Edgar Wright’s departure from Marvel’s Ant-Man film on May 23 was a shock to the system of many cinematically inclined comic book/super hero fans, myself included. I was incredibly excited when I found out that Wright, a quirky and irreverent film maker, was announced as head of the even quirkier Ant-Man character. At the time of his departure, the only bit of information we received was that the two (Wright and Marvel) had parted ways “due to differences in their vision of the film”.
Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man as he appeared in test footage revealed at Comic-Con
More light has been shed in the days that have passed since last Friday, thanks in part to the Hollywood Reporter who today is reporting that Marvel had been unsatisfied with Wrights vision for weeks. Production of the Ant-Man film was actually set to begin as early as next week, however Kevin Feige, head of Marvel’s cinematic universe, had ordered several revisions to Wright’s Ant-Man script. While Wright had been open to revisions in the past, these last sets of revisions altered Wright’s vision too much and he felt he had no choice be to leave the project.
Kevin Feige laughing at all the money he is making
What seems to be the truth embedded in this story is that Marvel (or at least Feige) has a set vision for what its films should look and feel like. In many ways, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is like Pixar in Cars mode. It is charming, funny, uncontroversial, and easily marketable. Even a title as obscure as Guardians of the Galaxy looks to be as slickly made as a Thor or Iron Man film. Wright, on the other hand, is a stylish auteur. His films including the Cornetto Trilogy and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World are each exercises in his bizarre use of stylistic film-making. They are not cookie cutter by any means. It is easy to see how the two ‘visions’ of Ant-Man could not coalesce.
This guy was sooooo excited to make this movie!
It was not much more than a year ago, however, when Feige was praising Wright’s unique vision of the film. Speaking with Collider, Feige said of the script: “[It] is great and is very Edgar. He has done a great job being incredibly true to the comics but is putting his own spin on it, so we’ll be drawing on multiple mythologies for this one.” However, increasingly Marvel has become THE powerhouse of summertime cinema. Recently the Marvel Universe became the highest grossing franchise of all time, beating out Harry Potter, Star Wars, and James Bond.
A very shaky-cam version of the Comic-Con test footage
It must be assumed that with such high amounts of cash coming in, Feige has become a little less willing to take proper risks that deviate from Marvel’s set path. After all, Marvel has films planned though to 2028, allowing for little room for failure. Yet there is reason to be afraid in all of this for the integrity of the product, because in truth that is what these films are becoming more and more, products. Without risk, these films are set to become serialized and sterile. Think of the Bond years dominated by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan, free of risk, and as a result, free of reward. In contrast, Warner Brothers and DC Comics seem to allow a lot of freedom to the filmmakers who have approached their stable of characters. Think of the unique visions of Batman we have received from Burton, Nolan, and now Snyder: one character but three very different incarnations. But Warner Brothers and DC don’t make near the amount of money Marvel is bringing in annually, so perhaps there is something to be said about the strategy. All I know is we have missed out on the opportunity to see a completely unique takeaway of the Marvel Universe with Wright’s departure. It seems that Marvel is not interested in a Director, but merely a photographer that can ensure their vision pushes forward for the next 15 years!
Follow Tom on Twitter @thomaskagar