I Don’t Give A Shit Who Directs Ant-Man… And Neither Should You.

3 Jun

For a while there, it seemed like Edgar Wright might be directing an Ant-Man movie for Marvel Studios.

And there was much rejoicing.

Not by me. But certainly by a lot of other people. Because there are two names that are thrown around as being infallible Gods of cinema. One is Wright, and the other is Guillermo Del Toro. There are a couple more, I guess, but let’s focus on these two.

Seemingly, these two gentlemen can do no wrong and anything they are attached to will automatically be a brilliant film and to not support them is to hate cinema.

I’m not buying it, but that’s basically the log line. 

But I’m going to clarify something right up front. I have nothing against these two gentlemen. I haven’t seen The World’s End but I like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. They’re entertaining films. 

That’s it, by the way.

They are well-made films that entertain. That’s all they are. 

Hooray!

Scott Pilgrim is a movie I like less and less as time goes by, but I did enjoy it the first time I saw it. I thought it was a fun lark. But it was insular and smug and aimed at a very specific crowd; and when people were surprised that it bombed, I made it a note to never put any credence in the expectations of those people… Because of COURSE a movie like Scott Pilgrim was going to bomb! It was made for, like, ten people. And you need more than ten people for a blockbuster film.

Guillermo Del Toro is also not God nor the second coming of Christ. Some circles were touting Pacific Rim, before it even came out, as the next Star Wars or something… Then the movie came out and it was exactly the movie that was sold by the posters and trailers… It was a stupid movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters, and you couldn’t distinguish one robot from another or make sense of any of the monsters and, half the time, the fight scenes would cut to the inside of the giant robot so the pilot could thrust his fists to the side and shout “TAKE THIS, MONSTER!”

 

Or something.

My point: it was a stupid movie. I think I was kind to it when I first saw it. My take on it was: Yeah, this movie is well made and everything but I guess it’s just not for me. If you’re into this nonsense, go right ahead and I’m sure you’ll have a blast. Me? I’ll just dust off Robot Jox and watch that. Same thing, done better and at a tenth of the budget.

With “budget” being the operative word here. Because, although you all seem to love him dearly, I think Billy Del Toro is far from infallible. And, when he’s working in the Hollywood playground, he makes his worst films. He’s a creative, ingenious storyteller and a wonderful stylist… And, at a fraction of the budget, without the studios calling the shots, he’s made wonderful movies…

 

Pan’s LabyrinthCronosThe Devil’s Backbone… Even stuff he’s produced, like The Orphanage. Great examples of genre. Excellent displays of cinematic virtuosity. Great films.

Working for Hollywood, he’s made shit like Hellboy, which was such a boring waste of time I didn’t even bother with its sequel. He’s made Blade II, which Harry Knowles famously compared to cunnilingus (in the most BIZARRE AND AWFUL FUCKING FILM REVIEW I’VE EVER READ) and it is – okay I’ll give you that – the best of the Blade movies… But, frankly, that’s not much to write home about when the other two Blade movies are basically just mundane, schlocky garbage where the trick is to decide which one is worse.

And he was attached for years and years to these new Hobbit movies that I’m sure everyone agrees would probably have been absolutely brilliant had he made them instead of Peter Jackson, even though they’re wrong to think that.Gettothepoint

But anyway… This is all up front to give context. A heavy faction of the Internet community likes to latch on to certain filmmakers and form a cult around them, especially the underdogs, while shunning and hating other filmmakers – usually more successful ones – simply because, well, that’s what they like to do. 

And so you have stuff like: Edgar Wright and Guillermo Del Toro – INFALLIBLE GENIUSES. vs. Michael Bay and JJ Abrams – TALENTLESS HACKS.

It’s a fun game. I don’t play it, but I know others do and they’re perfectly welcome to do that… 

Until it gets fucking annoying.

 

Which is what has happened over the past week or so with Edgar Wright and this Ant-Man business. 

What actually happened is incredibly simple and far from unexpected. Edgar Wright walked. And, you know what? As a filmmaker and artist he made 100% the right decision. At least, that’s my thinking based on what I know of the circumstances. And that’s all that actually happened. He decided he didn’t want to make the movie anymore.

