director Peyton Reed
Two phases deep into the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” I can tell you one thing for sure: My 11 year old daughter is hooked.
From my vantage, the MCU is seeming more and more like the massive corporate marketing entity it is rather than its not so discrete products, specifically its films over the past 7 years. From the earlyish days of Iron Man (2008), I felt you had to be impressed with the massive marketing/product build-up that Marvel invested in, toward the (at the time) seeming totality of the first Avengers (2012) movie. It was on a scale heretofore unheard of. It was kind of interesting to watch build.
But now, in the looming shadow of the future Disney Star Wars world, it feels naive to have seen much of anything but the massive corporatization of once deeply adored entities: the comic books, the original Star Wars series, the characters. Sure, there has always been a marketing of Marvel comic characters, and certainly we have George Lucas to thank for the breakout in productization of movie junk unheard of before the original Star Wars movies. But the MCU is the test case that has charted our corporate movie future for the foreseeable future.
Ant-Man may well be the true case in point. Originally developed by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish for Marvel/Disney (which adhered to their early direction of hiring successful creative teams to helm their films), Ant-Man hit a pretty public snag when Wright jumped ship quite late in the game and Marvel handed to reins to director Peyton Reed. This seemed to suggest that the quirky uniqueness and vision of a particular director (one who had championed this moderately obscure character into a major motion picture) broke too much with a bigger “universe-building” that the studio/corporation dictated. And perhaps never again (at least in the MCU as currently envisioned) will such creative control be sought or offered.
When Ant-Man hit the cinemas this summer (somewhat an afterthought following Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), the true culmination of MCU Phase 2), critics were not particularly kind. For me, personally (especially with my kids out of the country at the time), it meant we could wait for home media. Critical disappointment might have been more wishful thinking.
The movie, while neither great nor awful, is actually entertaining. I liked it more than I supposed I would, whatever MCU fatigue I might be invoking here. Paul Rudd is a likable if unlikely-ish character/hero in the movie.
My daughter, on the other hand, really enjoyed it. She’s super psyched up about next year’s Captain America: Civil War and 2018 & 2019 Avengers: Infinity War movies. She and her friends talk (apparently) a lot about the superheroes, including the X-men movies (outside the MCU). And from my vantage (again from my vantage), I withhold my cynicism to an extent. If this is their Star Wars (so to speak), and these are tween girls I’m speaking of here, let them enjoy and be excited and be crazy for.
It’s also worth noting that they wish their was a Black Widow movie, more of Scarlet Witch in Avengers, and questions about Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in those X-men movies. We’ll see what the corporate entities decide to green-light.