3 Reasons Marvel's Ant-Man Movie Could Be a Surprise Hit
Disney's Marvel recently announced that it had cast Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, the titular hero of the 2015 Marvel film that will be incorporated into the rapidly expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe.
However, many people responded to that announcement with two simple questions -- who the heck is Ant-Man, and why should we care?
To better understand who Ant-Man is and why he represents an important turning point for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we need to look back at the growth of the film franchises over the past five years.
Ever since Disney acquired Marvel in 2009, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been expanding at a rapid rate. Marvel's vision for a unified Cinematic Universe to complement its comic book one came together with The Avengers, a film that grossed $1.5 billion worldwide and seamlessly united four of the company's core film franchises -- Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Thor.
Marvel is building its Cinematic Universe in three clearly defined phases. For now, the path to the end of Phase 2 is fairly clear:
Iron Man (2008)
The Avengers (2012)
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Phase 2 will mostly be a continuation of Phase 1, which introduced audiences to the four main Avengers. However, Phase 2 notably includes The Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), which will introduce over a dozen new Marvel characters such as Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, and Ronan the Accuser.
Although Avengers: Age of Ultron will be a guaranteed blockbuster, it's unclear if following up that huge film up with an oddball film like Ant-Man is a good idea.
However, let's give Marvel the benefit of the doubt and take a look at three big reasons I believe that Ant-Man could be a surprise hit.
1. A clean slate
Ant-Man is an unfamiliar hero to most people, since he hasn't appeared in any feature films since his creation in 1962. Yet that unfamiliarity, often considered the upcoming film's biggest weakness, could also be its greatest strength.
Ant-Man is the alter-ego of Dr. Hank Pym, a scientist who discovers subatomic particles known as "Pym particles." These particles allow him to shrink and grow his body at will. He can also communicate with and control ants by using a telepathic helmet.
Ant-Man is notably the creator of Ultron, a psychotic AI robot modeled on Pym's own brain. Ultron will be the main villain in Avengers: The Age of Ultron, but since Ant-Man will be released after Ultron, it's unclear how the connection between Ant-Man and Ultron will be reestablished.
In my opinion, Ant-Man's lack of mainstream recognition could actually make him a fresher, more interesting character for movie audiences.
Constantly retelling and rebooting superhero origins gets old in both comics and movies. After all, how many times do we have to see Uncle Ben die in Sony's Spider-Man or watch Bruce Wayne's parents get gunned down in Time Warner's Batman? At some point, audiences simply want fresh stories, rather than being told the same old tales.
By comparison, the Disney side of the Marvel Universe has effortlessly succeeded at introducing comic book characters to mainstream audiences who aren't as familiar with their comic book counterparts.
Prior to their film adaptations, there were doubts that Captain America and Thor -- both less familiar characters -- would translate well to film. Box office numbers and critical response, however, have proven naysayers wrong.
Global box office
Rotten Tomatoes Rating
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Considering Disney and Marvel's track record with successfully launching "less familiar" characters into film franchises, I believe that Ant-Man could be a bigger hit than most people expect.
2. Top-notch talent
Ant-Man might also be a surprising hit thanks to its top-notch cast and crew.
Paul Rudd isn't exactly an actor on par with Robert Downey, Jr., but I believe that he could have the requisite sarcasm and comedic wit to play Hank Pym.
However, director and co-writer Edgar Wright is the man who could make Ant-Man a hit. Edgar Wright isn't a household name, but he has an exceptional track record. Let's take a look at the box office and critical response for Wright's four main films.
Global box office
Rotten Tomatoes Rating
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
The World's End (2013)
While Wright hasn't completely proven himself at the box office yet, it's clear that critics and audiences enjoy his films.
More importantly, he's a director who established his career on smaller indie films -- just like Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) and Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) -- rather than bombastic CGI extravaganzas.
Considering Wright's eclectic career so far, I think that Ant-Man could be a refreshingly different film compared to Marvel's established franchises.
3. It could actually be lots of fun
Last but not least, Ant-Man could actually make comic book films fun to watch again.
Ever since Christopher Nolan rebooted Batman in a more realistic, military-industrial form in 2005, comic book movies have been darker than ever. Marc Webb rebooted Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (2002) as The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), a joyless affair that lacked Raimi's near-perfect balance of campiness and seriousness. Zack Snyder also rebooted Superman into a gloomy, loud affair with The Man of Steel (2013), which lacked the charm of Richard Donner's classic films.
Disney's Marvel films, at least, usually understand that comic book films shouldn't take themselves too seriously. The Avengers was lighthearted and unrealistic, but at no point did it disrespect the source material, as Joel Schumacher infamously did with Batman & Robin (1997).
Ant-Man could take audiences back to the time when Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) amazed audiences with kids sleeping in Legos and riding an ant through the backyard. Moreover, Pym can control his size -- shrinking to the size of an ant or a becoming massive giant -- which could lead to some crazy comic situations. A head-to-head confrontation with the Hulk would be particularly hilarious, in my opinion.
The bottom line
Make no mistake -- Ant-Man is a risky project. If done badly, it could bomb and start Marvel's Phase 3 films on the wrong foot. However, if done right, it could help Marvel's Cinematic Universe keep growing, and eventually become as diverse and interesting as the comic book universe on which it is based.
What do you think, dear readers? Will Ant-Man be a blockbuster or a bomb? Let me know in the comments section below!
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The article 3 Reasons Marvel's Ant-Man Movie Could Be a Surprise Hit originally appeared on Fool.com.Fool contributor Leo Sun owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.