This Friday it became public knowledge that Edgar Wright, the auteur director behind Spaced, Scott Pilgrim VS. the World and the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy (which includes Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) will no longer be directing Marvel’s Ant Man. This is bad news.
First and foremost, it’s bad for the film. It’s hard to imagine another director better suited to rehab this troubled character than Wright, who has a history of adapting B-level comic books with affection and aplomb. Second, it’s bad for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (home to The Avengers and SHIELD) and Disney Marvel Studios. Ant Man was supposed to be part one of a somewhat “fresh faced” Phase Three after Avengers: Age of Ultron. That sort of gear-shift needs a strong, singular creative voice behind it. Wright could have brought that to the table. The handful of other directors who could probably fill his shoes (probably) aren’t interested in directing a movie about The Incredible Shrinking Paul Rudd.
Disney’s secret ingredient for making these Marvel Studios movies work has so far been their capacity to trust writers and directors to do their thing. If they’re parting ways with Wright over “creative differences,” it seems likely that they’ve forgotten that. That has damning implications not only for the Marvel Cinematic Universe but for anyone else in Disney’s pocket that has been, until now, benefiting from a more laissez faire policy. (Pixar and the Star Wars franchise come to mind.)
Why are studios so insistent on doing this? Fox drops Darren Aronofsky from the first Wolverine and we get the embarassing X-Men: Origins. Meanwhile, Disney Marvel Studios gives Joss Whedon creative control of The Avengers and we get, well, The Avengers. There seems to be a pretty clear pattern associated with suits interfering with directors trying to adapt their singular visions of superhero franchises.
One has to imagine that the phrase “creative differences” gives Whedon, the mastermind of the Avengers-universe, Firefly-flashbacks. Whedon posted a photo of himself holding a Cornetto aloft on Twitter after Wright’s departure was announced, showing solidarity as he shoots The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Maybe this parting of the ways is the first step towards Whedon leaving the franchise as well. According to The Hollywood Reporter this split was amicable, but it’s hard to imagine that there was no ugliness considering that Wright has been attached to this project since 2006. (Well before Iron Man.)
The good news? If the Disney Marvel Studios ship is going down, Wright is probably the first person to load onto a lifeboat after Whedon. (And maybe Alan Taylor… He does good work on Game of Thrones. Oh, also, any children on board.) Once the world gets over the blow that this will be to Phase Three, we can start thinking about what the next original Wright movie might look like. Think of how exciting it would be to see Wright’s career take on a trajectory similar to that of Wes Anderson or Quentin Tarantino. Or, if you prefer, think about what another Edgar Wright comic book adaptation might look like. What if Wright tackled Saga? Or Craig Thompson’s epic and underrated Habibi? Wright has blown us away adapting indie comics before. Why not do it again?
But hey, I’m just making suggestions. I don’t tell the creative people what to do. Unlike some people we know.