ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

When it comes to the new trailer for Ant-Man, it's fair to say that the response has been...mixed. For everyone who's already totally ready to get in line to watch Paul Rudd miniaturize himself - which, full disclosure, very much includes this writer - there's someone who's yet to be convinced by Marvel's latest broadening of their superhero template.

Now, sure, a whole lot of the criticisms that have flown the trailer's way are more to do with the replacement of Edgar Wright as director, the lack of the usual Marvel action, and the awkwardness of the name change joke - and we may well not find out if they're justified until the movie's release on July 17. For anyone who's concerned about the movie being too much of a risk, though - and too much of a break from the established Marvel formula - I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at some of Marvel's previous cinematic gambles.

After all, not only did they all pay off - but the reason why they did might just change the way you look at that Ant-Man trailer.

First up...

1. Guardians of the Galaxy Was Pretty Out There

And not just because they cast Andy Dwyer...
And not just because they cast Andy Dwyer...

It's easy to forget, now that its made a veritable butt-load of box office bucks, all the while garnering the kind of critical acclaim usually reserved for independent European dramas, but Guardians of the Galaxy was never seen as a sure-fire hit.

Sure, a lot of us were super-excited to see it, but it was still a zany sci-fi epic, featuring a talking raccoon and an anthropomorphic tree, only loosely clothed in the trappings of the Marvel Universe. Iron Man 4 it was not, is the point.

So, the fact that so many people looked past an offbeat idea, and a less established comic-book property, to see the awesome adventure Guardians turned out to be? That's all down to Marvel having faith in our ability to do so.

Well, that and the fact that the movie is awesome.

Guardians 'only' made $772 million worldwide, though - so compared to the more obviously successful The Avengers, it didn't do all that well, right?

Well, sure - but don't forget...

2. The Avengers Was a Huge Risk

"Sayest thou what?"
"Sayest thou what?"

That's right, back in the day, not everyone was sure that The Avengers (now the third highest grossing movie of all time) was going to work at all.

I mean, remember that Marvel Comic-Con panel, back in 2010?

Yup, that one.
Yup, that one.

Even at that, Kevin Feige felt the need to address the skepticism (his words) that the movie could actually get made.

After all, a major superhero team-up movie might now seem like a safe bet (hello Batman vs. Superman), but back when The Avengers was first announced, it was a whole other kind of gamble. I mean, sure, there was a Justice League movie, back in 1997 - but that was less the beginning of an epic expanded universe, and more a failed TV pilot (as well as pretty darned awful).

The point being? Sure, Iron Man had done well at the box office, and, sure, Marvel had a butt-load of properties to explore, but at that point the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still yet to be prove itself the consistent blockbuster-factory it is today - and not everyone was sure they even wanted to see an expanded cinematic superhero universe. After all, it hadn't really been done before.

And yet, Marvel had faith in their ability to create something new, and that if it was worth watching, people would buy into it wholeheartedly.

And, to prove it, they made a movie about...

3. Captain America, A Hero No-One Liked

"Wait, what?"
"Wait, what?"

Yup, strange as it may seem now that Chris Evans has charisma-ed him up a couple of thousand notches, but Captain America wasn't exactly everyone's idea of a natural cinematic superhero.

Sure, he was a comic-book icon, but for a world used to the relatively anti-establishment Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men, Cap was widely seen as a kind of lame, old-fashioned sort of superhero - one bearing a lot of the same burdens that Superman does, by virtue of effectively symbolizing America itself.

Marvel's response? To give him his own solo movie, set it during World War Two, and directly address the idea of him being an anachronistic war hero who (by The Avengers) most people don't believe could cut it in the modern world.

And, then, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, they somehow managed to turn him into a symbol of both traditional, conservative American values, and bad-ass, anti-establishment rebellion. At the same time.

All in the space of three years.

And the reason that worked?

4. Marvel Believed in an Expanded Universe, When No-One Else Did

Even if that Cap costume is kind of silly...
Even if that Cap costume is kind of silly...

Crucially, it wasn't just Captain America that was seen as a big risk - the whole approach Marvel took to their Phase 1 movies was. The introduction of Cap and Thor in their own solo movies, all as part of an interlocking introduction to The Avengers, was seen by some as a gamble doomed to fail. After all, The Incredible Hulk's relative failure suggested that there wasn't all that much audience appetite for lesser known Marvel heroes who weren't played by Robert Downey Jr.

And yet, both Captain America and Thor have spawned popular, commercially successful franchises in their own rights - and allowed Marvel to move away from an Iron Man movie-centered business plan.

The key reason? We, as an audience, are totally on board with the idea of an expanded universe where every movie adds up to a greater whole - the MCU.

Surely, though, that success was all just the result of Marvel's original breakout star...Tony Stark? Well, partly, sure, but it's important not to forget that...

5. Iron Man Was the Biggest Risk of All

And not because of all the staring...
And not because of all the staring...

That's right - Iron Man, the golden boy of Marvel Studios' cinematic output, was once far from a sure thing. Before Iron Man kicked off Marvel's movie extravaganza, there was a whole lot of doubt floating round about whether the story of Tony Stark, billionaire playboy and arms salesman, would hit a nerve with a movie-going public used to more down to earth heroes like Spider-Man.

Add in the fact that the hero had never historically crossed over into mainstream popular culture to the extent of the likes of Spidey, Wolverine, Batman and Superman, and Marvel had themselves a pretty risky venture - to say nothing of the fact that they had pretty much gone it alone to make it in the first place.

And yet, by focusing on casting the role of Tony perfectly, rather than grabbing the biggest name available, and by providing a genuinely engaging origin story, a cinematic universe was born.

And the key to that working - and all of Marvel's other movies, for that matter?

Marvel Is Willing to Take Risks That No-One Else Would

Between creating a cinematic universe, filling it with thunder gods, 1940s super-soldiers and talking raccoons, hiring RDJ to play a hero most people hadn't heard of, and then putting them all into a superhero team together, Marvel has never been afraid to push the boundaries of what superhero movies can be.

So, Ant-Man?

Sure, it isn't going to be Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or Iron Man 3, and it might well not be the superhero movie we're expecting, or even asking for.

But take another look at its trailer...

...because, sure, it might have had a troubled production, and it might not look like any other Marvel movie - but that's because it's a gamble.

And, so far, every one of those that Marvel has made has totally paid off.

What do you guys think, though?


Will Marvel's Ant-Man gamble pay off?


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