There was a whole lot of speculation leading up to the release of Ant-Man, questioning whether or not the film would fit in with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It saw a host of issues in production, with the studio letting go of director Edgar Wright mid-way through production. Multiple rewrites of the script followed, making an already-tenuous project that much more unstable. Even with all this though, the reception following Ant-Man‘s release was largely positive… to an extent.
So first, the good: Ant-Man had the biggest box office haul of any movie that opened last weekend, beating out defending champ Minions, as well as the Amy Schumer-led Trainwreck, Jurassic World, and Pixar’s Inside Out. It certainly wasn’t a field to scoff at, full of big-time summer blockbusters that easily could have taken the weekend title if things had shaken out differently. Paired with an impressive 80% Rotten Tomatoes score, and we have what amounts to a largely successful release. Among the pantheon of Marvel films, that score is the 5th best out of 12 total, beating out offerings like Iron Man 3 and even Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Despite all this, Ant-Man still had the second-worst opening weekend of any movie in the Marvel Universe (the title of worst belongs to The Incredible Hulk). To give you some perspective, Age of Ultron made four times as much as Ant-Man in its opening weekend. Could it be that minor superheroes can’t get people into theaters? Or even that people are tiring of comic book movies altogether? The reality of the situation is that Ant-Man is simply not a bankable character when measured up against star-power like Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, or even Chris Hemsworth as Thor.
In many ways, Ant-Man was far different than your average MCU film. The stakes were far lower when measured up against the entire universe being at risk in offerings like Thor 2: The Dark World. The titular hero, played to perfection by Paul Rudd, is for all intents and purposes a normal guy thrust into a not-so-normal world. But where the movie misses is in its lack of focus on its tertiary characters. Hank Pym makes mention that using the Ant-Man suit has taken a toll on him, but we never see the evidence of it. Our villain very quickly goes from ambitious to outright threatening to murder a child, with no real explanation as to when or how his insanity came about.
Combine all this with the sidelining of the only strong, autonomous woman in the whole movie in Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), and it’s not a movie without its flaws. That’s not to say other more profitable movies in the MCU haven’t had even greater thematic issues, but for a hero as obscure as Ant-Man, every flaw is magnified. It’s why Guardians of the Galaxy did so well at the box office: Despite its relative unknown leads, it was a character story that took full advantage of its ensemble cast. The missing pieces from Ant-Man were in the end too much for it to overcome its less-than-bankable hero.
Ant-Man wasn’t all flawed though. The best way to describe it is as a perfectly entertaining and adequate comic book movie. It wasn’t at the level of contemporaries like The Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy, but it certainly was no Thor: The Dark World or Iron Man 2. More than anything, it served its function as a bridge to Captain America: Civil War, which if we’re all being honest with ourselves, has been the Marvel movie we’re all most excited for until a new Avengers hits theaters. For that, we salute you Ant-Man.
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