Marvel has unquestionably built an entirely new meaning for the word “franchise”. We are living in the age of blockbuster series, where the concept of ending the story after a mere trilogy is career suicide. The Marvel universe is one of the most popular, and most profitable ventures of the 21st century multimedia world. But what is most incredible about the marvel brand is its dedication to consistency of quality in its material. If you go to see a Marvel film, you are able to expect a certain level of quality - from all aspects of the production. Marvel television series are still up for grabs in terms of quality, but the film franchise has been fine tuned through a number of disastrous failures - and some unexpected successes (see: Guardians of the Galaxy), into an entertainment machine.
Which is why I was so profoundly disappointed with their newest release, the much-vaunted ANT MAN. Delivering nothing but cliché after cliché, this particular Marvel venture fell so far short of its mark one suspects that the company shrunk the production budget to match the story material. The audience is left with a film that feels far more than simply unpolished - it feels truly sub-par - and not just as part of the Marvel franchise (because let’s face it, the Iron Man sequels were just plain bad), but as a film all of its own. Remove the expectations of the franchise and you still end up with a film that simply was not worth the time it took to watch.
Perhaps what is so incredibly disappointing about this film is the incredible potential it had that was so visibly squandered away in racist, sexist, and clichéd writing; lackluster directing, and a cast that delivered their B-level dialogue through (sometimes obviously) gritted teeth. Because this was a film that did have potential. The story idea is perfectly in line with other Marvel success stories - it lives at the far edge of believability, and delivers the perfect medium for a wealth of comedic relief, as well as action. It could have been something - if not really special - than at least really fun.
The simple fact of the matter is we never had a chance to see what Ant Man might have been, because the mind responsible for it was removed from the production before it even started filming. Granted, Edgar Wright walked - but it’s easy to see why. This is the film that Marvel wanted to make - this film that appeals to the lowest common denominators among fans of the franchise; stepping outside their comfort zone was simply beyond their capacity for consideration, and they may have well as fired Wright, because no self-respecting professional (to say nothing of brilliant artist) would ever want to be part of a project where the creative vision is run by people who lack creative vision.
Ant Man was a colossal failure in all important regards. It barely served as a passable grade-B summer flick, and if this were still the era of double billings, I would have suggested that the reader skip it entirely and go straight to the A-lister on the bill. Perhaps this is not the end of the Marvel franchise (for Ant Man likely registers as little more than a blip on their financial radar), but when the next unique film premise crosses their path I fear that they will chose to follow the same route as they did here, and elect to stick to tired conformity instead of taking a risk; to maintain the status quo instead of offering what the moviegoing audience deserves. Marvel may be in the business of making superhero films, but superhero film doesn’t need to equate to “juvenile”, or clichéd. We will undoubtedly see more Marvel superhero films arrive in the near future, accompanied by all manner of television series and other media tag-alongs - all we can hope for is something that dares to lift the quality of the material rather than lower it. The only good take away from Ant Man is that at least now, marvel has a new low-bar to try and avoid.
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