 

But then there was this absolutely incredible uproar that, supposedly, the fact that Edgar Wright walked away from Ant-Man meant that Marvel Studios was a piece of shit and so the Marvel Cinematic Universe was now doomed to creative bankruptcy and artistic failure… This was the end. This was it.

Because Edgar Wright decided he no longer wanted to be involved with a motion picture called Ant-Man.

And then, a couple of days later, Drew Goddard – who was once upon a time part of JJ Abrams’ TV writing staff and then made this movie that a lot of people liked called The Cabin in the Woods – walked from being show runner of Marvel’s upcoming production for Netflix: Daredevil.

 

Doomed… They are all doomed. Whatever is coming now, it will NOT BE GOOD. There is no way it can be.

Because Edgar Wright is not involved.

 

Honestly, guys, I think that’s a pile of bullshit. A pretty huge pile. By which I mean I don’t think it’s true. Because, the fact is, it doesn’t fucking matter who directs Ant-Man. It’s Ant-Man. It’s a Marvel Studios Movie. That’s what it is and, guess what, that’s what it was ALWAYS GOING TO BE. What happened? Did the fans only now receive the cold bucket of water to the face that woke them up to the reality that this is corporate, assembly line filmmaking?

“But Edgar Wright is a VISIONARY and we will now be spared his wonderful VISION!”

 

Right. That’s why he walked, you asshole. 

But why is this a surprise? And – more importantly – why is this now, all of a sudden, an awful PROBLEM that will destroy the future of Marvel Studios? You were fine with them up until this point, right? I mean, you certainly seemed to be. The films have been big hits up until now and The Avengers made like a gazillion dollars. That must mean you liked it, right? Yeah, I know box office doesn’t equal quality bla bla bla… But it means that people are going to these things. And probably more than once. So they must like them. So, what’s changed? Edgar Wright walked? That makes everything different somehow? As if what we’ve been getting up until this point was a series of Bergmenesque, singular auteur visions and now that they’ve shown disrespect to a great, true cinema ARTISTE like Edgar Wright, it means they will now settle for homogenized, Hollywood product? 

 

Come on people, now… Smile on your brother, everybody get together and try to love one another right now.

By which I mean, GET A FUCKING GRIP.

I will give you a kewpie doll if you can honestly point to an example of Marvel Studios respecting the artistic vision of any of its filmmakers. From 2008 – when they released the very popular Iron Man – up until now, we’ve gotten a glossy franchise of films that all serve one agenda… One artistic vision: the furthering of The Marvel Cinematic Universe. And this is the vision of head honcho Kevin Feige and the bean counters who tell him what to do. This is not Jon Favreau’s vision. Not Joss Whedon’s vision. This is a corporate plan and that’s it.

And, let me tell you, it is in its own way pretty damn visionary. Because it’s something that had never really been done before… The presentation of a cohesive “universe” that mimicked the aesthetics and continuity of the comic book world from which it sprung. We go to the movies to see these individual heroes’ adventures but it’s really all part of one big story, one big world. Something that anyone who grew up reading comics can immediately understand. That feeling of all these epic heroes and their adventures coexisting in the same epic world… 

 

It’s pretty amazing, honestly. And visionary in cinematic terms… And it WORKED. It worked so much and so well that now, over at Warner Brothers, people are in a panic tripping over themselves in a rush to achieve in one bloated, convoluted Summer spectacle what Marvel took five years and six films to accomplish. 

The offices of Warner Brothers’ DC COMICS division.

And Marvel accomplished this by remaining consistent and true to one homogenized corporate vision from Day One. We got six separate movies under the illusion of this being six separate franchises joined together, but that’s not really the case. The Marvel Cinematic Universe IS the franchise; and each of these installments has been an episode in that franchise. And so, it follows that it all has to be of a piece. Oh, sure, there can be some slight variations. A quirk here and there. Like Kenneth Branagh’s insistence on using nausea-inducing Dutch angles for 70% of the first Thor, for instance… Shane Black’s witty dialog in Iron Man Three… 

But that’s not any different from Quentin Tarantino directing an episode of CSI. Sure, you had this scene where they play some obscure board game from the seventies… And Gary Dourdan got to act like Samuel L. Jackson in the locker room. But it still looked and felt like CSI. If you honestly tell me it felt like a Tarantino movie, I’ll ask you to pour yourself another tall one.

