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OPINION | Paul Rudd is the MVP of the MCU

How the celebrated comic actor bought levity (and hope) to the Avengers team

Marvel Studios' AVENGERS: ENDGAME..Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Warning: SPOILERS ahead

Earth’s mightiest heroes have yet again saved us from obliteration – until the next threat, at least – but for a super team to successfully come together and ultimately prevail, it needs that initial spark of an idea to set the wheels in motion. For all of Tony Stark’s vast, almost savant like expertise in the realms of physics and electronic engineering, and Bruce Banner’s work as a seasoned physicist, the reason for Avengers: Endgame’s victorious denouement is down to perhaps the least likely of heroes. Having previously been stuck in the quantum realm for five years due to the actions of deranged intergalactic despot Thanos and his finger snap, Ant-Man AKA Scott Lang (AKA Paul Rudd) is spit back out into civilisation a mere five hours in his time, causing him to recognise that the subatomic shrinking location he’d just occupied might allow for time travel, thus reversing the devastation caused by the universe’s aforementioned purple adversary.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) chancing upon the Ant-Man suit in the character’s first adventure in 2015

That the ex-convict, career safe-cracker and all-round goofball Lang is even in that hugely instrumental position is both testament to those brilliant story arc strategists – Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige must have had a hand here – and ultimately the actor behind the mask – or in this case, helmet. When Paul Rudd was announced as the lead in the forthcoming (then) Edgar Wright adaptation of Ant-Man, there were collective nods of approval within the online community and Marvel fan base. The role was certainly a little outside of the actor’s predominantly comedic resume, but instinctively, he seemed the ideal match to  breathe life into a character who’s even outlandish by Marvel’s standards (he’s able to shrink to molecule size and has telepathic command of the ant kingdom).

Rudd off camera with co-star Evangeline Lilly and director Peyton Reed in Ant-Man and the Wasp

For Rudd’s part, not only did he excel in the role during that first solo adventure, but he also helped shape the character to further reflect his own sensibilities in the rewrite process – alongside previous comedy collaborator Adam McKay – when replacement director to Wright, Peyton Reed, came on board at the eleventh hour. The results spoke for themselves. Rudd was embraced by fans – worldwide box office was over half a billion dollars – and the actor subsequently went on to steal the majority of the brief screen time he had in Captain America: Civil War, before scoring big again in last year’s follow-up to his first solo adventure, Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Chris Evans, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Rudd, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in Captain America: Civil War.

Like many of those other impeccable performers who have collectively helped establish the MCU, Rudd has repeatedly shown that he is more than equipped with the necessary skills in not only approaching the material with a lightness of touch, but also having that ability to bring a little depth and seriousness when called for. The latter is particularly evident in his early scenes in Endgame, where Lang despairingly wanders around a grief-stricken San Francisco, desperately in in search of his young daughter, who may or may not have survived Thanos’ genocide. But he’s also fabulous as the sharp comic relief further in, especially during the scenes of the Avengers debating the consequences and rules of time travel. Rudd manages to lift all those wisecrack moments on screen because he’s the kind of dependable and present actor who can fit perfectly within a tight ensemble.
Following his early breakthrough, Lang’s subsequent trajectory in the third act of the lengthy Endgame does become pretty rote as he joins the roster of heroes engaged in battle and rescuing colleagues from the destruction around them. But Rudd’s contribution to the film, and indeed the whole universe, shouldn’t be understated.

Lang alongside Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) in Avengers: Endgame

As the main catalyst in driving the plot and turning around the earth’s misfortunes, the levity and positivity Rudd brings to Endgame is certainly a contributing factor in lifting it above the previous instalment, which although impressive and highly watchable, sometimes lacked a little brightness in the almost unrelenting gloom.

Where Ant-Man goes next is anyone’s guess – there hasn’t been talk of a third standalone feature as yet – but you can bet that if Rudd does decide to hang up his boots and says goodbye to his ants, the MCU will be a duller place without him.

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