The studio has its house style, the director has his uncompromising artistic instincts. It was never going to work.
Marvel Studios and Edgar Wright have parted ways after almost a decade of trying to bring Ant-Man to the big screen, and after all is said and done, it now feels like an obvious inevitability. Marvel, the multi-million dollar company, is the unstoppable force, and Wright, the increasingly creative auteur, is the (not quite) immovable object. Marvel’s properties have been successful because both their comics and films all come under their ‘house style’, meaning that, in some manner, all individual creativity must be accumulated into a set of criteria that one must follow under the auspices of Marvel, the self-appointed House of Ideas.
If an artist wants to work for Marvel, they need to tailor their ideas to fit what Marvel are doing, or Marvel will look elsewhere
This is to ensure when someone sees a panel of a Marvel book, or sees a screenshot of a Marvel Studios film, there can be no doubt in their mind as to who created it. This is not to necessarily stifle individual creativity – it just means Marvel hold the final right of refusal. If an artist wants to work for Marvel, they need to tailor their ideas to fit what Marvel are currently doing, or Marvel will seek out those whose tastes fall in line with their own, just like any big publisher or studio. This brings us to the directors of their successful film franchises. Jon Favreau, Joe Johnston and the Russo Brothers are all talented filmmakers who either share Marvel’s crowd pleasing sensibilities or are relatively new players on the Hollywood scene ripe for the plucking.
Shane Black, once a titan of Hollywood, is currently trying to make his way back on to the A-list, and was perfectly placed to put an original spin on Iron Man whilst still keeping it in house. James Gunn, director of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, came from working on films for Troma and its certifiable head honcho Lloyd Kaufman. In this regard, Gunn would be used to making films to fit a particular style. Joss Whedon is probably the Marvel director with the strongest authorial voice that shines through, but this is most likely due to the fact that he is also the strongest team player. Coming off showrunning in television, Whedon knows how to collaborate and to keep to a set style, but also how to sneak in his own peccadilloes when he can.
Read more: Ant-Man could be the failure Marvel needs
All of these directors are talented creators, but they got where they are by allowing their individual voices to be eclipsed by Marvel’s, and the studio is not afraid to exercise its power against those who do not toe the company line. When Edward Norton tried to take over The Incredible Hulk, he was subsequently replaced by character actor Mark Ruffalo, and Thor director Kenneth Branagh was replaced by the easier-to-handle Alan Taylor for the sequel.
So why has the relationship between Wright and Marvel soured after their almost ten year collaboration on the Ant-Man project? Well, we were all mistaken in thinking that the two of them were pretty much simpatico. Wright is known for being an auteur, only making films where he has final cut. In the United Kingdom, he came up through television comedy with the groundbreaking show Spaced, and the UK sometimes values individual creativity a little more than the United States. Sure, organisations like Channel 4 or the BBC would have a ‘house style’ much like any major brand, but they also have avenues for risky, out of the box ideas.
Marvel, used to its word being law, came up against an auteur filmmaker used to being rewarded as opposed to compromised
Marvel is a giant American studio, used to its word being law, coming up against an auteur filmmaker used to being rewarded as opposed to compromised for his original ideas. Over the years of development on Ant-Man, perhaps Wright and Marvel were in disagreement on elements of the script, but each party thought they would eventually wear the other down. Perhaps Disney is to blame. When Marvel and Wright began working on Ant-Man, Disney had not yet acquired the company. Maybe since Disney’s take over, there is now a whole new group of people who need to sign off on every line of every script before it gets the green light.
We will never know quite what Wright had in store for Ant-Man, but while his sensibilities were perfect for Marvel, they might not be quite as perfect for Disney. But hey, maybe it is all for the best. Surely Edgar Wright has many more projects lined up to put his unique mark upon. At any rate, we have certainly not heard the last of the talented filmmaker. Marvel on the other hand has a template that they’re happy with, and feel if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Will they get the cooperation they need from their replacement director Peyton Reed? Well, the last film he directed was called Yes Man. ‘Nuff said.
Featured image: Vagueonthehow (via Flickr)
Inset image: Marvel