Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Earlier Better Version

The truth is now out on the whole Edgar Wright/Ant-Man issue at Marvel...

The Hollywood Reporter revealed earlier today that rewrites to the film's script were done - all without Wright's input, no less. When he got a hold of the revised script, he exited the production.

People will speculate, insiders have said what they had to say... I personally believe - going back to James Gunn's statement - that the rewrites most likely had to do with the film's place in the MCU rather than the film's quirkiness or anything. Also, I think Wright and Marvel weren't meant to work together. It happens in Hollywoodland, it happens in Cartoon City. Heck, it happens everywhere. Collaborations, like friendships, sometimes don't work out and aren't meant to be. One insider said that Marvel "might" have felt that even okaying Guardians of the Galaxy was going too far, but that doesn't sound right. First of all, it's not even out yet. Second, Gunn has control of the two sequels, and Marvel has been gung-ho about this out-of-the-box, quirky film. C'mon, Marvel made this film, has two sequels planned, a Doctor Strange movie... Yeah, I really don't buy that.

The first time we saw a director walk at Marvel Studios was during production of Thor: The Dark World. Patty Jenkins (director of the 2003 film Monster) was set to direct, but left. I get the sense that some directors enter these films thinking of them as standalone entities, but they're actually there to direct what is essentially an episode of a big-screen television series. Now I'm not using that term in a negative way, I'm more than happy that a big studio was able to get 9 films out and have successfully made this format for their series. That must be a real task in itself, too.

It is assumed by the ever-so-pessimistic Internet that Marvel just wants to water everything down into some generic Marvel-ish blockbuster film, but I think the Marvel films have their differences. Sure, they might share similar tones and styles, but I don't think Iron Man 3 is the same exact film as Thor: The Dark World nor are those two anything like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but they aren't radically different either. I personally think that people forget that these are not just films, but also episodes. Again, nothing wrong with that, but those looking for films that significantly stand out may be asking for too much... Though it would be very nice to have those kinds of films in the series, and I'm sure Guardians of the Galaxy will be just that. If we start seeing samey Marvel films, I won't be too, too happy. So far, I think all nine of them are varied enough.

I just don't understand how people can get so annoyed with Marvel films being "the same" when ignoring other films that commit the same sin. I personally think all of the films made during the Disney Renaissance, minus the unjustly forgotten The Rescuers Down Under, are pretty samey. Big Broadway chart-topper musical numbers, silly comic relief sidekicks, big love story (or there is a love story in there somewhere), big epic climactic battle at the end, obviously evil villains... But yet those films are praised out the wazoo, the Renaissance was "like, the best time for Disney ever!!!"

Also, another controversial opinion/theory... What if Wright's film just wasn't all that good and that maybe Marvel was trying to improve it?

There's always this assumption that the original director's vision for a movie is the absolute best, it'll never be topped by the final product. I understand this mindset completely, I tend to fall prey to it sometimes as well. I don't like when the executive bigwigs come into the kitchen and start adding their own ingredients to a perfectly fine soup, most of the time ruining it in the end. Most of post-Renaissance/pre-Lasseter Disney is a good example of this, Spider-Man 3 is an excellent example of this, Fox's meddling of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the attempt to make Terry Gilliam's Brazil into a crowd-pleasing film stripped of its great qualities, and so on...

Edgar Wright is a fantastic director, but every fantastic director is bound to make a stumble. Maybe Ant-Man was to be Mr. Wright's first stumble, maybe he couldn't do a film this size while also making it fit into a larger series. Wright began work on Ant-Man in 2006, long before the MCU really began to take shape. It was delayed time and time again, at one time - back when the first Iron Man opened in spring 2008 - it was set to be a Phase 2 film.

Marvel made changes to the MCU to suit what Wright wanted for Ant-Man, writing out key elements like Hank Pym being Ultron's creator. They went those extra miles, and they let him do other projects over the next five years, pushing Ant-Man back and waiting for him to be in the right mood to finally do it. I think they did quite a lot for Wright, and maybe they were just disappointed with Wright because he wasn't giving them what they had wanted. Maybe, this is an assumption. We don't know the real story, though the Internet thinks they do. Wright's deleted tweet implies that he had a bad experience working for big Marvel, but maybe the experience was bad because it wasn't for him, not because Kevin Feige and Marvel are evil creativity-squashing monsters. After all, we did hear that the split was "amicable"...

