This article contains major spoilers for Ant-Man.
When Edgar Wright departed Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man project after years of work, there was no shortage of internet outrage on the matter. When Peyton Reed of Yes Man and Bring It On stepped in to direct the film, he signed up for a hell of a lot of scrutiny.
The finished film has garnered plenty of positive reviews, though, and its opening weekend at the box office has proven the film to be a hit (although a smaller one by Marvel standards). One question remains, though – how would Edgar Wright’s version have been different to Peyton Reed’s completed film?
Here’s our breakdown of what elements came from which director’s tenure at the helm, from what we’ve managed to gleam.
Just how massive were the post-Edgar Wright Ant-Man rewrites? Did they rejig the entire story? Well, it would seem that the central ‘spine’ of the movie came from Wright’s initial script drafts with Joe Cornish.
According to a detailed article from the fine folk at io9, here’s some insight about Reed’s thoughts on the original draft:
“Reed described Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish’s original Ant-Man script as the ‘spine’ of the final movie. ‘It’s a heist movie, and it is sort of the passing the torch from Hank to Scott’, he said. ‘It’s this kind of bent mentor/pupil story’. But tonally, he says, the movie changed once the directors changed and Rudd and Adam McKay started reworking the script.”
Conclusion: it’s unclear exactly what these ‘tonal’ changes were, but the decision to focus the film on Hank passing the Ant-Man torch to Scott via a heist movie structure came from Wright and Cornish.
Peyton Reed came on board with Ant-Man without much time before production properly began. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, then, that the big casting decisions were already made. Indeed, you may remember that Rudd and Douglas were already cast when Reed joined up.
Another quote from the io9 article here: “Wright has had another, immense contribution to the final movie: He cast the main characters. ‘I mean we’ve cast additional actors since then’, Reed said, ‘but the core group are just beautifully cast. Like, to me, to me Hank Pym is one of the most compelling characters in the Marvel comics world and to have Michael Douglas play that guy where there’s just clearly a huge, grey area in this guy and… sometimes, with that character, you wonder if he’s sane. That’s perfect casting to me'”.
Conclusion: The big names were Wright, some more recent additions were Reed.
The visual world of Ant-Man treads a lot of entirely original ground for a Marvel movie. In our own interview with Peyton Reed, he confirmed that his own visual flourishes and ideas definitely helped shape the design of certain elements.
“When I came on, Shepherd Frankel became the production designer,” Reed told us. ”So, Shepherd and I worked really closely and designed. He designed all the Pym Tech stuff, all that stuff.”
“Russell Carpenter, the cinematographer, I brought on to the movie. Russell was someone I’d wanted to work with for a long time,” he added. “He was really into… like, I said ‘the shrinking stuff has to look as photorealistic as possible’… and we talked about macrophotography and all that stuff.”
Peyton Reed was present when the core designs for Pym Tech and the visual world were being developed, then. However, It would be remiss not to mention that Edgar Wright’s test footage from 2012 featured an Ant-Man suit and a visual style to the miniaturisation that was definitely reflected in the finished product.
Conclusion: A bit of both – Edgar’s early footage clearly had an influence, but it sounds like Peyton Reed was involved in the core discussions of Pym Tech design and creating the visual style of the shrunken-perspective environments.
Ant-Man has a memorable score that blends jazzy, heist-y motifs with a more classic superhero sound. And, as he mentioned when he spoke to him, Peyton Reed was directly involved at that stage of production.
“Then, you know, Christophe Beck did the score for the movie – who I’d worked with on Bring It On, my first movie”, Reed explained. “And I wanted a theme. I wanted a recognisable superhero theme. To me, it felt like a long time since I was a kid and Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie had that, such an identifiable John Williams theme.”
“And Chris, I felt like, just knocked it out of the park. And it’s a jazzy thing, and it has a very heist-y feel to it as well,” he elaborated.
Conclusion: Peyton Reed all the way on this one. Christophe Beck wasn’t involved until Reed came on board.
Hope van Dyne, as played by Evangeline Lilly, has a sizeable part to play in the finished film. She teaches Scott to punch, helps with all the missions and pops up during the credits, too.
Apparently, some of this came from Adam McKay and Paul Rudd’s post-Wright-departure rewrites. Here’s what io9 uncovered.
“Lilly explained that she approached Rudd while he and McKay were working on their draft and asked ‘hey, why don’t you beef up my character?’ The result is that Hope gets a larger arc in Reed’s movie, along with some ‘physical stuff’ that wasn’t in the Wright and Cornish draft.”
Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket is a less fully-fleshed-out character. Regardless, Stoll told io9 that his character was ‘pushed’ and ‘deepened’ by the post-Wright drafts.
Conclusion: Wright first introduced the characters, but it sounds like McKay and Rudd’s Reed-era re-writes certainly promoted at least one character..
The Quantum Realm
The Quantum Realm (known as the Microverse in the comics) is the scary Interstellar-ending-alike trippy tiny world where Paul Rudd’s Scott gets stuck in the film’s third act. When he ‘goes subatomic’ in a bid to defeat Yellowjacket he ends up in The Quantum Realm, perpetually shrinking until he uses his noggin to find a way out. Peyton Reed told Uproxx how this idea came to be in the film:
“Well, I came on about the same time that Adam McKay and Rudd were doing rewrites. And I’ve known McKay for some time and we talked on the phone and we were both really jazzed about the idea of, in the third act, in a movie in which we will have seen shrinking a bunch, let’s take it even further in the third act and introduce what, in the comics, was the Microverse, in what we call The Quantum Realm.”
