Yesterday, Marvel released a trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Netflix released theirs for Mute. One is the latest blockbuster entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the other, Netflix‘s latest foray into sci-fi. Both films share a special connection: Paul Rudd. As I watched the trailers back-to-back, I pondered which trailer has the best version of everyone’s favourite bumbling nice-guy. In the tradition of the great philosophers – Descartes, Seneca, Plato – I decided to investigate this quandary.
To do so, I had to set up some ground rules. The Rudds will be judged in four categories:
- Trailer quality
- Overall Rudd-ness
*A note on the Rudd Scale: Paul Rudd has a distinct personality. He’s usually the smart, quirky friend who throws out quips with laid-back ease and adorable charm. This is what we shall refer to as Full Rudd. Think of a film like Wanderlust as a touch point. Alternately, there have been films where he has been able to limit his Ruddness, like Gen-Y Cops, a Hong Kongese movie where he plays an FBI agent. This is Negative Rudd.*
Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang. As the titular character of Ant-Man, his involvement is maximum. Yet the trailer centres around his new sidekick, Wasp, which is good for both women and wasp communities. The trailer opens with Lang’s voiceover and he participates in many scenes: inside a microscopic van, surveying Wasp, and riding on the back of a fly. At one point he swims through a germ-infested body and that is possibly the ultimate form of involvement.
In the Mute, Rudd is not the main character and doesn’t appear in the trailer until the 31-second mark. He sits alone at a bar staring into the distance, which suggests that he is unengaged in proceedings. Though, later he becomes involved in some sort of scheme involving misadventure and surgery. He leaves his daughter at home to do so, which shows admirable commitment. He seems sufficiently involved and pops up in diverse places — a bar, kitchen, a house brandishing a wooden ornament — which means that he holds an active role in proceedings.
Ant-Man has an unfair advantage — we’ve seen him in the first film. He is an ex-con who had to forego his criminal ways to embrace the hero within and save the world. He’s a mischievous rascal with good intentions and better abs. We don’t learn much new information from the trailer, except that he shows envy towards Wasp’s wings, which is an undesirable character trait.
Rudd’s character in Mute is named Cactus Bill, possibly the greatest name of all time. He has a handlebar moustache, wears Hawaiian shirts, and runs some sort of underground medical centre. Cactus is a better dad than Ant-Man because he looks out for his daughter’s soda intake instead of whining to her about his job. It’s hinted that Cactus may be a bad guy but either way, he stands up to Alexander Skarsgård armed only with a tree branch, which shows bravery, a highly sought after character trait.
Verdict: In an upset, Mute Rudd wins the battle of character. Cactus Bill has the better name, shows bravery and that he’s a good father. Not even Ant-Man can shrink away from his superior character.
Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s trailer is typical Marvel. Safe, fun, and aimed at the largest possible audience. No one expects a nuanced deconstruction of western democracy in a movie about a hero that controls ants, just as no one expects to be served a Merlot with a Big Mac. Interspersed between constant cuts-to-black, there are some memorable moments: Michael Douglas using a skyscraper as luggage (don’t think about it too hard), Wasp dancing along a knife’s blade, and the appearance of a villain that resembles a Hunter from Destiny. Its theme song is reminiscent of cartoons in the ’90s, and most refreshingly it bucks the trend of revealing the entire plot.
Mute introduces Berlin in 2052. Where people dress like characters from a Wes Anderson film and live in a cyberpunk metropolis. Events are intentionally unclear as it cuts between disparate locations and shows characters who talk in only the vaguest terms. It includes a villain named Duck Teddington played by Justin Theroux, who not only has an amazing name but also looks like one of Philip Jennings’ disguises in The Americans. We are left with a collage of distinct images — from the haunted, mute Skarsgard to pole-dancing robots and blind gangsters with face-paint. The trailer hints at an interesting premise and leaves us with more questions than answers, which is a good thing.
The Ant-Man and the Wasp trailer is largely focused on the latter. However, we know from the first film that Scott Lang is Medium Rudd. His character is supposedly a rebel, but he doesn’t ever manage to shed that exoskeleton of loveable Ruddness. However, the trailer focuses on stern Rudd. It opens with a very superhero monologue about heroism and sacrifice and the few times he’s on screen he is mostly serious. A scene where he complains to Dr Pym about Wasp’s new suit gives a fleeting glimpse of his sarcasm and jealousy, two tent-poles of Full Rudd.
Exotic outfits and facial hair have always been markers of a Full Rudd performance. Anchorman, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later — now Mute. Cactus Bill also ensures his daughter has no soda, which shows maximum Rudd levels of care. But there is a flummoxing moment of Bipolar Rudd where Bill confronts Skarsgård’s Leo armed with a wooden log and delivers a threatening, witty remark. Forced to make a ruling, I contend that the threat is made in fear, and thus is markedly Pro Rudd behaviour. However, this is preceded by damning evidence of Negative Rudd conduct, when Duck says, “you need to maintain a sense of humour”. Full Rudd would never need to be reminded of this.
Verdict: Ant-Man and the Wasp depicts a stable Medium Rudd, while Mute fluctuates between extremes of non-Rudd and pro-Rudd behaviour. Ordinarily, this would tend to position Cactus Bill as a Medium Rudd performance. However, one must consider the flamboyant outfits and facial hair — two historical signposts of Full Rudd — and thus, must award Mute the victory.
Final Score: Mute 3 – 1 Ant-Man
That’s it! Mute takes out a close victory. Though, with over six-and-a-half million views (14x Mute), I don’t think Marvel will be losing any sleep over their loss in the Battle of the Rudds. It is our job to remember this momentous victory.
You can watch the trailer for Mute here and the trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp here. Mute releases on Netflix on February 23rd, and is directed by Duncan Jones. Ant-Man and the Wasp, directed by Peyton Reed, will be released in cinemas everywhere July 6th. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you thought in the comment section below, or on twitter @jayd3l.