For Marvel movie fans looking years ahead, past next summer's The Avengers: Age of Ultron and into Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe where even more new heroes and properties will be introduced, today's news saw another director join the studio. Essentially confirming that the long-rumored Doctor Strange movie will be hitting theaters in 2016-17, horror film writer and director Scott Derrickson (Sinister) has been confirmed to take charge of the Master of the Mystic Arts for Marvel.
It's great to see Marvel Studios opening another facet of the comics universe and introducing magic through Stephen Vincent Strange (who was namedropped in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), but what about the solo character film that was supposed to begin shooting this week? Ant-Man is without a director ever since Edgar Wright, who made the project a reality for Marvel and worked on it for eight years, left at the last minute after the studio took the script away from him and co-writer Joe Cornish and turned it into something that didn't mesh with his vision.
Whether or not the latest draft is good or bad for the standalone story or the bigger picture plans of the franchise, it's something Edgar Wright wasn't interested in making. Of the directors reportedly shortlisted to replace him, the job isn't attractive enough either, evidently, because none of them are going to take it. What happens now?
Let's back it up. Marvel Studios, eager to introduce another character to the ever-expanding franchise, moved up the release date for Ant-Man from November 2015 to July 2015, likely to build off of the momentum of the second Avengers event release to launch a project that may be a challenge to market. That meant it was initially planned to begin shooting right around now.
Its start date has been moved to July, giving Marvel Studios and whoever helms the feature just enough time (hopefully) to get the film out next July without compromising the final product. Marvel looked towards directors with proven comedy backgrounds as potential replacements, with names Adam McKay (Anchorman 1 & 2, The Other Guys), Rawson Thurber (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, We’re the Millers) and Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad) making the shortlist.
McKay was deep into talks to take the gig but has since passed. As for Fleischer, he might be helming Ghostbusters 3 and reportedly isn't interested in jumping into an immediate major shoot since he and his wife just had a child. That leaves Thurber who The Wrap reported was the new frontrunner, but This is Infamous was quick to report that he turned down the offer as well. AICN reports he wasn't offered the gig though so it may have just been at the meeting stage.
The shortlist has seemingly been wiped clean at this point if all the reports are true and we have no idea who may helm Ant-Man. This is why the news of Doctor Strange was dropped today of all days, to shift some attention away from the growing concern surrounding Marvel's littlest Avenger.
The larger problem here is that Marvel will be bringing someone in at the last minute to takeover something they will have no hand in developing from the groundup - a project that Marvel Boss Kevin Feige only greenlit because of Edgar Wright's "unique vision." With the potential replacements all seemingly uninterested or not able to step in, whoever eventually does will feel like the last available choice. And that means, when Ant-Man eventually hits theaters, they'll be the scapegoats for any negative reactions, and all the good will be mostly attributed to whatever Edgar Wright had written and planned. It's a sticky situation around a project that really wouldn't exist if it weren't for the guy they squeezed out.
Still, Marvel Studios ultimately hasn't failed yet with any of their projects and this one does have a finished script, a principal cast and undoubtedly, all of its pre-production designs, costumes and sets ready to go, likely with all of its action scenes storyboarded and planned out in detail. They just need a director to make it all work.
So, who will Marvel seek out next and will the project make its July 2015 release date as planned?
Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Patrick Wilson, Michael Peña, Corey Stoll and Matt Gerald.
Guardians of the Galaxy opens August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Captain America 3 on May 6 2016, and unannounced films for July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
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