Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Douglas
Have I Seen it Before: Oddly enough, this is the only Marvel movie so far that I somehow missed at the theater, although I have since caught in on DVD.
Did I Like It: Ok. So, here’s the thing.
It is ultimately unfair to judge a film through the prism of what it was during pre-production or its earliest development. David Lynch’s Return of the Jedi. Tim Burton’s Batman Forever. Patty Jenkins’ Thor: The Dark World*. And at the same time, it is hard to watch the final result and not think about the potential abdicated.
So, too is it with this movie. Edgar Wright had been attached to direct throughout pre-production, but eventually dropped out of the project, citing creative differences with Marvel. The resulting film directed by Peyton Reed is at the disadvantage. One wants to imagine what the film could have been under Wright, and determine that any flaws (like the protracted training sequence that plays like a cut scene from a video game tutorial) are a result of the studio interference.
It’s a lively comedy when judged within its own context, with just enough a caper feel to it to differentiate it from the rest of the Marvel oeuvre. It is largely buoyed by the undeniably engaging presence of Rudd in the lead role, and remnants of Wright’s influence on the film (he retains an Executive Producer and writing credit). Which I think is one of the better realities about our sometimes over-produced blockbuster system. So much of the work is done in the pre-production that the resulting film can never fully pull away from a vision about which the studio might have had second thoughts.
*Although, to be fair, had any of those auteurs actually made the films in question, it is reasonable to assume that the world wouldn’t have been that dark, Jedi might not quite return, and Batman would be finite in the temporal sense.