Marvel, Ant-Man, and the ongoing search for a director

Feature Simon Brew 5 Jun 2014 - 06:01
The Disney-owned (nearly) Marvel logo

With Edgar Wright gone, is the Ant-Man director's chair the one that no major filmmaker wants?

Since it got The Incredible Hulk out of its system, it's hard to think of a blockbuster movie studio that's ever had fandom so much on its side as Marvel Studios. Appreciating that it has a catalogue of beloved characters to work through, it's nonetheless embraced fandom, respected it beyond the simple boundaries of lip service, and taken risks. It also has a canny knack of delivering movies that, whilst of variable quality, continue to respect their source material. The substantial icing on this cake is the fact that Marvel's films - every one of them - have all been hits.

Yet in a matter of weeks, a seemingly bulletproof studio has come under the closest scrutiny it perhaps ever has. Regularly praised for avoiding the stock book of blockbuster directors, and giving nine figure budgets to the likes of Jon Favreau, Shane Black, the Russo brothers, Joss Whedon and James Gunn, the studio has given a mainstream home to leftfield filmmakers. The whispered trade off is that Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige is very hands-on with the films, not always to the pleasing of said directors. But still: Scott Derrickson given the reins to Doctor Strange? Yes please.

However, two weeks ago, it was announced in a joint statement that Edgar Wright and Marvel Studios were parting company on their long-mooted Ant-Man project. In fact, it's more than long mooted. Edgar Wright has been developing the film with the studio for the best part of a decade. He's co-written the script with Joe Cornish, he oversaw test footage. He was working on an Ant-Man idea for years before Marvel took interest. And he ultimately took it to the point where Marvel had to decide whether to give Wright the go-ahead to make the film. The go-ahead was duly given.

Wright then went off to make The World's End, and since then, he's been assembling his Ant-Man cast. Paul Rudd has signed up for the lead role in the film - and we'll come back to him in a minute - with the likes of Michael Douglas in the supporting cast.

From the outside, all looked to be going tickety-boo. But then, very suddenly, came the news that Edgar Wright had walked away. Eventually, the details were filled in. Marvel, it seemed, had had a wobble.

The Hollywood Reporter has put forward that Kevin Feige had ordered a new rewrite of the Ant-Man script. Furthermore, a set of rewrites were done by writers other than Wright and Cornish, and changes were said to be made "without Wright's input". Wright - the man Feige had once announced was "the only reason we're making the movie" - understandably walked. He'd presumably sold Marvel on the film he wanted to make, and it's hardly news that he's an individual director bursting with ideas of his own. But at the last possible moment - arguably at the moment it mattered the most - Marvel lost confidence. Wright was gone. The June start date has gone with it, and it's reported that several crew members have moved onto other projects. Even if Marvel wanted to start production tomorrow, it doesn't seem that it can.

We should spare a thought in all of this for Paul Rudd. The actor signed up for the lead role in the film, presumably off the back of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish's screenplay, and with the knowledge that Wright was going to direct. He's stuck now, having to accept whatever the final draft of the script turns out to be, and whoever takes the director's chair.

But it leads us to the big question here: who is going to direct Ant-Man?

Last week, Adam McKay, Rawson Marshall Thurber and Ruben Fleischer - a trio of directors who have done well in the comedy genre - were all linked. Since then, they've either publicly distanced themselves from the job, or are said to have passed. It's like a game of pass the parcel that nobody wants to win.

But then why would a good, established director want to take this on? Appreciating the benefit of having a Marvel film on your CV, and appreciating the popularity of the movies, this is someone else's passion project. This is a project that someone's invested nearly a decade of their life to get to this stage. Whoever takes the job on has a matter of weeks to prepare and at least try to make it their own - unless the film is delayed - and will already face the hostility of a fan base wondering what on earth is going on. It's not so much a poisoned chalice as a cup lifted directly from the set of Game Of Thrones, backed up by lots of angry people with swords.

Could there, as Neil Alcock suggested on Twitter, be a degree of solidarity amongst directors in those turning the job down? Maybe, maybe not. But we're long past the first choice list of candidates to take on such a bold movie, and it beggars belief - again from the outside looking in - that it's Marvel Studios that's got itself in such a muddle (although those who have followed its director rumblings over the years are, in truth, less surprised).

So what can it do? From the fan side of the fence, there are two plausible options. Number one: get Edgar Wright back on the phone. Right what has gone wrong. Commit to making the film that presumably Marvel signed up for in the first place. And get on with it.

