UPDATE: Paul Rudd will star in Ant-Man.
ORIGINAL POST: Reports ran wild Wednesday that Marvel was about to cast Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, the first new superhero of the post-Avengers 2 era. To the layman, it probably sounded a bit funny. The last few Marvel heroes have trended young and buff: Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America. Even Chris Pratt went all Brad-Pitt-in-Troy once he got the lead role in Guardians of the Galaxy. Paul Rudd is one of those actors who doesn’t seem to age, but that’s partially because he seemed like an old soul — he’s always been a wry forty-something, even when he was in Clueless.
But Ant-Man was always going to be an eccentric proposition. Directed by cult favorite Edgar Wright, starring an off-mainstream character with a funny name. It’s an essential piece of Marvel Studios’ plan to carefully expand beyond its A-listers. Alongside Guardians and the long-rumored Dr. Strange movie, Ant-Man is vintage Weird Marvel. With Wright at the head, it seems likely to be more openly cartoonish than Marvel’s other films — a possibility confirmed by the Ant-Man test footage that was shown at Comic-Con. (You can find it online without too much difficulty.)
With that in mind, it’s hard to think of a better man for the job than Paul Rudd, who has a just-right mix of boyish good looks and everydude charisma. Rudd’s particular flavor of laid-back witty banter is different from, say, the over-caffeinated Robert Downey Jr. (Downey’s Iron man is the Jolt Cola to Rudd’s Dr. Pepper.) And although it’s still not clear which version of the character Rudd would be playing, the star of a movie called Ant-Man needs to achieve two key tasks:
1. Own up to the essential hilarity of a superhero named Ant-Man, whose main power is the ability to get really small.
2. Somehow convince us that Ant-Man is actually totally awesome, because think of everything you can do when you’re really small but you still have all your normal-size strength. (Two words: Ear canal. Two more words: Sucker Punch. Lots more words: Ant-Man could totally take out Captain America just by going into his ear canal and sucker punching his eardrums.)
It’s a different kind of superhero — particularly in the Marvel Studios mega-franchise, which has mostly focused on baseline powers like superstrength. Ant-Man requires a more subtle touch. And if you’re concerned that Paul Rudd can’t do action, keep in mind that Edgar Wright managed to make a convincing action hero out of Michael Cera (in Scott Pilgrim) and Nick Frost (in The World’s End). Rudd’s a Hemsworth by comparison.