Ant-Man is the second new film release from Marvel Studios this year; and by early accounts, the movie will be very much a superhero action/comedy (in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy), despite what the solemn teaser trailer might lead you to believe. Costar Judy Greer has said that she even did a lot of comedic improv while making the film – something that was also mentioned by Ant-Man cast member Bobby Cannavale, in a more recent interview.
Cannavale is costarring in Ant-Man as Paxton, an original character in the Marvel film. The Boardwalk Empire actor also noted that the movie’s “whole story is really new,” seeing as the screenplay penned by star Paul Rudd and his Anchorman director Adam McKay – based on the earlier draft from Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish – revises the story about how “master thief” Scott Lang (Rudd) comes to acquire the Ant-Man suit from its original owner, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), from the more traditional comic book iterations.
Jon Favreau frequently incorporates comedic improv into his movies – including the first Marvel Studios release Iron Man – and Cannavale even worked under Favreau’s direction on last year’s acclaimed indie film comedy, Chef. Perhaps it’s for related reasons that Cananval has likened his experience making Ant-Man to working on an independent production, seeing as many of his scenes were (seemingly) focused on improv-friendly banter between him and his costars like Rudd and Greer.
Cannavale brought this up during the press day for his new film Danny Collins (via Collider), when asked if it was “freeing” not playing a character from Marvel comics lore:
Yeah. Sure. I mean at least I think that’s true because nobody ever came up to me and said, “Hey, you need to dye your hair red” or something. That was a really cool experience, because as big as that movie is and really as big a production as that was, the actual work in the scenes were really fun. It felt like we were on an indie film. Rudd is one of my oldest friends. Most of our scenes are together, like me and Paul and Judy Greer. And so, both those actors are really good improvisers. Adam McKay and Paul did a big rewrite on that script. So the scenes themselves felt like an indie film. It really felt like a comedy that we were doing. And then, of course, you have those big scenes. I spent so much time in front of a blue screen and that was just a trip for me. I’m not used to that kind of thing. But it was really a good combination of bringing a real off-the-cuff sensibility to a big, huge action movie. That was really fun and I think that probably happened because Guardians of the Galaxy was such a success. So it didn’t feel like I was working in a really serious superhero movie. It didn’t feel like Thor or something like that.
The first two Thor movies (like every Marvel film release to date) certainly have their fair share of comedy and tongue in cheek laughs, but what Cannavale appears to be referring to here is how Guardians blends the standard big-budget spectacle (action, CGI, set pieces) with a PG-13 version of the quirky “off-the-cuff” humor featured in director James Gunn’s previous indie directorial efforts (see: Super, Slither). Hence, the implication is that Ant-Man will do likewise, albeit by instead combining the expected tentpole fireworks with Rudd and McKay’s free-flowing comedic sensibilities.
Favreau’s Iron Man, as mentioned below, uses an approach similar to what Cannavale is describing here – which is to say, the actor’s comments don’t necessarily indicate that Ant-Man will be able to escape those Iron Man comparisons anytime soon. Director Peyton Reed has a solid comedy filmmaking resume (Bring It On, Down with Love, The Break-Up) but, unlike Favreau, he’s not a director with all that distinctive a style – another reason for concern that Ant-Man may prove to be an equally solid, yet otherwise unmemorable addition to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
There does appear to be some awareness on Marvel’s part that Ant-Man (his super-powers aside) doesn’t exactly stand out as so much of a unique character, when compared to the rest of the current MCU roster. That would help to explain why the Ant-Man teaser went so far to paint the film as something quite different – a mostly serious action movie about a father attempting to live up to his daughter’ idealized vision of him – rather than the Guardians-style funny romp that its cast members keep describing.
Ant-Man trailer #2 will have the benefit of more finished visual effects shots to draw from, so having more footage showing Lang using his super-powered suit could help the next theatrical preview to leave a stronger impression. That will move us closer to answering that lingering question of whether the Marvel brand is, in fact, strong enough (after last year’s non-Avengers hits Guardians and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) that it truly can sell the general public on any superhero concept right now.
Avengers: Age of Ultron reaches U.S. theaters on May 1st, 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17th, 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6th, 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4th, 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5th, 2017, Spider-Man on July 28th, 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on November 3rd, 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4th, 2018, Black Panther on July 6th, 2018, Captain Marvel on November 2nd, 2018, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3rd, 2019, and Inhumans on July 12th, 2019.