Ant-Man shouldn’t work. Just from a conceptual standpoint, a hero who can shrink and who hangs around with insects sounds a little goofy when compared to the exploits of the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This isn’t Asgard or SHIELD and there’s no army of alien invaders or HYDRA soldiers with which to contend, so how could it ever feel as important or impactful as other recent Marvel films? Add in the drama over the loss of the film’s original writer/director (and strongest advocate) Edgar Wright, and the resulting film could have been an inconsequential mess, throwing a goofy idea together with a handful of jokes and some cheesy action just to be another cog (about a straight, white male, of course) in the Marvel/Disney machine. That Ant-Man succeeds at all is a testament to the creativity of Marvel’s storytelling and the strength of its cast, but more than that it’s perhaps Marvel’s most flat-out fun film to date.
If there was one criticism that could be leveled against 2012’s The Avengers, it might be that the film was just a little too perfect. I know that sounds like a ridiculous thing to say, but bear with me. The second highest grossing film of all time was almost universally beloved and forever changed the landscape of the film industry with its success, but it was perhaps a little too polished. The action was too slick, the one-liners too well-timed and well-written, the effects too impressive, the heroes too heroic and the villains too villainous. For Avengers: Age of Ultron, the second Avengers film, the eleventh movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Joss Whedon’s second and final outing in the MCU, that perfection is intentionally avoided and the result is a film that’s messier, dirtier, more complicated, and ultimately a richer and better film than its predecessor.
*Update: I was informed by author Amy Pascale on Twitter that Joss Whedon: The Biography is not an “authorized biography” and have edited this review to remove any references to it as such. I apologize for the mistake.
I had some mixed feelings about reading a biography of Joss Whedon. For starters, I rarely read non-fiction (just as a matter of personal preference), but what made me more reluctant was my personal admiration and loyalty to Joss, the man who has created so many of my favorite stories over the past fifteen years or so. The man who created “cult classics” like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly in addition to writing and directing The Avengers, one of the most successful films of all time, is certainly a subject ripe for study, but what to expect from a biography? Could it capture the essence of this Lord of the Geeks that his fans all know and love, while managing to explain to the uninitiated why he’s worthy of our praise, while managing to find something new that will surprise even his most devoted followers or that could give a deeper meaning to his work? While I found the book to be an enjoyable read, the bigger answers to these questions turned out to be something of a mixed bag.