Reed went on to mention that “creating this moment of self-sacrifice where he has to go into the quantum realm to save his daughter, that was something that was never in those drafts that Adam and I brought to it”.
“It owes a little bit to 2001,” Reed explained, “and then there’s a The Twilight Zone episode that Richard Matheson wrote called Little Girl Lost, where a little girl sort of falls into the wall. Something opens up and she’s in this whole other dimension. And it freaked me out as a kid, and I love the idea, so we did an inverse version of that where the dad is now in there and the daughter is back in reality.”
Conclusion: Mark this one in the Peyton Reed column. The Quantum Realm – and the stunning visual sequence it enables – only came about thanks to Reed and Adam McKay’s discussions.
In Ant-Man, Paul Rudd’s Scott goes on a mission to steal a vital piece of tech from an old Stark warehouse. But it turns out that it’s an Avengers Facility now and Anthony Mackie’s Falcon is on guard duty today.
Then follows some in-flight fighting with some miniaturisation thrown in, too. It’s a fun sequence, but one that jars a little due to its blatant nods and winks to fans of the wider Marvel cinematic universe. Most people would probably guess that this one wasn’t Edgar Wright’s idea, and they’d be right.
“Adam [McKay, who did rewrites after Wright left] came up with the idea that in every heist movie, there’s a trial by fire and they’ve got everything in line for the heist, but we need this one thing,” Reed told Uproxx.
“Adam pitched that idea of sending Scott on a mission for which he’s not quite prepared and he comes up against another Marvel character. That blew my mind, and particularity with that specific character [Falcon],” he added.
Speaking of his own opinions on the scene, Reed said: “that, to me, worked in a really organic way. It wasn’t like ‘oh, let’s put him up against this other guy’. It served a plot point; a purpose in our story.”
Conclusion: Adam McKay and Peyton Reed came up with this idea, resulting in a scene that has split opinion down the middle, it would seem.
Michael Peña’s tips
Here’s one that surprised this writer. Remember those two scenes where Michael Peña’s Luis told hilariously elongated stories before getting to a fairly simple point? They garner some of the biggest laughs in the film.
Well, here’s what Peyton Reed told Uproxx about them. “The other things that we really brought to it, when we started working with Michael Peña, if Scott’s going to make this decision to turn back to a life of crime and comes in and says ‘tell me about that tip,’ I love the idea of we created these ‘tip montages'”.
“That was something that never existed in the original drafts”, Reed confirmed, “and I wanted to bring to it. And the production writers at the time, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari, had been working with Paul, so they wrote those tip montages, which we then reprise at the end to tee up how the movie ends.”
Thus, some of the most off-the-wall humour in the film came from Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari’s drafts, under the stewardship of Peyton Reed and Paul Rudd. While these knowing cutaway gags initially seem like pure Edgar Wright, they actually came into the script a long time after his departure. We can assume, then, that Wright’s Stan Lee cameo (if he had one in mind) would have come at a different point, too.
Conclusion: Peyton Reed all the way, with the actual lines written by Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari.
As you know, Ant-Man has two credits stings. The mid-credits scene sees Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne finally get offered a chance to suit up. After a whole film’s worth of being held back by her worrywart father, she’s set to fulfil her destiny and become Wasp.
If you were looking to guess which bits were studio mandates, this scene may seem like a late-in-the-day Marvel Studios shoehorn jobbie. However, it was actually in the script from the start.
“It was really always planned to be at the end of this movie,” Peyton Reed told us. “Her arc is every bit as important as Scott’s arc in this movie, and this movie is about the formation of her as a hero, as much as it is to Scott. And that was important, to have in the movie.”
Conclusion: Edgar Wright’s tenure by the sounds of it. The idea certainly predates Reed’s involvement.
Ant-Man’s post-credits scene features Anthony Mackie’s Falcon and Chris Evans’ Captain America debating what to do with a newly-found Bucky. Seeing as Falcon says “I know a guy” (a direct call-back to a Michael Douglas line from earlier in the film), you might initially think this scene was written exclusively for Ant-Man.
It’s actually not. The scene is from the Russo brothers’ Captain America: Civil War, due out next year. Reed told us how the scene came to be at the end of the Ant-Man credits. “These [Civil War] dailies came down, and Kevin [Feige] said ‘come look at this stuff, look at this exchange – it’s interesting,’ and it feels like closure to what’s happening between those characters in our movie. And I love the idea, because I love that it ends with Mackie saying ‘I know a guy’ and then BOOM ‘Ant-Man will return,’ James Bond style, you know?”
So, the second sting wasn’t added until late in the day, and the idea for it came down directly from studio boss Kevin Feige.
Conclusion: Reed’s tenure, Feige’s initial idea, Russo brothers’ scene. Simple.
It’s a rough overview, certainly, but as many have concluded, Ant-Man is a mix of ideas and styles – although crucially, it was Peyton Reed on set directing the movie. Concept, casting and the ‘spine’ of the movie came from Wright and Cornish (we’d wager hard cash that Thomas The Tank Engine’s cameo was theirs too), but a lot of changes occurred during Reed, McKay and Rudd’s tenure at the helm.
Thanks to Uproxx, io9, and Peyton Reed.