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Director Terry Gilliam talks Marvel's "brilliant" but "predictable" Ant-Man

10.29.2015

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Terry Gilliam recently got a chance to see ANT-MAN, and he ended up sharing his opinion on the Marvel flick during a one-hour conversation with Sam Rubin for LiveTalksLA. While the director mostly enjoyed the film, he still had some issues with the Peyton Reed-directed movie.

Strangely enough, I watched ‘Ant-Man’ on the plane coming over here. Now, ‘Ant-Man’ I quite liked, I think there’s a lot of really good stuff in there. And technically, it’s brilliant. But it’s also predictable, ultimately. We know where it’s gonna go, so the structure and the shape is all there. And okay, they play with it in various ways. But, that’s my problem, I don’t get the surprise I used to get, I want to go and be more surprised.

Gilliam also went on to explain why he isn't a fan of shared cinematic universes and comic book movies in general.

I also worry when things become so repetitive, and now we’ve got to get all the Marvel universe dancing with each other, so Superman has now got to make love to Batman or something. And these are the things that create that complete and hermetically sealed world, [and that] really bothers me, because the Bible is more interesting, and the stories are more surprising, and actually more human...I was thinking about this the other day, I moan about this, but when I was younger it was westerns [that were popular]. But I even thought within a western, there’s a formula there, but there was still more places to play, there was more humanity — real humanity —  as opposed to an artificial, inflated, superhero [movie].

Although I get what Gilliam is saying, I don't think CBMs are any more predictable than many movies from other genres, such as horror and romantic-comedies, but I do love his comment about Superman having to now go make love to Batman. Do you agree with Terry Gilliam's comments on ANT-MAN and comic book movie?

ANT-MAN will debut on on Digital HD and Digital 3D on November 17th before being released on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD on December 8th, while its sequel ANT-MAN AND THE WASP has been scheduled to hit theaters on July 6, 2018.

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4:06PM on 10/31/2015
I can understand his frustration, and I think a lot of directors share it. Traditional directors are taught to make standalone stories. To finish what they started before the movie ends, then drop it and move on to something new. That's fine and all, but honestly it only addresses a fraction of the storytelling space that's possible. Serial storytelling is where it's at, and modern directors need to freakin accept it and get with the times.
I can understand his frustration, and I think a lot of directors share it. Traditional directors are taught to make standalone stories. To finish what they started before the movie ends, then drop it and move on to something new. That's fine and all, but honestly it only addresses a fraction of the storytelling space that's possible. Serial storytelling is where it's at, and modern directors need to freakin accept it and get with the times.
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4:58AM on 10/30/2015
I understand what he's saying and I think it also points to a larger problem than mere story predictability. The frustration I have with Marvel films is that there are just zero stakes, and even when they try and make the proceedings more serious (The Winter Soldier) it still doesn't really mean much in the end. Take Nick Fury's role in that film as an example. Halfway through the film I thought, "Whoa, this is actually going in a surprisingly dark, adult direction", but then sure enough, by
I understand what he's saying and I think it also points to a larger problem than mere story predictability. The frustration I have with Marvel films is that there are just zero stakes, and even when they try and make the proceedings more serious (The Winter Soldier) it still doesn't really mean much in the end. Take Nick Fury's role in that film as an example. Halfway through the film I thought, "Whoa, this is actually going in a surprisingly dark, adult direction", but then sure enough, by the third act, we're back to where we were at the start as far as that particular character is concerned. Another example: the fight between Iron Man and Thor in The Avengers. They smash each other violently, blast each other with energy, crash through trees... but ultimately it means nothing because neither of them are seriously injured at all. The whole thing just becomes candy floss. It reminds me of what Syndrome says in The Incredibles: "When everyone is super... no one will be." Anyway, I understand where hes coming from is what Im saying.
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6:28PM on 10/29/2015

