Friday, 9 January 2015

Ant-Man Trailer: Thoughts & Speculations

So, I'm sure most people reading this will be wondering where I've been for the last month and a half. Well, put simply, I've joined a website where I'm the resident music reviewer (it opened on New Year's Day) and, as there wasn't anything I really needed to cover that wasn't music reviews, I had nothing I needed to write. That said, I did check back every few days and I was truly astonished by how much support I was getting while I was away: I went past the 2,000 views mark before Christmas, which was something I didn't expect to happen at all! Since this blog is no longer going to cover music reviews, I can use this blog to look at other stuff, so let's start with the trailer for the upcoming Ant-Man film.

I'm pretty sure everyone and their mother has heard about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but, for the benefit of those who haven't, let me give you the basics. Basically, in the 90s, Marvel Comics had been purchased by the company Andrews Group and their owner, Ronald Perelman, was pushing for a lot of stuff that, on paper, looked like a good idea to help make Marvel more money: lines were relaunched as new number 1's, cards were included in the comics, holographic covers were made for comics and stuff like that. Unfortunately, Ronald Perelman appeared not to understand economics as well as he thought he did, as his reason for relaunching the lines was that old comics were capable of making a lot of money, but he forgot to remember that comics weren't made in large amounts back when comics were young and that most of the copies which survived to the 90s were in poor condition, so they would be expensive because they were VERY rare. So, obviously, the gain from this turned out to be a short term thing when the comics market crashed, although it is worth noting that other factors did lead to the crash of the comics market. However, one of the things Ronald Perelman did before he was removed from Marvel was sign a bunch of deals to allow the company to make movies and, well, those deals were still active when Marvel decided to start making movies the way it wanted to...

Yep. Ronald Perelman, the guy who basically caused Marvel's bankruptcy in the first place, is the guy we have to thank for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also had a knock on effect, too: during this period of time, a certain company decided to put out a collectable card game onto the market that, thanks to the audience caused from comics having collectable cards in them, had a very large market to become interested in it. Don't know who the company is and what the card game is? Well, here's a hint: you might know the company for now also publishing Dungeons & Dragons...

Anyway, the Marvel Cinematic Universe had been in planning since 2005, thanks in part to Kevin Feige realizing that Marvel still had the rights for the core members of The Avengers and basically going "Hey, why don't we have all of these characters share the same universe as each other, like the comics originally did in the 60s?" and...well, if you're even slightly familiar with the cinema since 2008, you almost certainly have at least heard of the films in the MCU. While Marvel Studios isn't responsible for some of the Marvel films released in the last few years (they have nothing to do with the two Ghost Rider films, the X-Men films, the Spider-Man films, the upcoming Fantastic Four film and technically only got The Hulk because they helped fund it), for the most part, every Marvel film released since 2008 has been done by Marvel Studios and with their full backing. And, while I will say there are films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which I don't particularly like much (I've never been big on the first Captain America film, although it worth noting that I am a British citizen, so a character intended to represent America is unlikely to catch on with me simply because I'm not part of America at all. There IS a Captain Britain, incidentally, and I'm hoping he does get his own film, if only because it would actually be pretty interesting to see him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe...), I would struggle to say that I find any of the films bad. Even at my most cynical and jaded, the only film in the MCU that I could actually dislike is The Hulk, and even that's more a polite disinterest than anything else.

So, Marvel is looking fairly good right now in terms of their films. But here's the thing: when you look at the wider superhero movies market, it's overflowing right now. You've got DC making films of their characters, you have characters from a few other smaller companies appearing on the big screen, you've got Marvel properties that are not actually from Marvel Studios making it onto the big screen and you even have a few completely original (in terms of appearing in previous media) superhero characters appearing. I'm hardly a prophet of doom, but I simply feel that superhero films are at serious risk of going under again simply because the market is so crowded that it is very easy to lose interest in it (heck, I'm already suffering a minor burn out and I'm just keeping up with the news for these films!) and all it takes is one particularly awful film to become this generation's Batman & Robin...and, if you were to ask me to take bets on which film is likely to be that, I'd not even have to hesitate before I said "Fantastic Four reboot". I'm calling it now because there's so little about it which I feel is defendable at this point that it's hard for me to even want to watch it, but it should be noted that I'm not convinced that it is going to be so bad that it could destroy superhero films again: just be SERIOUSLY disappointing.

