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On May 23 a shocking and rather heartbreaking announcement was made when Edgar Wright and Marvel Studios announced that Wright would not be directing Ant-Man. Wright, the man who has been attached to the project, and even convinced Marvel that Ant-Man should be a movie, left the project due to creative differences.
Now, granted, the movie is still in pre-production and despite Wright's departure, the film will be making its July 2015 release date with a replacement director supposedly already set. So I cannot—and should not—say that the movie is doomed or that it is even going to be bad. Because quite frankly, it is just too early to tell and the details are just not here and available to the public.
As of late, Marvel has represented a change in their platform that has demonstrated a decline in their films since their peak with 2008's Iron Man. With their purchase by Disney and their branding and expansion as a company throughout the past few years, Marvel has been demonstrating a change in policy which showcases that not only are they removing themselves from individualized talent, but they are moving towards episodic filmmaking to the point that their movies are, quite frankly, just becoming boring.
While Iron Man 2 and even Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were not without at least a few flaws, they all succeeded due to the fact that they allowed their individual filmmakers to throw their signature styles into the product. As a result, each film, even within the same "universe," all encompassed a sense of flair that added to their fun and helped make the fact that they were all finally on the big screen all the more cinematic and, therefore, exciting.
While The Avengers was certainly fun, mainly due to Joss Whedon's whip-smart writing and evident love of these characters, Iron Man 3 truly demonstrated a downfall for the studio. While the film itself is alright, if not completely forgettable, there is no denying that, with the change in directors from Jon Favreau to Shane Black, that the movie's flair and smooth style was gone. Replaced now, with a bland, uninviting style that couldn't help but make the movie feel rather dull through parts, despite some truly spectacular moments. Most notably, the plane crash sequence.
This represented what the company is truly becoming: a brand. As a film studio, they know the importance of hiring unique and engaging filmmakers, but are too scared to let them do their thing. What is most disheartening about all this is that, not only is it making their films worse, but it is shorthandling the talents they have. With his directorial debut Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Black revealed that he was not only an exceptionally clever filmmaker, but that he had a clear understanding of style and flair. Which, as a result, made it seem perfect that he was going to helm the latest sequel for the studio.
Had one not seen Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, they won't not have known of Black's flair from watching Iron Man 3. This is because producer Kevin Feige is making sure all the movies have the same bland, almost TV-esque look to their product.
This problem was even more severe in Thor: The Dark World. Gone was the strong understanding of character and heart that the original was so good at, and replacing it was almost a melodramatic soap opera quality that was sprinkled with awkward comedic beats throughout. What makes this all the more distressing is hearing that the movie was supposed to be directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster), who, like Wright, left the movie whenever she and the company had creative differences about the project.
Now, of course, with the rise in quality that came from this year's Captain America: The Winter Solider, it would be easy to note that the studio is back at its game again. And while this movie is certainly good and definitely a notch above the past two films from the studio, there is still no denying that, beyond its smart script and its solid set pieces, there is still an episodic quality to the movie that continues to represent the biggest problem the studio has in its movies: a lack in the sense of consequences.
Sure, the movies try to set it up, particularly in the last one. But, knowing that The Avengers 2 and even Captain America 3 are just around the corner, it is hard to truly become concerned for what is happening because we all know that these characters will all be back for the sequel in just a year or so time. This continues the television-like nature of these movies—like knowing that there is just another episode on the way—which makes it hard for us to truly get invested in what is going on on screen.
For what problems people rightfully and wrongfully put on the DC movies, especially Man of Steel, at least that movie has a sense of consequence throughout that makes what is happening on screen feel alive. No even mentioning that the action is almost much better handled and the weight of the character is much more felt, there is primarily a sense of style built by director Zack Synder that really, truly makes the movie feel engaging and its own.
That is truly why DC, for all its faults, is still better than Marvel right now. For The Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel alone surpass these past Marvel movies in some many ways, and make them not only more spectacularly watchable, but more engaging the first time too.
With Wright leaving the new Marvel movie due to creative differences, much like Jenkins, it proves that this studio doesn't think about the product as a film, but as a brand. Which, in turn, makes for some truly heartless and cold movies that don't truly speak for what the fans want. If the Marvel movies begin to decline in fan appreciation in the years to come, they shouldn't be surprised. For this may truly be the beginning of the end.
Now, decidedly, I didn't mention Guardians of the Galaxy. Namely because, for as much as I just bitched and moaned about Marvel, this may truly be the one that saves it all. We'll have to see though in just a couple months.