In 2008, Marvel began their ambitious interconnecting cinematic universe. What at first was a gamble became a model that other studios scrambled to imitate, though most attempts to mimic Marvel’s success have resulted in diminishing returns. But success hasn’t necessarily bred complacency in Marvel. They continue to take chances in bringing some of their lesser known heroes to the big screen. Their first real gamble, Guardians of the Galaxy, yielded massive returns and became one of the biggest movies of 2014. Their second major gamble, this year’s Ant-Man, was a much bigger risk than Guardians, with its original director Edgar Wright leaving weeks before the film began production prompting all sorts of speculation about the stability of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Director Peyton Reed stepped into an almost thankless job of replacing a widely popular director in a potential geek franchise. No matter the outcome, it seemed as if Reed would take all the flack for the film’s shortcomings and Wright would receive all the praise for its triumphs. Thankfully for all involved that wasn’t the case. Ant-Man was a worldwide hit, grossing over $500 million at the box office and now Reed is set to direct the sequel. Reed, widely respected by many, has finally earned his due as a major filmmaker, though he’s previously crafted such underrated films like Bring It On and Down With Love.
Like Peyton Reed, Paul Rudd has been widely respected for a long time, but the venerable actor has never made the true breakthrough to leading man. That finally changed when Rudd was cast as Scott Lang in Ant-Man. Now Rudd wouldn’t just be headlining a major blockbuster, he was going to be a goddamn superhero. When the film ran into its early production troubles, Rudd along with writer-director Adam McKay polished the script by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish in order for it to fit within the confines of MCU, which was apparently one of the reasons that Wright departed the film.
The film itself is a lot of fun, featuring some of the best special effects that Marvel has ever employed for its superheroes. But it’s the humor and lighthearted sense of fun that makes Ant-Man such a marvel to behold. Rudd brings his plentiful charisma to the screen and is aided by wonderful supporting performances by Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, and a scene-stealing Michael Peña as Luis, Scott’s former cellmate in prison. Ant-Man also stands out from its MCU brethren by making its climactic battle more personal than the typical end of the world scenario that has become expected from the Marvel films.
Now Ant-Man is out on Blu-Ray and DVD with a combo pack that features numerous special features, though none of them properly chronicle the tumultuous genesis of Marvel’s miniature hero. That being said, the special features still provide a nice look behind the scenes of the Marvel machine, from the preplanning to production of the film. One thing that repeatedly comes through on the making-of documentaries is the enthusiasm of Peyton Reed. A longtime comic nerd, Reed seems to be having a blast getting to play in this world, and it comes through whenever he’s talking about the film or the larger Marvel Universe in general. Reed’s affability helps explain why Ant-Man is such good natured fun. The very same, however, could be said of Rudd, with multiple outtakes on the gag reel featuring the star breaking into impromptu dances when a take falls apart.
One particular featurette focused on the film’s special effects presents a look at the balance between practical and computer effects that Reed and company employed in making the miniscule appear massive. That combined with the glimpses of the impressive stunt work and the varied features of the suit itself, which Reed constantly refers to as the best of the Marvel suits, illustrates the level of effort and craftsmanship that goes into these movies, not merely a cookie cutter approach.
The audio commentary track featuring Rudd and Reed is informative and funny. For those wondering about the changes that took place after Edgar Wright’s departure, both Rudd and Reed are open in what scenes were later additions and which began with the original script. The two have a genuine rapport that comes across in their conversations, needling each other about various aspects of the film. Towards the end of their commentary track, Reed presses Rudd about detail on the upcoming Civil War. With secrecy at the forefront of Rudd’s mind, the actor refuses to give a straight answer – he’s apparently on both Iron Man and Captain America’s side. Where many audio commentary tracks are dry and dull, it’s refreshing to hear two people genuinely enjoying each other’s company while dishing information and cracking jokes.
But for a certain segment of fans, there’s one key element missing on the Ant-Man Blu-Ray. A few months ago, Peyton Reed appeared on The Best Show, a weekly internet radio show hosted by Tom Scharpling, a longtime friend of Reed. During their conversation, Scharpling talked about flying to Atlanta to film a scene where Scott Lang purchases a lottery ticket from his convenience store clerk. Reed claimed that the deleted scene in question would be on the Blu-Ray. As a longtime FOT (Friend of Tom), this was a most welcomed revelation – Tom Scharpling in a Marvel movie! But when I popped in the disc and browsed the deleted scenes, I was dismayed to find that no such scene was to be found. Of course, much that occurs on The Best Show doesn’t necessarily take place in reality, and Peyton Reed confessed to an elaborate joke where years prior he called into the show posing as a Lucasfilm employee dishing out inaccurate information about a new Star Wars film. As much as I wondered if Reed was playing another ruse on the people, Scharpling recently took to Twitter to inform everyone that his deleted scene didn’t make the cut.
Ant-Man continues Marvel’s tradition of bringing big action with a sharp sense of humor, and these special features make it seem as if that’s something that carries over into the behind-the-scenes elements of the MCU. Aside from Scharpling’s deleted scene, there’s only one other thing that I feel is missing: the Marvel One-Shot. Those short films that started appearing on their Blu-Rays a few years ago have seemingly just disappeared. It’s a shame because those were always interesting and helped further flesh out the larger MCU. For those who enjoyed Ant-Man and love the larger MCU, the Ant-Man Blu-Ray is a welcome addition the expansive Marvel collection.