But let's get all of that history and discussion out of our minds for now. For now, let us focus on the present. We all know (or should know, at least) that Avengers: Age of Ultron is a few months away, so Ant-Man is having to be the follow up to that film and introduce Ant-Man to a mainstream audience. At the minute, all we have is this trailer to go on, but I do have to say that I have both good things to say and bad things to say about the trailer. Since I want to cover my nitpicks first, I'll do that now, but do bear in mind that all I say is just that: nitpicks.

First of all, I have to question the fact that it's an unknown character following up Avengers: Age of Ultron rather than a well known character. Maybe it's because I'm a grumpy git at heart, but I think having a character who we already know to follow up Avengers: Age of Ultron would simply be the more sensible choice: if the character fails to catch on with the general audience, then it's going to put more pressure on making Phase 3 start off well. Since Ant-Man is closing off Phase 2 and isn't starting off Phase 3 (which is still a risky decision, admittedly), I guess there's a bit less pressure, but it's still going to be a tough sell, regardless of which way you look at it.

Secondly, I have to question Ant-Man's costume. On its own, it isn't bad at all: it's a fairly good costume that is distinctive in its own right. The problem, unfortunately, is that it bears FAR too much resemblance to that of Star-Lord (or Peter Quill) from last year's Guardians of the Galaxy, to the extent that, if it was another company doing it, I'd be accusing them of plagiarizing from Guardians of the Galaxy. As it is, I feel that someone goofed up in Marvel, as the costume just is too much like Star-Lord's for me to consider him a distinct enough character in his own right. I just feel like writing a fan fic where Star-Lord and Ant-Man meet just because I imagine their first response to each other will be "Hey, you stole my look!"

...No, internet, I do not want you to write that as a slash fic. Star-Lord and Ant-Man screwing each other is not something I particularly want to read, no matter how well written it is!

Thirdly, I do feel that there wasn't really enough of tiny sized Ant-Man in the trailer. Don't get me wrong, there was some cool moments in it, but I'd personally have liked a bit more of it in the trailer. Ant-Man doesn't need to be all about tiny Ant-Man, but showing next to nothing about tiny sized Ant-Man just feels like a mistake to me. It's like doing a film about Batman and having the trailer focus entirely on Bruce Wayne!


Anyway, for those of you preparing your comments, yes, I do accept that a superhero involving a character's alter ego CAN work (despite my joke against it, I did like The Dark Knight Rises, and Iron Man 3 did the same basic thing and I enjoyed it), so I can't say that this kind of thing is always doomed to failure. However, as an introduction to a character, I do feel that it doesn't work very well if we're not given a chance to see the character in action as their superhero self, especially if the character is one that most people are not likely to know a huge amount about. What was provided told us that he can shrink down to a tiny size and is capable of riding a wasp (which probably means he can talk to wasps, as it did slow down near him). That's...not really enough to tell us what he can actually do, when you think about it hard enough.

Fourthly, while I do like the narration by Hank Pym (that's who the old guy is, if you didn't already know), I do feel the "huh" response to it wasn't particularly well delivered as a line. I get what they were going for, but I just found it bugged me, for some reason. I don't know, maybe it's just that I'd have liked the music to cut out just before he said it as a sort of comic moment, but it just bugged me enough for me to zero in on it.

Now that I've got my main issues out of the way, let me stress that those, for me, are nitpicks: I did still like the trailer! Despite my complaints, the vast majority of the tailer was very good: the special effects were very good (I do think a bit more work could have been done on the wasp, but it was still very nicely done), the lines we were provided were delivered to a decent standard (I do feel that they could have been better, but they were not delivered terribly by any measure), the trailer provided a decent insight into the main character of the film without feeling like it was trying too hard to lay down stuff we didn't need to know and it had an amusing line or two. The lack of action still feels like a misstep for me, but, beyond that, I wouldn't say anything struck me as missing that I'd have said was essential to include.

Overall, it was a fairly good trailer that did everything it needed to do, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this film turns out. I'm guessing it will be a disappointment compared to Avengers: Age of Ultron (although, let's be fair, ANYTHING following Avengers: Age of Ultron was likely to be a disappointment anyway: the quality of that film is likely to be very good indeed!), but will still be an enjoyable film. So long as it isn't the most disappointing superhero film of 2015 and is still enjoyable to watch, that's all I can really ask of it, and that is going to be my expectations going into it.

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