I hate stories....they are are so predictable

The have a middle, beginning, and an end. They have an antagonist and a protagonist. There is conflict. Stories are so predictable......
The have a middle, beginning, and an end. They have an antagonist and a protagonist. There is conflict. Stories are so predictable......
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4:27PM on 10/29/2015
I can't speak first-hand because I still haven't seen Ant-Man (and I want to). What I do think though is that there is something about Marvel, unless it's something like Civl War, which has significant hype as being a gamechanger (not unlike Winter Soldier), or Guardians of the Galaxy, where the characters are so disconnected from the rest of the Marvel U that James Gunn has had surprisingly free reign to play around with his characters, there just isn't that urgency for me as a movie fan to
I can't speak first-hand because I still haven't seen Ant-Man (and I want to). What I do think though is that there is something about Marvel, unless it's something like Civl War, which has significant hype as being a gamechanger (not unlike Winter Soldier), or Guardians of the Galaxy, where the characters are so disconnected from the rest of the Marvel U that James Gunn has had surprisingly free reign to play around with his characters, there just isn't that urgency for me as a movie fan to want to check it out. Not because I don't think I'd enjoy it, the talent is there, but when it was in theaters I kept finding excuses to save my money, or go see something else.

This is one person's opinion. The serial nature of Marvel is both a brilliant idea and an easy way to fall into repetition. I don't think that formula is there for all comic-book movies. But I do think Marvel has written itself into a corner with some of their movies. I feel like I can already predict which ones are going to be important, and which ones are just place-holders until those movies come around.
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12:23PM on 10/29/2015

when people are playing with $100 million+,

they get conservative real fast. If the powers-that-be feel a formula is successful, they're not going to deviate from it simply because of the budget involved. That kind of second-guessing is going to trip up even top-end directors. I believe the majority of AGE OF ULTRON's problems were due to studio brass sticking their fingers in Joss Whedon's pot, even though he'd more than proved himself with the success of AVENGERS. If JOSS WHEDON couldn't get the brass off his back, what chance did
they get conservative real fast. If the powers-that-be feel a formula is successful, they're not going to deviate from it simply because of the budget involved. That kind of second-guessing is going to trip up even top-end directors. I believe the majority of AGE OF ULTRON's problems were due to studio brass sticking their fingers in Joss Whedon's pot, even though he'd more than proved himself with the success of AVENGERS. If JOSS WHEDON couldn't get the brass off his back, what chance did Edgar Wright have?

I agree with Terry Gilliam's assessment, but I understand why these movies became so formulaic. Hopefully with the Committee disbanded, some more daring storytelling can invade the MCU.
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12:17PM on 10/29/2015

Bible?

He lost me when he started talking about the Bible. How can you compare the two things? One has nothing to do with the other. They aren't comparable. Its like saying I didn't like Friday 13th because it didn't have as good a story as Driving Miss Daisy. Bible Cinematic Universe anyone?
He lost me when he started talking about the Bible. How can you compare the two things? One has nothing to do with the other. They aren't comparable. Its like saying I didn't like Friday 13th because it didn't have as good a story as Driving Miss Daisy. Bible Cinematic Universe anyone?
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12:03PM on 10/29/2015
I like Ant-Man a lot because in some ways it's like the first Iron Man movie. Sure, Ant-Man is formulaic but it somehow feels fresh and exciting. I had a blast with Ant-Man unlike The Avengers Age of Ultron which wasn't a bad movie but it was too serious for its own good.
I like Ant-Man a lot because in some ways it's like the first Iron Man movie. Sure, Ant-Man is formulaic but it somehow feels fresh and exciting. I had a blast with Ant-Man unlike The Avengers Age of Ultron which wasn't a bad movie but it was too serious for its own good.
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11:54AM on 10/29/2015
I completely agree with his comments. I hate to say it because I am fan, but the MCU has the most predictable slate of movies. Every movie they have produced, except for Winter Soldier, has followed the same three-act structure:
Act 1: We're introduced to our hero (either for the first time or we get an update on them since last we saw them). We're also introduced to the villain and mcguffin of the film. Act 1 usually ends with the first confrontation of the hero and villain (or
I completely agree with his comments. I hate to say it because I am fan, but the MCU has the most predictable slate of movies. Every movie they have produced, except for Winter Soldier, has followed the same three-act structure:
Act 1: We're introduced to our hero (either for the first time or we get an update on them since last we saw them). We're also introduced to the villain and mcguffin of the film. Act 1 usually ends with the first confrontation of the hero and villain (or minions).
Act 2: Hero learns more about the mcguffin and it's importance. They also learn why the villain wants the mcguffin and what can/will happen when the villain gets it. Hero launches a plan to get the mcguffin. Act 2 ends with a battle between hero and villain where the villain ends up with the mcguffin.
Act 3: Hero retreats and regroups. Formulates a plan to go after villain and stop him/her and get mcguffin to destroy it. Montage where hero puts plan together and then goes to a final battle with villain. Movie ends with hero winning, defeating villain, and getting the mcguffin.
Denouement: Hero discusses with colleagues what a good job they did. What the ramifications of these events will be moving forward. Movie ends on a happy note.