One of the sources that got info for THR's article said this, and I think it's pretty telling.

Kevin Feige [and his top lieutenants] run Marvel with a singularity of vision, but when you take a true auteur and throw him into the mix, this is what you get. They don’t want you to speak up too much or have too much vision. People who have never worked there don’t understand how they operate, but if you trust them, they have an amazing track record.

For me, situations like this are much more complicated than "Evil Marvel doesn't want the film to be creative so they forced Wright out!"/"Wright was wrong for wanting to have it his way at Marvel! Good riddance!"

I think it was a simple clashing of interests, again, going back to what James Gunn said. Also, it seems like Disney had very little to do with this, if not nothing.

Now let's just say that Ant-Man, whoever directs it, turns out to be nothing special. I'd personally like to see Edgar Wright's original vision to see if it was any better or worse. Some people want to see the original of something they didn't feel was so great get made, even if it is bad, just for the sake of seeing something different or risky. But I think that comes with ramifications, especially for big studios like Marvel.

If Wright's Ant-Man was visually interesting and quirky, but had many story/script problems, it would be more of a frustrating film to watch than a fun watch. When I see a film that wants to do something really cool but is held back by other factors, I applaud the risk and I enjoy the out-of-the-box stuff... But I also cringe at the stuff that doesn't work! I keep thinking "Damn it could've been so much better because it had so much potential!" Second, audiences would possibly reject it and the film could underperform. Marvel wouldn't want that, and neither would fans.

I keep thinking this when it comes to the original vision or whatever. I'd love to see something new and different, but at the same time, I want a good story. That doesn't mean I'll always settle for blandness that has good storytelling, but I also don't want to see a movie that really squanders its potential. Wright's film may have been just that, or not. Maybe it was truly awesome, we don't know that.

I think the same of animated movies that could've been something else when they were in production...

Was Chris Sanders' American Dog a much better film than Bolt? Was Brenda Chapman's vision for Brave superior to the released film directed by Mark Andrews? Was Bill Peet's version of The Jungle Book that Walt Disney scrapped a better quality story than the released film? I would love to see all of those movies. Or at least workprints or rough cuts of those movies, just to see how different they are and what they are like as movies overall. But in all honesty, an ambitious-but-lacking movie frustrates me just as much as a bland movie. Disney's own Atlantis: The Lost Empire is just that for me, along with a few other films they made over the decades. I understand others think differently about it though, and that's okay.

As for Ant-Man's future, they have had their new director since the day Wright walked, they just haven't told who it is yet. The summer 2015 date is also up in the air, as production has been delayed and several key crew members are off of the project now. Will Ant-Man make its summer 2015 as planned?

If not, where will it be moved to? The second Phase 3 Marvel film, Captain America 3, opens in May 2016. The 2015 holiday season is completely packed: Bond 24, the final Hunger Games, Star Wars: Episode VII, animated films, the whole shebang. Maybe Marvel can experiment with an unorthodox date... Maybe September? Or October? October is when Disney plans to release their live action Jungle Book, so that's mostly a no-go, so maybe September? A two-month delay could possibly give them enough time to fix it and film it. Early 2016, I think, is out of the question... Unless Ant-Man comes after Captain America 3, and is the July 2016 release.

What do you think will happen?

UPDATE (5/29/2014): James Gunn said a few things today...

On rumors, including the one that suggested Marvel wanted him to be Ant-Man's new director...

I knew that "Marvel got cold feet after Guardians of the Galaxy so they butchered Ant-Man" rumor was total BS.

UPDATE (5/29/2014): Latino Review (take this with a grain of salt) apparently got word on the film's new director: Louis D'Esposito. He's Marvel Studio's co-president. The film is all storyboarded anyways, so we'll still be getting a Wright film in some or another.

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