They say that any publicity is good publicity, but Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man may be an exception to that rule.
A lot of comic book fans have started following Ant-Man news recently, but not for the reasons Marvel might hope. After Edgar Wright’s surprise decision to quit as the film’s director, people have been wondering just what caused him to leave a project that he’d been working on since 2006. One week later, Wright’s potential replacement has just turned down the job.
Combine this with rumors of a conflict over studio rewrites on Wright’s script, and you have an intriguing tidbit of nerd gossip—even for people who don’t care about watching the movie itself.
Put simply, the most interesting thing about Ant-Man is what’s going on behind the scenes.
Finding a new director for Ant-Man is like finding a new bride because you already rented the church.
— Amy Dallen (@enthusiamy) May 31, 2014
“I can’t wait to see Disney’s studio-crafted, MCU-safe version of an Ant-Man movie.” – no one
— Larry Wright (@refocusedmedia) May 31, 2014
In the future, everyone will direct ANT MAN for 15 minutes.
— Zack Handlen (@zhandlen) May 31, 2014
The latest development is Adam McKay’s decision not to replace Edgar Wright as director. Known for Anchorman, McKay seemed like a reasonably solid choice to direct an action comedy with a title that begins with “A” and ends with “man.” Plus, he’s worked with Ant-Man star Paul Rudd before, and the studio is likely keen to avoid Rudd jumping ship as well.
Variety confirmed on Friday that McKay was in “advanced talks” with Marvel, but the Hollywood Reporter then ran an update on Saturday morning, saying that McKay had “abruptly” decided not to take the gig. This leaves the field open to other potential Edgar Wright replacements, including Rawson Thurber (We Are the Millers) and Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland).
Why such an odd lineup of replacement directors? Well, think about it. Edgar Wright was involved with this movie for a good eight years, and was originally hired to bring his own brand of offbeat humor to the weirdness of Ant-Man. Whoever replaces him will have to take another director’s passion project and film it (probably with heavy studio input from Marvel) in time for its release date in July 2015. They simply won’t have time to make their own mark on the film.
At best a B-list member of the Avengers roster, Ant-Man needed an extra something to get people interested in the movie. That something was Edgar Wright, whose cult status, smart comedy style and passion for the Ant-Man comics made him a perfect choice to bring this oddball character to a wider audience.
The idea of an Edgar Wright movie was interesting. The idea of an Ant-Man movie by the director of a Jason Sudeikis stoner comedy, less so. Marvel Studios movies may have a huge fanbase, but they’re not slavish followers. Rather than the kind of individual character fandoms you find for superheroes like Batman, fans of the Avengers movies are fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, and would rather see Ant-Man be cancelled altogether than have a bad movie spoil the MCU’s near-perfect track record.
The most interesting thing about this is that nobody actually wants an Ant-Man movie. There’s zero demand.
— Devin Faraci (@devincf) May 31, 2014
The world doesn’t *require* an “Ant-Man” movie. Once we dispatch with the people who have PASSION to direct it? Move on.
— Daniel Fienberg (@HitFixDaniel) May 31, 2014
Part of the problem here is the Internet. Before the age of minute-by-minute Twitter bulletins on the latest movie developments, audiences wouldn’t hear about this kind of fiasco for weeks, months, or possibly ever. Actors and directors pull out of big-budget movies all the time, and it doesn’t necessarily indicate that everything is about to go up in flames. Sometimes, Hollywood filmmaking is just a messy progress.
Of course, other times you wind up with situations like the Nic Cage/Kevin Smith/Tim Burton Superman movie of the late ‘90s, which only truly emerged into the wider geek culture consciousness years after the fact, helped along by YouTube. Here’s hoping that Ant-Man doesn’t turn out to be a repeat of that trainwreck.
With interest piqued by Edgar Wright’s public divorce from Marvel, Ant-Man can no longer slide quietly off into obscurity and cancellation. No matter what happens next in Ant-Man’s laborious journey to the big screen, that process will be tracked and analysed by comic book fans across the world.
Photo via JD Hancock/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)