 

And so… The situation is extremely simple. I know you all got really excited when Edgar Wright signed on to Ant-Man. Because you were among the three people who went to see Scott Pilgrim in theaters and you like his movies and you thought it would be so awesome for Ant-Man to be “an Edgar Wright movie.” Like… You actually gave a shit about fucking Ant-Man! You realize this, right? For most people, it probably didn’t matter what hero it was… Hell, it could have been Edgar Wright’s ROM SPACEKNIGHT or CLOAK & DAGGER or POWER PACK and whoop dee doo! 

 

Coming MAY 2017.

I guess, in all that excitement, the simple fact escaped you that Marvel Studios was not going to give 100% creative freedom to the director of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. They were not going to do this, in part, because they saw the movie and they saw the box office receipts and they saw what happened the last time a big studio gave Edgar Wright the creative freedom to do whatever he wanted with a comic book adaptation. But also, and more to the point, they weren’t going to do that because that isn’t what they do. They didn’t give 100% creative freedom to the director of Henry V and that motherfucker got nominated for Oscars and shit! He is ONE PRESTIGIOUS FUCKING DUDE!

 

People will say to me: But what about Shane Black? And, hey, Guardians of the Galaxy looks pretty WILD, AGAINST THE GRAIN AND ARTISTIC BECAUSE THE TRAILER USES 70’s ROCK HITS.

Really? 

 

Okay… Let me break it down. Because, I suppose those arguments are fair to a point. But, then you really have to look at the films. I mean, they got Kenneth Branagh to do Thor and they probably got him for that because of his experience with overwrought Shakespearean nonsense; and I’m sure he was very excited about doing a big budget superhero movie where he could inject some of that overwrought Shakespearean nonsense. So, he made the movie.

But that’s not the movie he made. Is it? Look at it again. Thor is two movies. It’s a campy, corny British sci-fi series for the Asgard scenes… And then a cheap, cheesy TV pilot for all the scenes that take place in that backlot town of “New Mexico” and I put that in quotes because Jesus Christ! Really? 

 

But it’s not a Kenneth Branagh film. Even though, as that last Jack Ryan movie evidences, I’m not sure I really know what that is anymore. All I know is Thor is A Marvel Studios movie. It looks and feels like one. And its only reason for being was to set up a character they needed for the really big movie they really wanted to make.

 

And then you can maybe point at the aesthetic singularity of the first Captain America movie. And how Joe Johnston brought some of that “Rocketeer Magic” to the proceedings, with the cool visual palette and fun, cornball “gee whiz” vibe of the thing. But that’s why they hired him for the job. Because Captain America was a period piece. That’s the look and feel Marvel Studios wanted it to have… That “Saturday Matinee Feel” so often referenced and praised in a modern movie by people who have never actually seen one of those old serials so they can say that. What they should say is “that Indiana Jones Supposedly Basing Itself On One Of Those Old Serials Feel.” 

 Gettothepoint

But that’s neither here nor there. My point is, Joe Johnston was told to do that. And, besides, the movie could look and feel different from the other ones because it was not a contemporary story. It could get away with a different palette for the visuals. But it still had to follow the rules as far as what to do with the characters and their story. And it had to align itself with the Marvel Agenda of setting up that big movie that was coming soon.

 

And, even though I haven’t seen the movie, the trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy suggest a similar situation. Marvel Studios want it to be…ahem…a “funky” movie. Why? Because no one gives a shit about these characters! Something about the movie has to catch the eye of more than just the ten or twenty people who’ve read the comics. Why not sell it as this funky, funny Space Adventure Comedy with the guy from Parks & Rec… And because it’s this otherworldly, cosmic thing, it can have a different feel to the standard, contemporary Marvel Comic Hero vibe of the rest of the movies too.

 

But I am willing to bet that, if the movie clicks, that will be the same “otherworldly” vibe and palette they will apply to any future ‘Space Movie’ they do. Like, if they ever get the rights back for Silver Surfer or whatever. 

And, yes, okay… Yes. Iron Man Three is very much “a Shane Black Movie” … Because we can, indeed, compare it to the only other “Shane Black Movie” that exists: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Also starring the very popular Robert Downey Jr, who by that point – as company mascot, essentially – had the clout and the pull to maneuver for his friend and he to make their little covert sequel. And, as long as it doesn’t fuck with the status quo (no killing off characters we can use, no diverging from the company line and – yeah, remember to reference the last film in the franchise) sure, do whatever you want.