Option two: delay it, possibly can it. The thought now that Marvel will gallop to get Ant-Man in cinemas for anytime in 2015 - yet alone that original July 17th 2015 release date - is troubling. It's not that there isn't the possibility that this will all turn out well, it's just the odds are incredibly slim. Any quality director will surely want a few months to at least get a handle on the material and put a stamp on it. And if Marvel does drop Ant-Man from its 2015 roster, it's not like it doesn't already have a huge film set for next summer.

But then the third option, the least fan preferred, is clearly in the running. Marvel is said to be actively seeking out a new director and pressing ahead with what it has. The news stories that have dropped over the past week seem to corroborate that. It's also, even though it's staying mum on the issue, having to face undertaking its search in plain sight. It's no secret that, as things stand, Marvel is in a major pickle, and its policy of absolute silence until it has something to say, whilst probably the right path, instead fuels the discontent.

These does seem to be an absolute certainty though: Edgar Wright's Ant-Man is dead, and Marvel Studios' Ant-Man is the one we're going to get. It just seems odd that if Marvel ultimately didn't have confidence in what Edgar Wright and his team were doing, it left it so ridiculously late to do something about it.

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Disqus - noscript

Brett Ratner will do it....

I'm McG would make himself available

Why not call Michael Bay?

Kinda wish they might offer the project to Michael Lehmann,Hudson Hawk and Heathers' director.The most recent directorial work I've seen from him is episodes of American Horror Story and I think he's experienced and talented enough to cope with the problems that come attached with making the film now.He would be capable of the weirdness and humour that Edgar Wright might have brought to the character and I don't think somebody like him would be damaged much,if it didn't meet the expectations of Marvels' fanbase considering his film making experience.
I'm qualifying my suggestion though,by stating that Marvel seem to be in a no win situation with this character since there's so much division about whether they should use Hank Pym or Scott Lang and how faithful it should be to the source material amongst the fan base.It might just be impossible to pull off in a way that satisfies anybody.Is it worth all the hassle and money to make?I suppose it's all down to how much of Marvels' future plans for their characters are dependent on Ant Man being in the story.Maybe it would be wiser to postpone the project and green light something different.

Someone call Mike Judge.
He's probably too smart to get involved but he might appreciate the pay-day and his comedy-style deserves another shot.

Uwe Boll step forward!

As much as I'm disheartened by this news; I'm glad that it has brought Marvel's underhand way of dealing with troublesome creative talent to people's attention.

They should get Drew Pearce to do it. He's already onboard Team Marvel, and although it would be a debut feature he did ace that All Hail The King one-shot. As soon as I saw that, I thought they should give him a chance with a feature, it was that good. And his style of humour, based on that short, isn't a million miles away from Edgar Wright's (it helps that Pearce is British.) Apart from his lack of feature experience, he seems like a much better bet than some of the other people they've been approaching. They should just take a chance and go with him.

Do we know what Marvel's beef really was? I'd imagine it was a little to do with how likeable Ant-Man was in it. As good as Wright's films are none of them have likeable lead characters-they're all bellends. It works for the Cornetto trilogy and Scott Pilgrim-but a Marvel blockbuster? I'm not sure.

Great idea, with Jon Favreau as assistant.

Kevin Feige, roll your sleeves up mate and do it yourself.

How about Sam Raimi? He did well with insect based superheroes in the past and may bring the Spider-man audience with him?

Or Clark Gregg

This was going to happen at some point, the way that Marvel has built a cinematic universe that doesn't really have that much flexibility was always going to have ramifications against stylistic directors being able to direct the film the way they wanted.

I have mostly liked the Marvel films but the Phase approach has hurt a few of the films - Captain America was too intent on getting the WW2 stuff out of the way for The Avengers that they rushed through a rich seam of potential sories, Iron Man 2 wasn't able to really be it's own thing either.

The template they have set up will constrict them further - Edgar Wright would probably have made an excellent movie but it would have stuck out like a sore thumb against the other movies. Or at least it had the potential to do so and for whatever reason Marvel wouldn't accept that.

I think it will only get worse - as the phases continue the MCU films will become increasingly interchangeable

I'm finding it very hard to get excited about this film.

What makes you think Favreau wants to do it? He's done with Marvel for now, and is plugging 'Chef'.

I just want to double check something here - everywhere else I've read has said it was Disney not Feige who ordered the rewrites - have I missed a new revelation at some point?

