Edgar Wright Leaving ANT-MAN: What Does This Say About Marvel?
Four days ago, it was announced Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, The World’s End) was stepping down as director of Marvel’s Ant-Man, citing “creative differences.” Now, word has come out that those differences involved changes to the script that removed Wright’s vision for the film. The first thought that came to mind when this happened?
Wright has spent seven years of his life working on Ant-Man. Marvel even agreed to push back production so he could make The World’s End first.. In the seven years since they started pre-production, there was nary a word that the studio was unhappy with the script, written by Wright and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block). They’d even gotten a fantastic cast, including Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. Now, as the film nears shooting, they order rewrites that bleach out what Wright originally intended? What a slap in the face. Wright has spent too long developing Ant-Man to have this happen now. But, the biggest question remaining is why? Why water down and streamline Ant-Man into a blockbuster blueprint? Marvel certainly doesn’t need the money, and taking a risk on Ant-Man is a lot safer than taking a risk on a massive property, like Iron Man.
Financially, Marvel couldn’t be doing better. Their films are more popular than ever (Captain America: The Winter Soldier has grossed over $700 million worldwide), another Avengers film is on the horizon for 2015, and they’re dipping into television, producing shows like Daredevil and Luke Cage for Netflix. If there was ever a time to take an artistic risk on a film, this is it. Marvel can afford to take risks on lesser-known properties, like August’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
So, why not Ant-Man? A lot of people never even heard of the character until it Marvel announced Wright was making an Ant-Man movie. Yes, the film is a risk. Ant-Man isn’t a household comic and Wright, one of the most beloved cult directors working today, has never had a bona-fide mainstream hit, though his talent is undeniable. With the exception of The World’s End, his films are endlessly re-watchable, something that would bode well for Ant-Man‘s prospects in the ancillary market.
Now comes the big question. Who will replace Wright? It’s too late in the game for a director to come in and make the film their own. Instead, they’ll be pulling director-for-hire work, coming in and shooting a script they had little to no say in. That means middle-of-the-road directors like Robert Schwentke (R.I.P.D.), Rawson Marshall Thurber (We’re the Millers) or Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad) will be offered the gig. Shudder.
If Marvel continues to play it safe and keep their risks to a minimum, they’ll still remain popular. People will always pay to see blockbusters like Iron Man and The Avengers, regardless of who’s making it. But at some point, staying within the boundaries of blockbuster film making will make the studio creatively bankrupt, just like every other studio out there. Marvel may be at the top of their game right now, but playing it safe never got anybody anywhere. Playing it safe is the difference between casting Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man or Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean and making retreads like The Amazing Spider-Man, a pointless reboot that covers the same ground as the first Spider-Man, only, you know, not as good. In the end, coloring within the lines will only net diminishing returns.
Maybe Marvel will find someone who can elevate Ant-Man to the level of Thor or Captain America, while also playing a little bit outside of the studio’s comfort zone. But at this point, Ant-Man is looking like it may be doomed to fail before it even had a chance to begin.
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below.