Aside from Winter Soldier, which frankly completely changed the MCU's story structure, name any movie that didn't follow this same structure. I hate to say it, but as fun as the MCU films are, they are very predictable at this point.
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4:34PM on 10/29/2015
Hence why Winter Soldier is the number 1 MCU movie in my eyes. You could take the "superheroness" our of Winter Soldier and it would still be a great movie.
Hence why Winter Soldier is the number 1 MCU movie in my eyes. You could take the "superheroness" our of Winter Soldier and it would still be a great movie.
11:43AM on 10/29/2015

It's all very simple....

If other genres were meant to be as successful as CBMs, they would be. No one if forcing audiences to watch CBMs and no one is making less of other genres. In fact, it's the other way around. Other genres were suffering to begin with, and CBMs have given this age of cinema some much needed fun and entertainment. If other genres made great movies, they'd be bigger than CBMs anyhow. For example, Jurassic World. You want another? The Martian. Heck, the two highest grossing films of all time aren't
If other genres were meant to be as successful as CBMs, they would be. No one if forcing audiences to watch CBMs and no one is making less of other genres. In fact, it's the other way around. Other genres were suffering to begin with, and CBMs have given this age of cinema some much needed fun and entertainment. If other genres made great movies, they'd be bigger than CBMs anyhow. For example, Jurassic World. You want another? The Martian. Heck, the two highest grossing films of all time aren't even CBMs. And then we'll have The Force Awakens this year! I don't see Iron Man in that one. Simply put, CBMs are massive because they're just that damn good as cinematic experiences for the whole family.
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11:58AM on 10/29/2015
Doesn't mean they aren't predictable. The dollar-value success of the films have nothing to do with Terry Gilliam's comments. He's speaking strictly to the storytelling of the movies. And he's right, MCU is predictable because they use the exact same formula for all of their movies.

In all honest, the only movies I can think of that didn't have MCU's same three-act structure is Winter Soldier, Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, and Man of Steel. Aside from that, all CBM's have been the same
Doesn't mean they aren't predictable. The dollar-value success of the films have nothing to do with Terry Gilliam's comments. He's speaking strictly to the storytelling of the movies. And he's right, MCU is predictable because they use the exact same formula for all of their movies.

In all honest, the only movies I can think of that didn't have MCU's same three-act structure is Winter Soldier, Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, and Man of Steel. Aside from that, all CBM's have been the same and predictable since Iron Man debuted.
9:42PM on 10/29/2015
@ MickLoud Oh, I'm not arguing about it being predictable, because they are, and sometimes to a mind-numbing extent. My point was, other genres make the same mistakes, but just aren't as fun or as entertaining to a wider audience as CBMs are. Gilliam is right, but his statements aren't unique or insightful, no offence. It's like saying whales are big or mountains are tall...everyone has known this for ages, they just love the spectacle that exists despite of the predictability.
@ MickLoud Oh, I'm not arguing about it being predictable, because they are, and sometimes to a mind-numbing extent. My point was, other genres make the same mistakes, but just aren't as fun or as entertaining to a wider audience as CBMs are. Gilliam is right, but his statements aren't unique or insightful, no offence. It's like saying whales are big or mountains are tall...everyone has known this for ages, they just love the spectacle that exists despite of the predictability.
11:08AM on 10/29/2015
I still think Ant-Man was a better film than Age of Ultron. It was just very refreshing, fun, small scale, and the fact that this film didn't require its hero to save the entire world was a nice change of pace in terms of comic book films.
I still think Ant-Man was a better film than Age of Ultron. It was just very refreshing, fun, small scale, and the fact that this film didn't require its hero to save the entire world was a nice change of pace in terms of comic book films.
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11:05AM on 10/29/2015

That's exactly why I liked ANT-MAN so much.

They stuck to the formula and made it feel fresh thanks to the execution. The performances, the humour... even the way they wrote the characters' personalities and their bonds with one another.
They stuck to the formula and made it feel fresh thanks to the execution. The performances, the humour... even the way they wrote the characters' personalities and their bonds with one another.
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