Someone pester Kevin Smith into it. He can handle comedy with the best of them, and since it's already written it wouldn't be a 'Kevin Smith Movie'. I know he didn't have the best time directing Cop Out and seems to have written off ever directing someone elses material, but I think he'd do a fantastic job and knows the source material better than I'd imagine any other director mentioned.

Doom and gloom! Everything is falling to shambles! Only DC's Superman v Batman: Justice League Trailer can save us now!

He's tied up with Silicon Valley. Very good and successful it is too

I'll do it

Or maybe not so much doom and gloom but a possibly realistic view of the limitations of the unique way that Marvel are making movies?

The films they make will likely still remain very watchable but by the same token the model seems at this stage rather reductive. Of course they may start changing their model, evolving as time goes on because they will have to - the 'event movie' thing will start wearing off when the amount they are producing and that would be a shame.

Wow you sure can deduct a lot from a single director quitting a movie.

Am I the only one who just doesn't care about this film or the kerfuffel that's sprung up with Edgar Wright leaving?

I love the MCU, I'm aware of Ant-man's importance in comic history but honestly the character (any of the 3 versions) doesn't interest me a great deal, combine that with Edgar Wright's prior films being good but not amazing and I'd much prefer they move forward with a Captain Marvel or Black Panther film than Ant-man. Undoubtedly if they manage to get a director and produce it, I will see the film, more than likely twice, at the cinema but currently Guardians Of the Galaxy, Avengers 2 and Dr Strange (despite only having seen one of the directors previous films) have me so much more excited than this ever did.

I must admit I don't understand the way Marvel are searching for directors now. When promoting Ant-Man, Feige and Wright always made a big point that it wasn't a comedy. And now Marvel are looking solely at comedy directors, regardless of their form outside the genre.
While Wright only has comedy films to his name so far, in those films he's demonstrated a unique visual flare and a strong ability in filming action. He also has produced really well developed characters.
I have no beef against the directors Marvel has approached since Wright left the project, I like there work alot. I just don't see them having that same ability outside of comedy as Wright had.
If I was choosing (and hell, thank god I'm not!) there would be two (well technically three) names at the top of my list. The first is Phil Lord & Chris Miller. 21 Jump Street is a masterpiece partly in the way it spoofs the buddy cop genre with some brilliantly choreographed shoot-outs. The drugs sequence (plus their animated work) also shows a style similar to Wrights.
The other would be James Bobin. He's got a strong visual style again similar to Wrights. He really understands visual comedy. Disney also must see some potential in him for crafting action, as they've hired him for Alice In Burtonland 2. Unfortunately being tied up with that probably puts him out of the running :/
Just some thoughts :)

Sorry about the essay!

And you get belligerent and attack-y pretty quickly.

I guess we all have our faults.

I guess so. I would still really like to know the full deal behind the Wright/Marvel controversy.

Aye, so would I to be honest - the oddest thing is the fact that the project has been gestating for so long and so close to shooting that to find an issue with the script so late on seems to infer that it didn't fit in with what Marvel wanted? Maybe Wright and Cornish weren't prepared to rewrite the script? It will make an interesting story if it ever comes out

I have no idea what Favreau wants to do.

But he has directed two films for them and starred in three films and gets executive producer credits so would be an option to help first feature director Drew Pearce...

Well Stark is still a d1ck, albeit a truely likeable one and Peter Quill is also a rogue. Doubt we'll ever find out

I am sure there is a good director out there looking for the big break. There are other Josh Tranks and James Gunns and Joe Cornish's that are begging for a chance and I trust Marvel to research them. This could work out very well and at the same time give a director their chance. If a little known director can come in and rescue a big buget Marvel movie, I have to think that Marvel would be grateful enough to let them do the sequel or direct their own superhero movie or direct something under the Disney name.
Guess I'm an optimist, which is bound to make me an outcast in this thread.
Cheers!

Oh I'm sure his script will be 'leaked' one day. Probably if whatever film Antman becomes tanks.

I agree and disagree. Marvel is doing something that no other movie studios has tried before. Whenever you are blazing a new trail there is bound to be a few stumbles (losing a director or some predictibility, for example), but the overall experience of all the movies combined is the true test of how well they are doing. And, in my opinion, the overall experience has been fantastic. I really like movies, but this Marvel universe has me researching characters, reading theories, following sites just to find out what is happening next. He has generate and interest and excitement in people that is unheard of in movies.
So yes, there will be a few bumps, but for the size of this undertaking, a few bumps is really nothing.
I also disagree that is will get worse. I think they will learn from their mistakes and directors will know exactly what they are getting into. Wright and Marvel had no idea it would be this big when they agreed to do this movie. Marvel is sticking to their plan and Wright didn't want to buy in. Marvel is right to stick to their plan (for the fans) and Wright is right to walk away if he doesn't like it. But that does not mean that this movie will not work and they will find a young up-and-coming directo to save the day and make their career.

