The recent release of Ant-Man and the Wasp got me thinking about what could have been with the first installment in the Ant-Man franchise. Back before production officially started on that film, acclaimed director Edgar Wright was attached to direct. But because of “creative differences” (he said, “I wanted to make a Marvel movie but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie”), he was eventually replaced at the helm by Peyton Reed.
Reed’s films haven’t been terrible, by any means. But they’ve just been okay. It would have been amazing to see what kind of ingenuity Wright could have brought to the project.
Wright has a near-perfect track record on feature films. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Baby Driver are all at least 8/10s, with The World’s End being just a notch below them. The reasons for this are a mix between Wright’s writing and directing abilities along with his ability to cast well.
Ant-Man would have been the perfect film for him to break into filmmaking in the U.S. Before Baby Driver came out, he did the Cornetto Trilogy in the U.K. and Scott Pilgrim in Canada. Ant-Man was supposed to come out before Baby Driver. In fact, the reason he made Baby Driver when he did was because of his departure from Ant-Man.
But to get back to the quote from Wright that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, what exactly did he mean by “an Edgar Wright movie”?
Well, if you’ve seen any of his films, then you know that he isn’t particularly interested in portraying the world in a realistic way. Apart from the fact that three out his five movies deal with concepts that don’t actually exist in the real world, the way he presents his films is very stylized.
Take the opening of Baby Driver, for instance. It takes place in the real world, but it is synchronized to the soundtrack. In an interview with Christopher Nolan (yes, that Christopher Nolan. Yes, I immensely enjoyed that interview), he even describes a couple of scenes in the movie that had to be rewritten because of the musical accompaniment. It’s almost as if the technical aspects come first and the story comes second for him, because he is such a master of his craft and has curated a unique and personal style.
While the stories that he tells are engaging, it is the way they are presented visually that makes them so great. To wit, possibly my favorite moment in and of Wright’s films comes from The World’s End, which is probably his worst movie. It’s when the character of Andy says that he will get a water at a pub, when everyone else is getting a beer. Wright takes a scene that could easily have gone from, “I’ll take a water” to the five friends sitting at a table. Instead, he makes it visually appealing and hilarious at the same time.
Now, back to Ant-Man. Again, it was good, but not anywhere close to great. This is probably because of Wright’s exit. He is still credited as a writer and producer on the movie, so some parts almost seem as if Peyton Reed took specific ideas that Wright was planning and tried to do them, but failed. Specifically, the scenes where Luis tells a story. From the long takes, to the editing, to the transitions with sound, it looks like a scene straight out of an Edgar Wright movie.
That begs the question of what the movie would have looked like if it had been all Wright’s work. The answer to that, we’ll unfortunately never know. But it probably would never have had a dull moment and would not have been like any superhero movie we’ve ever seen.
It’s a real shame that Marvel didn’t want to take a risk on Edgar Wright. It was a year after Guardians of the Galaxy, but before this new wave in Phase 3 of the MCU where each movie has its own style and feel. We probably could have gotten an Edgar Wright Ant-Man if it had been planned to be released during this era. Instead we’re left thinking, wondering, and dreaming about what could have been.