challenge each other into making better and better films each year, like steel sharpening steel. Personally, we can hardly wait.
*Lilly was also badass as Tauriel in The Hobbit trilogy.