Ever since Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. kicked off Marvel’s Cinematic Universe with the armour-plated adventures of Tony Stark, the comic book movie studio has been an unstoppable juggernaut commercially and (mostly) critically. When Disney became Marvel’s paymasters though, some fans expressed concern that the House of Mouse would perhaps dull Marvel’s edge in the pursuit of mainstream commercial appeal, which surprisingly didn’t happen. Well, maybe until now, that is.
Late on Friday evening, in what smacks of a blatant attempt to limit the fallout by most fans being distracted by the American Memorial Day weekend, fan favourite writer-director Edgar Wright jointly released a statement with Marvel revealing that Cornetto Trilogy director would be “amicably” parting ways on his superhero passion project, Ant-Man, due to “creative differences,” on the very verge of the film kicking off production.
Now you have to remember that before there even was a MCU, there was Ant-Man as Wright and frequent collaborator Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) unveiled their plans for the size-changing superhero back in 2006, two years before Iron Man would usher in Marvel’s shared universe. Wright and Cornish turned in their script to Marvel in 2007 and was just about ready to start pre-production (Wright even attended Comic-Con with Favreau for the first Iron Man reveal), but their standalone, morally dubious (the hero starts out as a crook), sci-fi action-comedy crime caper now needed to fit into that shared universe somehow. This delayed the project for a number of years – with Wright and Cornish continuously tweaking the script to fit better into Marvel’s changing communal landscape – until it was finally officially announced in 2012, secured a 17 July 2015 release date last year, and recently locked in its principal cast of Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly as possibly Lang’s love interest.
That date and cast is still locked in, but now there’s no Edgar Wright with his very distinct and imaginative vision guiding it. And that distinctiveness may have been the problem. While there’s been no official explanation given for the aforementioned “creative differences” – especially in light of the fact that Wright has put a massive amount of energy and effort into Ant-Man thus far – several reports have been popping up that this may just be the first major crack in Marvel/Disney’s facade.
Latino Review‘s El Mayhimbe was the first to report this rumour (because it has not been confirmed yet), saying that the Wright may have left due to Marvel’s higher-ups trying to force him into compromising his vision:
About 3 months ago, Marvel had notes. The meat of the notes were about the core morality of the piece, must include franchise characters. etc., These notes came from the big four at Marvel. Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright did two drafts to try and answer the notes without compromising their vision.
6 weeks ago Marvel took the script off them and gave the writing assignment to two very low credit writers. One of the writers were from Marvel’s in house writing team. Edgar stayed cool, agreed to stay on the project, and read the draft.
The script came in this week and was completely undone. Poorer, homogenized, and not Edgar’s vision. Edgar met with Marvel on Friday to formally exit and the announcement went out directly after.
Edgar & Joe were upset by the sudden, out of nowhere lack of faith in them as filmmakers. Fiege had always batted for them but this felt like it came from the higher ups.
Where does this leave the cast? Well, it is believed they don’t have the option to walk like Edgar did.
What’s even more worrying than Wright leaving though, is that Marvel apparently already has a replacement director lined up, with an announcement to be made soon. This would imply that they were very well aware of the fact that this “homogenized” script may incense Wright into exiting and had their backup plan ready to go. Marvel has made massive in-roads into having their different properties occupy diverse genre spaces (Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the conspiracy thriller, Iron Man 3 is the techno-caper, Guardians of the Galaxy is the space-opera, etc) so this 11th hour attempt to have Wright tow the perceived company line – if that is what happened – is a bit disconcerting.
Could this just be the price of success? Could it be that the “Big Four” – probably consisting of Disney higher-ups like Bob Iger and Alan Horn – so badly want to ensure the type of box office superiority that Marvel has attained recently, that they will sacrifice individual brilliance for it?
There’s also the problem of continuity, something that comic book writers and fans have been arguing about for ages: Having a legacy to draw upon and reference makes your world more believable and lived-in, but be too beholden to the history and minutiae of a shared universe and you limit your storytelling options. Could it be that Marvel Cinematic Universe is now finally catching up to a quandary that their comic book universe has been struggling with for decades, and that Wright is the first to shirk this creative yoke?
Whatever is happening over there, we know that Wright has at least one very big name in the Marvel camp that salutes him and his decision.
— Joss Whedon (@josswhedon) May 24, 2014
Last Updated: May 26, 2014