You may be right - I just think that whatever changes were made have happened so late in the day is the thing that makes this so remarkable and for me at least slightly worrying.

If it is that Marvel want to stick to the plan then this is something that I would have thought would have happened months before it did. Of course the way the movie business works means that there could be any number of reasons for the change - one of the actors may have wanted changes made before they signed (the cast is quite small at the moment and most studios will accommodate the on screen talent over the director), it could be that Edgar Wright wanted to change things that altered the agreed upon vision.

However, it is well known that Marvel's plan is pretty well defined and if it is this that causes it then it might end up being reductive. As I say, I have mostly enjoyed the movies and probably will continue to. In a world where Ka-Zar or Moon knight might appear somewhere on the screen I can't complain. I just don't want it to get too cookie cutter

I also notice that my last bit of my first post was gone - I think it's a fat finger / ipad issue. It cut off the part where I said it will only get worse if Marvel doesn't have the confidence to take chances with the look and feel of their movies

I agree, they cannot become complacent, but I am not worried that. They need to keep pushing the envelope and I think Guardians of the Galaxy, and, to a lesser extent, Ant-Man, can do that. Space Opera to Action Heist Comedy to Spy Movie to Thunder Gods to Team Ups, they are really trying to expand their universe. Now bringing in Dr. Strange and magic and possibly Black Panther and the supernatural and then having all these characters in the same movie together against a giant universe destroying enemy that is using power from all of the movies shows a huge vision that has variety and is extremely exciting and fun.

I hate it when what look like links to related stories turn out to be links to sponsors.

I liked Shaun and Nicholas as characters! Mr Pilgrim wasn't too bad either, if entirely shallow

Hey everyone has different tastes. I found them emotionally stunted or, shallow, like you said. Makes for good comedy but I can imagine Disney getting nervous. They didn't even like Jack Sparrow and tried to change him.

I'm not saying it's right but film making is a business and Disney/Marvel are putting up the money so can do what they like.

TBH, I'm not that bothered if they make it or not. As soon as I heard that the main focus was the Scott Lang version, rather than Henry Pym I lost interest, just like I did when Lang became Ant-Man in the comics. Pym is a far more interesting & complex character than Lang.

This is just something driving me nuts, but I keep seeing it lately, especially here. And I suddenly feel like Inigo Montoya: "You keep using this word, 'moot.' I do not think this word means what you think it means."

Moot: verb (used with object)
- to present or introduce (any point, subject, project, etc.) for discussion.
- to reduce or remove the practical significance of; make purely theoretical or academic.
- Archaic. to argue (a case), especially in a mock court.

Is this a UK thing I'm seeing/reading?

I'd preferred Marvel's version of ANT MAN anyway..Wright is the Johnny Depp of directors..no great loss..

reductive?..of course..it's ANT MAN!..that's what he does...

He's said before that he doesn't have the patience to do a big action movie. Apparently the action sequences in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back weren't fun for him, since he traditionally nails the camera down and lets his actors talk for minutes at a time...

They were using it in the 'present or suggest' sense. In America, I understand it's usually used in the sense of the second definition, ie: a moot point.

Screw Edgar wright. If he couldn't play by marvels rules then forget him. The general public doesn't know or care who he is. Hell the general public doesen't even know an Ant-man movie is coming..only the 1 % internet dorks care about this. Marvel will find a director and the movie will be awesome and everyone will feel like a-holes for even making a big deal about it.

Surely whatever reasons Wright had for leaving Ant Man will be the same as any credible director would have for not taking it on? The easiest, fastest solution for Marvel is to get him back on board... that said, perhaps this isn't a possibility for Marvel anymore.

My understanding is that Favreau got shafted as soon as Disney bought Marvel. Iron Man 2 was going to be the Demon In a Bottle story but swiftly got repurposed to plant seeds for The Avengers movie and broader universe... with Avengers being handed to Joss Whedon instead of him. That said, he returned to play Happy Hogan again in Iron Man 3 so maybe there isn't all that bad feeling?

Guillermo Del Toro, surely!

Actually - not sure I could care less, but del Toro's name always gets mentioned for any genre flick so thought I'd chuck it in...

Almost impossible to know really...

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