Edgar Wright

Ant-Man (2015)

In a world where we can (probably) download images of what Chris Evans ate for lunch during Captain America: Winter Soldier, it probably comes as no surprise that the pre-production problems of Ant-Man are well known. Kinetic director Edgar Wright (The World’s End) had been working on fleshing out the diminutive superhero since closing up shop on Spaced. Cut to 2011 and it’s announced that Wright will be working with Marvel to get Scott Lang out to the public. And then 2014 rocked by and the much-rumoured ‘creative differences’ between wright and Marvel comes to a head when Wright allegedly walks weeks before shooting, unhappy with certain changes. And just as suddenly, Peyton Reed was locked in to take the helm.

Taking into account the history, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the film turned out to be an omni-shambles of design by committee. Instead, Ant-Man manages to do something fresh with what is essentially the tired origin trope. Paul Rudd is Scott Lang, an electrical engineer and common thief. He roommates with three fellow ex-cons and has restricted access to his daughter. Scott wants to be straight, but is convinced to take one last job. Leading him to be taken under the wing of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who convinces Scott to work for him and steal a top-secret project from Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), Pym’s protégé who is wandering dangerously close to the dark side. To help Scott with his mission, Pym trains him to be Ant-Man; a diminutive superhero with all the force of a bullet.

Ant-Man is not your usual superhero movie, as the above shows. It’s more akin to a heist movie with Pym and Scott working together to develop and hone his skills as Ant-Man. Along the way, Pym struggles in his relationship with his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly). Hope, infinitely more skilled than Scott, wants to don the Ant-Man suit herself and most of the conflict comes from her trying to understand why her father is so adamant not to allow her. These scenes are surprisingly effective, with the success coming from both actors treating the material truthfully and honestly whilst Rudd bounces around in the background providing the comic relief.

Rumours persist that Wright was unhappy with the rewrite of his and Joe Cornish’s script, wanting to keep his film at arm’s length from the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. How much of that is true is unknown. However, there are numerous cameos storylines that carry on from Marvel’s properties, including a cameo from Iron Man 2. Unless you’re an avid Marvel fan, none of these will particularly affect your understanding of the narrative and all will have a good time.

Ant-Man’s real issues come from racial profiling that sees all minorities either wise-crackers or safecrackers. It’s not overly offensive, but it is a little problematic. In addition, Judy Greer is entirely wasted as Scott’s ex-wife. Even when her daughter is in danger during a climatic moment of the film, its both her ex and her new husband that do the protecting. If you’re going to use an actor from Arrested Development and Archer, we want more from her than scolding Scott and being scared.

That aside, with excellent effects, witty wordplay and charismatic screen presence by all those involved, Ant-Man manages to punch above it’s own weight. It’s not quite Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s nowhere near as pedestrian as Thor 2. It’s another win for Marvel.

Advertisements

The World’s End (2013) “Just 3 cornettos, give them to me”

2004 saw the big screen debut of the comedy triumvirate that is Simon Pegg, best mate Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright. What they gave us was, quite frankly, fucking brilliant. Shaun of the Dead is a brilliant homage to the zombie greats that have gone before, paying particular reverence to all things George A Romero, (all hail to the king). It was so good that Romero himself is a huge fan of the film.

2007 then brought us part 2 of the 3 flavours Cornetto trilogy. This time spoofing/loving/improving on the action movie genre. Hot Fuzz is a film that just gets better and better with repeat viewings (something we think will be true of this one as well). Once again the trio of Spaced alumni absolutely nailed it.
2013 The World’s End. The finale. If they were worried about their ability to bottle lightning for a third time, they really shouldn’t have. They’ve nailed it again.

The World’s End sees a tonal shift from the gang. Gone is Pegg and Frosts buddy buddy shtick, instead they are former best friends who were driven apart by an event in their past. Also gone is Simon Pegg as a loveable slacker or an uber cop, here he is barely likable as Gary ‘The King’ King, one time most popular kid in school now…..a bit of a twat.

The confidence of the 3 writers here is obvious. They trust the script enough to allow it a slow start. A very slow start. We are sloooowly introduced to the main players as King runs round trying to put the band back together to take on ‘The Golden Mile’. A stretch of 12 pubs, (1 pint in each), that they attempted but failed to conquer when they were 17. We meet Nick Frost as Andrew, a corporate lawyer, Paddy Considine as Steven a successful developer, Eddie Marsan (excellent) as the formerly bullied Peter and finally Martin Freeman as  Oliver or Oman as Gary likes to call him.

Fortunately for the film once they get back together and head back to their old stomping ground of Newton Haven it gathers pace in double-quick time. After they settle in to their old banter routines, (it’s obvious how close they all are off-screen as some of the interplay flows as well as any you’re ever likely to see) the reveal of the aliens who have taken over the town happens almost immediately. Cue a brilliant fight scene in a toilet, a wonderful moment when a very drunk gang try to figure out a name for the invaders, a scene that Buster Keaton would be proud of when Gary is trying to fight off an invader whilst not spilling his pint and a scene stealing turn from the bloke who plays the caretaker from the Harry Potter films.

Whereas in the previous 2 films Pegg was clearly the star here it is Frost who steals the show. He is excellent and very funny throughout. He carries the emotional scenes brilliantly and is quite the mover when it comes to a fight sequence. Who’d have thunk it. All of the main cast are great and ably supported by those around them, particularly Rossamund Pike as Oliver’s sister and the object of both Gary and Steven’s affections. Both get some great lines to share with her including, “I love you…I always have. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve had 7 pints” and Gary’s “We’ll always have the disableds” which is as beautifully written a line as you will ever hear.

What follows is a couple of rug pulls and lots of running, jumping and whacking people with bar stools all done with plenty of vim and vigour. We did have to question how they were all such brilliant fighters but we’ll let it slide because it was so much fun we didn’t really care.

If you are a fan of Pegg, Frost and Wright then you should love this film. It ticks all the boxes and is different enough from what’s gone before to be interesting while not so different that you will be scared off.
And if you aren’t a fan of these 3 we think you will be by pint 12.

The World’s End is out now and well worth a watch.