A couple of things to consider in the divorce between Edgar Wright and Marvel over Ant-Man. In my mind, Wright’s surprise exit Friday over creative differences shows that while Marvel certainly will try to tap strong directors for its superhero properties, the power at that studio clearly resides with one person, Kevin Feige. You might recall this is the second high-profile shooter who was ousted from a big Marvel movie. Patty Jenkins, who guided Charlize Theron to an Oscar performance in Monster, had been set to helm Thor 2 until she clashed creatively with Marvel. If you recall, the hiring of Jenkins was considered a big step forward because so few female directors get a shot at a superhero film. Feige replaced her with Alan Taylor, the Game Of Thrones helmer who did a fine job and has taken on the job of resuscitating the Terminator franchise for Paramount and Skydance Productions.
The exit of Wright is more surprising, considering he came to Comic-Con several years ago and showed a sample of the shrinking technology that would anchor the film. Then, Wright got Feige’s blessing to postpone the movie while he did The World’s End because Working Title partner Eric Fellner had a life-threatening health matter and Wright felt honor bound to see through the final leg of the Cornetto trilogy. The fact that Wright is so revered among the demo that Ant-Man will have to appeal to shows the confidence that Marvel has in Feige’s vision — and, indeed, the movies under his watch have been so good it’s hard to argue. It seems similar to the hold that producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson wield over the James Bond franchise. How many huge directors have expressed desire to helm a 007 film but were rebuffed or stepped away because the ultimate creative call resides not with any filmmaker but the producers who are the flame keepers of the franchise?
Related: Comic-Con Q&A With Edgar Wright
I have always been skeptical of Ant-Man, and as a fan of Wright’s exuberant style, I am excited about the prospect of him stepping right into the Disney remake of the great TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Wright has been developing this for Johnny Depp to play the tabloid news reporter, played by Darren McGavin in the original ’70s movie and series. If you don’t recall it, Kolchak covered crime for a tabloid and his cases always led to supernatural perpetrators that included zombies, vampires, werewolves and aliens. Of course, neither his editor nor anyone else would believe him or allow him to run what seemed like outrageous stories, but he always got close enough to the truth that he was stalked by these great villains and found a way to dispatch them. It was playful in tone but often scary as hell at the same time.
I’m told that the script by D.V. DeVincentis is in strong shape. Of course, much of this depends on the availability of Depp, who’s playing Whitey Bulger in Black Mass right now and is supposed to make another Pirates Of The Caribbean movie either later this year or early next. Sometimes these developments work out for everyone. I still feel that Ant-Man with Paul Rudd is on paper the weakest of the franchise properties Marvel has tried to launch, but Marvel holding fast to its July 17, 2015, release date indicates that Feige is very bullish on what he has. He just needs a director to see through the Marvel vision.