This is an attempt to analyze the teaser trailer of Marvel Studio’s upcoming release Ant-Man. Maybe I should say in advance that I have no deeper knowledge of the original comics and all I know about the Marvel lore I learned from the movies.
directed by: Peyton Reed
starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena
Thief Scott Lang must aid his mentor Dr. Hank Pym in safeguarding the mystery of the Ant-Man technology – which allows its user to decrease in size but increase in strength – from various new threats, and plot a heist that will save the Earth.
The teaser trailer:
Well, I am not impressed. To be fair, this is just a teaser trailer and teaser trailers are notoriously known for being hastily slapped together of random material to shut up the impatient fans, so the tone of the completed movie could drastically differ from what we just witnessed here.
But what we already get a good impression of are the visuals and they are disappointingly bland. That is barely TV-movie standard what we are looking at here and regarding how the bar has risen for “small screen”-output with excellently photographed series like American Horror Story, Hannibal, etc., this can almost be considered as sub-par. While the visuals for Iron Man for example are simplistic, they are also very powerful and always precisely to the point, so to speak. Ant-Man’s cinematography on the other hand just looks uninspired and workmanlike, with no sense of symbolism or effective image composition.
So if you have been waiting for a Marvel movie that recaptures the visuals of a 1990s TV-special even better than The Avengers, your time may have come.
The city at night! Beautiful and seductive on the surface, but cruel and unforgiving underneath. *Insert saxophone solo*
0:10: Paul Rudd gets busted! He is still the petty thief at this point, a lovable and charming scoundrel whom we can easily forgive, but who has yet to mature into a valuable member of the society by using his special skills for the good as the superhero he will soon turn into. Now someone could say that this sounds like the Iron Man formula adapted to a hero from a lower social class, but that would be an unfair simplification. Spot on, but unfair.
0:15: “Scott, I’ve been watching you for a while now (…)”.… tells us the voiceover, signifying the turning point in Scott’s life and igniting his character arc. It is spoken in the typical nasal tone of Michael Douglas who is playing the soon-to-be-mentor of Scott Lang, the genius scientist Howard St….oops, “Hank Pym”, who was the original “Ant-Man”, as wikipedia tells me. Which dispels my suspicion that he is the aged version of Billy Baldwin’s character from Sliver (1993). Too bad.
0:18: Scott reflects about his botched life. This is symbolized by an actual reflection of himself in a mirror, thereby visualizing a metaphorical figure of speech with a literal situation.
0:20: Released from prison! Will the first thing he does be buying a plush bunny for his daughter, like Cameron Poe did? Cameron Poe’s example serves as an inspiring, if almost unachievable ideal all movie ex-cons should strive to aim for.
0:25: It would not be a movie with Michael Douglas if it did not feature San Francisco, would it? They missed a precious opportunity to make that van a VW bus with a flower-pattern paint job though.
0:29: Michael Douglas, giving an inspiring speech about “second chances”! The older he gets, the more he looks like his dad (the guy from Spartacus). I wish they would let him loose a little, give us some of those particular Douglas-antics we learned to love, but it is Marvel/Disney after all. In the end, the rumours that he will repeat his “Captain Kangaroo”-line from The Game (1997) will be revealed as false.
0:41: Hank Pym/Michael Douglas doing things in his secret workshop and not leaving it for several hours, as married men are wont to.
00:46: Awww, he has a daughter! Hereby I take back my initial comparisons with Iron Man– Scott already has something worth fighting for! “#TheDaughter” has developed into one the most popular MacGuffin for action movies of the last ten years since Liam Neeson introduced it in a movie I never bothered finishing after I have seen the first 20 minutes. Now take the plush bunny/fucking elephant!
0:51: A better look at the laboratory, which reinforces the notion that Hank Pym is the quirky version of Howard Stark (who is also in the movie, again portrayed by Trevor Slattery).
0:57: “Pym Technologies”, Pym’s company.
0:57: Corey Stoll as “Darren Cross”, a former protege of Pym who turned evil, and becomes the insect-sized villain “Yellowjacket” at a later point in the story. It appears that this moment shows us his hostile takeover of “Pym Technologies” that is alluded to in his character biography on wikipedia.
