It broke the hearts of true geeks everywhere: Edgar Wright, the brilliant director responsible for Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim has left Marvel’s Ant Man movie. Rumors abound, but what appears to be true is that Marvel Studios’ writers completely overhauled Wright’s original treatment, and Wright left over creative differences. This is new corporate behavior for Marvel Studios, who in the past have let directors put very distinct stamps on films like Captain America: Winter Soldier, the first Thor and Iron Man movies, and Joss Whedon’s Avengers film. These movies could have been done very differently—and in a much less interesting, more cookie-cutter fashion, but Marvel let the creative teams personalize the films.
Joss Whedon publicly tweeted support for Wright in the form of a silent photograph of himself holding a Cornetto (a reference to a film trilogy by Wright). James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy, issued a blander, more political statement suggesting that Wright and Marvel didn’t “mesh,” but “not because there’s anything wrong with either of them.”
Fans of both Marvel and Wright have been excited every since Wright’s name was announced, and his test footage was fantastic.
Frankly, this seems like a huge mistake. Marvel promises another director announcement soon. The last time this happened was when Marvel canned indie director Patty Jenkins off of the Thor sequel, and they were left with a film vastly inferior to most other Marvel Studios films.
At the same time, Marvel Studios lost Drew Goddard as the show-runner for their Netflix Daredevil series when Goddard was tapped to write and direct a Spider-Man movie for Sony (he’ll be handling the “Sinister Six” film, which is being labeled a “spin-off” from Spider-Man). Goddard had already written the first two episodes of the series. Marvel quickly recovered and assigned the responsibility Steven S. DeKnight, who worked with Joss Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and worked with DC on Smallville.
Marvel recently, through senior exec Kevin Feige, has hinted that it has plans for films extending past 2028, which clearly means they’re either brilliant planners or delusional. But in reality, one this is sure: Joss Whedon won’t still be in charge in fourteen years. I’ll be surprised if he stays past Avengers 2. He’s a creative type, and he gets bored easily. This means Marvel must—MUST—have good relationships with its talent, and has to treat them right. And the most important person to a super-movie is the director. Yeah, I said it. Robert Downey, Jr., is a terrific Tony Stark and he will be hard to replace. But in the same way, John Romita, Jr., and Salvador Larrocca were equally great Iron Man artists. Some may prefer one over the other, and the book looks and feels radically different depending on who is drawing it, but it’s still great. But try reading a comic with a bad writer. Like when Roger Stern left Spider-Man in the hands of Tom DeFalco. Wunf. We got clones.
I’m hoping Edgar WrightGate is an anomaly, and Marvel will continue to push the envelope for super-hero movies. The first Thor was a blend of mythology and epic Norse grandeur that nobody expected. Iron Man turned James Bond on its head. Avengers proved a team movie could not just be great (the first Bryan Singer X-films did that), but it could be hilarious as well. This year, Winter Soldier was the world’s first “real” comic book movie. And Guardians promises to do for Sci Fi comics what the first Captain America did for period pieces.
I continue to be optimistic, even as I lament the loss of what would probably have been a most unusual, fantastic Ant Man movie.