This weekend sees the release of Marvel’s latest celluloid adventure, “Ant-Man.” Despite initial misgivings, many predict the film to be both a financial and critical success, and so far, the prognosticators are proving correct: “Ant-Man” is expected to earn $65 million over the weekend, and it’s garnered a 77 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes (with The Post’s Kyle Smith saying, “ ‘Ant-Man’ is the only superhero movie you need to see this summer”).
Whether or not it tops the domestic box office this weekend, “Ant-Man” is poised to become yet another victory for Marvel Studios. But it raises the question: Why does Marvel keep winning? We think we know the answer.
Most people are under the impression Marvel Studios makes superhero movies. And this is not necessarily wrong — after all, the heroes in these films wear capes, fly around, have superstrength and save the world every few months or so.
But Marvel also masterfully traffics in other genres — and this is why the studio succeeds. Each film finds the company delving into a different genre, thereby offering something for everyone. Think we’re off our rockers? Just consider the following:
‘Iron Man’ (2008)
Upon closer examination, the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, surprisingly, a character study. It introduces us to billionaire defense contractor and snarky genius Tony Stark, played by a pitch-perfect Robert Downey Jr., who, after being kidnapped by and escaping from a band of terrorists using his weapons, has a crisis of conscience. While most people would perhaps go into therapy, Stark takes another course of action: He builds a rocket-powered suit of armor that enables him to take on the bad guys.
When the Norse god of thunder came to the big screen, he found himself in conflict with none other than his own brother, Loki, the god of mischief. Loki’s machinations to have Thor banished from their home world of Asgard and stripped of power are the sort of diabolical schemes found in the most popular Shakespearean tragedies. The film was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who knows a thing or two about Shakespeare.
‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ (2011)
Before Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) was injected with a “super-soldier serum” and took on the mantle of “Captain America,” he was just another kid from Brooklyn who wanted to serve his country. He certainly got his wish in “The First Avenger,” which is essentially a World War II flick.
‘The Avengers’ (2012)
Marvel’s all-star effort assembles Earth’s mightiest heroes to combat a threat no one else could defeat. Joss Whedon’s masterpiece is full of hilarious one-liners and character development, but that’s all really just icing on the cake that is an alien invasion flick. Wormholes! Flying whale-slugs! Hive-brained invaders! All determined to take over our planet!
‘Thor: The Dark World’ (2013)
You didn’t think Marvel would tread the exact same ground for its sequels, did you? Though not as beloved as its predecessor, “The Dark World” fully fleshes out Thor’s world of Asgard, as well as some of the other so-called Nine Realms. It’s a fantastic fantasy approach handled with a deft touch by “Game of Thrones” director Alan Taylor.
‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ (2014)
Cap’s return finds him questioning his allegiance to SHIELD, an agency that doesn’t quite seem to be living up to its promise of protecting the world. Co-star Robert Redford, of the ’70s paranoid conspiracy classic “Three Days of the Condor,” lends an air of gravitas to what turns out to be an effective and timely political thriller. The film has repercussions that would eventually be felt across all future Marvel movies.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014)
Marvel delves into the far reaches of space with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a colorful, rollicking space opera with a liberal dose of slapstick comedy. Featuring a lineup that includes a living tree and a wisecracking raccoon with a gun fetish, the Guardians are Marvel’s weirdest big-screen team-up so far. Yet it all works, thanks to an upbeat and nostalgic pop soundtrack that meshes well with its cosmic environment.
If “The Avengers” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” went big, “Ant-Man,” naturally, goes small. But that doesn’t mean the stakes are any less high. Cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is recruited by Michael Douglas’ Dr. Hank Pym to don the Ant-Man suit, break into a place and steal some stuff. Of course, Lang can’t do it alone, so he calls his ex-con buddies to help pull off a heist that could save the world. “Ant-Man” belongs in the pantheon of such great caper flicks as “Ocean’s Eleven,” “The Italian Job” and “The Thomas Crown Affair.”
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