0:58: Stoll/Cross entering some kind of irradiation chamber. Is this where they shrink one for the first time or is the suit sufficient for that process? Tell me, comic book fans and please forgive me for my ignorance.
1:00: Introducing Evangeline Lily (Lost, The Hobbit) sporting an insanely hot hairdo (wig?) as Hank Pym’s daughter, “Hope Van Dyne”.
01:04: A tender movie with Scott and his daughter… she is holding a plush bunny!!! My personal highlight of the trailer.
1:10: Finally a look at the Ant-Man suit, which has a decent retro design. Will we see an updated version at the end?
1:15: “Scott, I need you to be the…. Ant-Man.” “Huh.”
This was obviously meant as a comical moment, but it is sabotaged by the serious tone of the teaser and should have better been left out.
A few words about Rudd: I always liked this guy, although a big chunk of his filmography is highly questionable to say the least. But he has impeccable comic timing and can also convince in serious roles, that’s why I hope that he will gets his own “Jack Sparrow” or “Tony Stark” with this role, even if this teaser trailer sadly suggests otherwise.
1:19: When you are a man, sometimes you wear rubber suits in your shower. It’s for fun.
Nobody can see your “thumb up”, derp.
1:19: Charming old-school shrinking effect.
…immediately followed by the first big money shot of the teaser. Well, those CGI look… unfinished. Things to ponder: Hollywood producers are well known for hating on fully masked superheroes, making them feel they squandered their money on the salary of the A-list lead actor if he is unable to show his mug. How are they going to handle that “issue” in this case?
1:26: Close-up of the aforementioned mask. You can clearly see Rudd’s eyes through the glasses, which is a clever design choice as it enables him to convey emotions without having to resort to body language exclusively.
1:26: The long walk to redemption has began.
1:28: A fully suited Rudd fighting thugs while still in his “original size”.
1:30: An impressively buff and ripped Rudd. You white, you Ben Affleck.
….followed by an obligatory “training montage”, where Evangeline Lily/Hope Van Dyne demonstrates that she is not just an expendable love interest for the hero, but a strong female character who can stand her own ground. Yet could it be that she is hiding her vulnerable, crooked psyche (she is the daughter of two superheroes after all, with a genius daddy who did not spend enough time with her- note the parallels to Scott) under a tough, unapproachable exterior?
I think so and I am always delighted when writers go fresh and exciting new ways in terms of characterization.
..followed by a shot of Evangeline Lily, also buff and ripped. This movie is making me feel inadequate already. I will have to cling to Michael Douglas.
1:31: The mansion of the drug baron from The Expendables (2010) has a cameo. Seriously, is Ant-Man going to take down the drug lords? Will he cooperate with the CIA in assassinating the leader of a South American/Caribbean country with one scene showing him getting into the dictator’s office by hiding in a cigar tube?
Are those ideas already better than what we will probably get instead?
1:34: Finally, the defining moment, the big money shot, the selling point, directly lifted from the comics: Ant-Man mounting a flying ant and taking off.
First, I have to admit that Marvel has some brass balls to present us this anticlimactic, badly realized CGI- sequence as the crown jewel of the teaser after all the dramatic buildup with rousing music and whatnot.
Remember when all the complainers predicted that Marvel will have a hard time to elevate the live-action adaptation above the potential camp factor of its source material? That realizing an inherently “comic-booky” character like Ant-Man for the screen is a tough task, as it is near impossible to stay true to the original spirit while avoiding all the pitfalls of ridiculousness?
Well, Marvel once and for all shut them up with this trailer. They did, didn’t they ? (Rhetoric question, don’t answer.)
Don’t be fooled by the sarcastic overtone of this analysis. Given the history of disastrous teaser trailers preceding decent to great movies, I am willing to give Ant-Man a shot. I don’t want to belittle a movie based on its trailer. You have to start out small, after all. Who knows, maybe it will grow on me over time? In the end, Ant-Man could turn out to be huge for Marvel.