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Ant-Man has had a rocky road to production. But mark it down! Today is the day production on the Marvel solo superhero adventure begins, so says its director Peyton Reed.
Normally, the start of a new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be unrepentant cause for fanfare among movie fans. After all, as the massive success of Guardians of the Galaxy shows, we're still all about our superheroes. However, Peyton Reed is stepping into a project that seems destined to be a loser for him no matter what.
The first earnest attempt to bring Ant-Man into the fold of their developing movie presence began in 2003, when Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and Joe Cornish (Attack The Block) got the go ahead to create a treatment of a could-be film for Artisan Entertainment, which at that time owned the rights. By the spring of 2006, those rights had reverted back to Marvel Studios, which promptly brought Wright and Cornish on board to work out the script. Wright was also secured to helm the eventual film. Still, it took a long time for cameras to finally roll on Ant-Man.
In early 2008, Edgar Wright confessed the script was done. But more than a year later, it was rumored that the story of a man who could manipulate his size was being eyed by Pixar as an animated film. Over the next few years, Wright would helm Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and The World's End, along the way throwing out breadcrumbs about his promised Ant-Man. He told us his Marvel movie would be a comedy. He told us his Ant-Man would be "a bad-ass secret agent." He teased the potential of more than one Ant-Man in his movie! Then he bailed, reportedly over "creative differences."
From there, Marvel was left scrambling to replace him, and considered helmers from Adam McKay (Anchorman) to Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland), Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies) to Rawson Thurber (We're The Millers), David Wain (Wanderlust) to Peyton Reed (Yes Man). Reed finally took the job it seemed Marvel couldn't give away. And no matter how good Ant-Man may turn out, it might not matter for Reed.
Wright worked on the Ant-Man script for more than a decade. He cast the film. He shot test-footage. He approved the concept art. Then, with weeks before production was expected to begin, he walked away. We'll never know what Wright's Ant-Man would have looked like. But with as strong a style as his films have, many expect we'll get a pretty close look with Reed's version. This sucks for Reed, because no matter how good Ant-Man might turn out, it's unlikely movie fans will give him credit for that. If it's awesome, he'll likely be viewed by fanboys/girls as a hired gun. If it's not amazing, he'll likely be blamed for taking the job at all.
Personally, I like Reed's work. Yes Man, Bring It On and Down With Love have a jaunty and irreverent energy that makes them fun and engaging. I suspect, he'll be able to take up this dropped helm and make Ant-Man a likewise rousing ride. But if he's going to sell people that this is his Ant-Man, not Wright's, he needs to start laying that down now. We'll be looking to Twitter, #Antman.
Ant-Man opens July 17th, 2015.