Monday, June 29, 2015

You Never Know: Marvel Teaches a Lesson

Early reviews for the latest installment in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe have arrived... The reviews for Ant-Man!

To the shock of many, the reviews are solid-to-great...

Not a shock to those outside of the Internet film circles and whatnot...

Anyways, I'm sure you know what kind of troubled road Ant-Man went down. Particularly last summer.

Visionary director Edgar Wright was set to helm the studio's take on the character, and he was gung-ho about this project since 2006, when Iron Man - the very film that launched the MCU - was in early development. Nothing happened for many years though, for Edgar focused on his own projects: Hot Fuzz came out in 2007, then he went to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World which opened in 2010, then he directed his attention to the closer of his Cornetto trilogy, The World's End. That opened in 2013. In-between those projects he worked on other things, such as writing The Adventure of Tintin's script with his collaborator Joe Cornish. Edgar did very little work on Ant-Man between 2006 and 2013, as recently confirmed by Kevin Feige in an interview:

Well, we've done that before, and sometimes that can work, and sometimes it's more difficult. But with Edgar, it was mutual. People said, "You guys have been working together for 10 years; why did you only figure it out a couple of months before you started filming?" But that's really not true. We'd been working on it for about nine months, maybe a year at most. And it became apparent to him and to us that the best thing to do was to move on. But because Edgar has a fan base and Marvel has a fan base, there's good and bad that comes with that high profile. And one of the bads is that internal decisions and shuffles get headlines.

Serious work on the film finally began in 2013, and filming was set to commence in summer 2014. However, creative differences had risen. Wright, an auteur, wanted to do his own thing with Ant-Man. He wanted to make a film that was more or less not connected to the MCU, something that was more irreverent and wasn't as serious. And by "serious", I mean something with the kind of stakes The Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy had. Wright's film was apparently more silly. Fine, but not exactly in line with the MCU's rules. He basically didn't play by the sandbox rules. Well, a sandbox with rules is the last place an auteur who prefers to stay true to his or her vision would want to be.

The split apparently wasn't too bad, no real bridges burnt. Wright walked, Marvel called on Peyton Reed to direct the film. Around half of the script was rewritten, but apparently a lot of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish's work is in the film. They're both credited as writers, and reports say that half of their work shines in the finished film.

May 2014 was when the split was announced, mere weeks before filming was set to commence. Now, the Internet flipped when it was revealed that Wright walked. Flipped.

The Internet assumed that Ant-Man was dead. That was it. It was doomed. It was the end. It was going to be horrible. The new director and Marvel were going to destroy it. FACT.

It's as if they had time machines, went to July of this year, and came back to warn us that the closer to Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was in fact a huge dud!

Back then, we had less information on how the production was going and why the split happened. The automatic assumption was "Marvel hates creativity and auteurs, so they stomped auteur Wright out because he was getting too creative for them! They don't understand good cinema! Marvel movies are all the same!"

(In that same interview, Feige - in such a classy manner - responded to WB exec Greg Silverman's comment on Marvel's movies being all the same while DC's will all be filmmaker-driven.)

Others assumed that Marvel and the powers-that-be, the Mouse House, had issues with the characters. Apparently Scott Lang was too morally grey of a character or whatever, and there were other rumors that ultimately turned out to be false. Lang is still a con artist with a criminal past, so it doesn't seem like they watered anything down. To further prove all those assumptions wrong, a few months after the split was announced, Guardians of the Galaxy arrived and all the main characters turned out to be criminals! Concerns over grey morality? What?

Everyone wrote the obituaries. Everyone was certain the film was going to be a huge disappointment, something mediocre or less.

Everyone also assumed that Edgar Wright's film, which wasn't even completed or fully realized before production, on top of being something people will not see, was the far better product.

It was certainly a shame to see Wright go. An Edgar Wright-directed MCU film was definitely something to get super-excited about. It is certainly okay to get upset over the fact that he was set to direct this film but ultimately didn't, but the outcry was ridiculous...

No different from the reactions to... Say... Pixar removing directors from their films or overhauling them. It wasn't a problem back when it happened twice before the Disney acquisition in 2006 (Toy Story 2 and Ratatouille), but nowadays it's a cause for alarm. All because Brave wasn't the 15-out-of-10 critical darling despite still getting pretty good reviews from 77% of critics out there... All because of Cars 2 being a muddled mess... All because of Monsters University not being super-excellent either... As if a couple not-perfect films means the studio is going downhill. I've been fighting this uphill battle since Cars 2...

Inside Out is a critical and commercial darling, but all is not fine in the water. Would it ever be, on the Internet? Does it snow in the Caribbean? There's still so much worry about The Good Dinosaur, it's absolutely nauseating: People assuming that the new cast was determined this month (when it was in place prior to the end of last year), people assuming that the film was hastily rewritten earlier this year (when they have been reworking it since summer 2013 when the original director was removed - not like they just set it aside for a year and a half!), and people just assuming that the film is going to be a huge pile of apatosaur dung and that it will be a letdown and so on and so forth.

Internet negativity and pessimism is a force to be reckoned with...

Pixar is upfront about director changes, other studios? Not so much. Of course, we all know that having a track record of 11 critical hits in a row prior to Cars 2 didn't help either, as a lot of people now have such ridiculously unrealistic expectations of the studio, and then act as if they committed a sin when they haven't made a near-perfect film. A good friend of mine who happens to be an animator said he feels that the backlash is akin to parents bashing their straight-A kid when he or she got their first B.

Of course there's also the assumption that all future sequels will be horrible, all because of Cars 2 and Monsters University. I guess we can forget subjectivity, for I thought Cars 2 was a fun little blockbuster (with some big issues) and I thought Monsters University was a very well-made, solid prequel that completes the original. Even if I didn't like those two films, I wouldn't lose hope, for Pixar hit home runs with... Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3!

Then they may cry, "They can't do sequels to their other films, only the Toy Story films! Except Toy Story 4!" It's as if they came back from 2019 to tell us that while The Incredibles 2 was amazing, Finding Dory, Toy Story 4, and Cars 3 sucked.

But sometimes a troubled film or something that may seem like it'll be awful... Turns out to be good...

So I suggest that pessimists stop worrying, and just wait and see...

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