But Edgar Wright wouldn’t play ball. 

 

And, why should he if he doesn’t want to? 

Look. Wright started working on Ant-Man in 2006. I don’t know the exact details of that. I’m going to guess he had an idea, a pitch or whatever… Maybe he’d already written the script (I guess he really liked Ant-Man… More power to the guy. If I had the clout and could be in talks to develop a comic book movie, I’d pitch Groo the Wanderer, so, sure I get it and everything). And, you know, he has respect as a guy who’s made some well-liked cult movies and Marvel is just getting off the ground at this point and they said sure. Ant-Man. If you can make it play, go nuts.

 

Then Iron Man happened…

And it was no longer: “Let’s throw it at the wall and see what sticks” I mean, to some degree I guess it was at first… Because they did make that not very good Hulk movie to supposedly apologize for the other not very good Hulk movie they had made. But, basically, after Iron Man all bets were off… And it became: “let’s become a big ass studio and let’s make The Avengers happen.” 

 

And everything had to be subservient to that. I mean, they pushed Ant-Man to after The Avengers because, probably whatever was there at that point wasn’t towing the company line. And then, they pushed it again to after The Avengers 2 because, probably, whatever was there at that point still wasn’t towing the company line…

 

…and this fails to raise eyebrows? I mean, it’s pretty clear to me that – if this movie is in development since TWO THOUSAND FUCKING SIX, and meanwhile all these dozen other Marvel movies are being made and coming out and here we are… And the movie is finally set to come out in 2016. For those keeping track, that would be ten years after Edgar Wright started working on it.

Ten…

YEARS.

 

I dunno… Maybe Ant-Man was never all that high on Marvel’s list of priorities? 

So they’re finally doing it now that they’ve figured out what to do with the character and how to – say it with me now – TOW THE COMPANY LINE with him at last? And, so, after eight years of working on the fucker and eight years of rewrites and being told: “No, don’t do that… Do THIS,” maybe Edgar Wright finally said: fuck it – and walked? 

 

And now Marvel Studios or Disney or whatever… They’re the bad guy, right? Even though, for the past seven years, they’ve put out products you’ve liked just fine. Like, we can’t trust their instincts for a minute on this one? 

I get it. It’s more fashionable and even moral to root for “the little guy.” It’s how we can continue to prove to ourselves that we’ve still got souls. 

It’s why Roddy Piper and Keith David are the heroes of They Live and not the cheese-faced individuals who put up all those boring signs. What I don’t get is why you’re getting on Marvel’s case NOW for making homogenized, standard Hollywood product, when that’s all they’ve been doing for the past seven fucking years. 

The only reason there’s an uproar is because Edgar Wright is a filmmaker The Internet Fanboy Community (TM) likes. If my buddy Joe Blow From Kokomo had been working on Ant-Man for seven years, and then he and the corporate bigwigs didn’t see eye to eye and he walked… Not a peep; and of this I am sure. Because God only knows what low profile bullshit goes on behind the scenes that we never hear about and then the movies come out and we like them just fine.

 B&R

And, guess what, they’re still going to go ahead and make Ant-Man! Don’t worry… You’ll get your Ant-Man movie that you want so much. Only Edgar Wright will no longer be directing it. But Edgar Wright didn’t direct like ten other Marvel movies that came out and a hell of a lot of people seemed to like those movies… So, why does this matter all of a sudden? How do you know that Ant-Man would have been perfect with Edgar Wright at the helm? You don’t know. It might have been flawed just like Kenneth Branagh’s Thor. And how does anyone know that, without him, it will suck? 

 

How do you know? Not a single frame of the movie has even been shot. None of us have read the final shooting script of the thing. Marvel will get a director that follows their instructions and makes the movie they want. That’s what they’ve been doing for seven years and it’s worked out; and no one complained about that. 

And so, Ant-Man will come out and it will be a Marvel Studios Movie and that’s it. 

It will be the same movie we would have gotten had Edgar Wright stayed on and done what they wanted him to do. And yet, I’m sure the will be an uproar leading up to its release… And a lot of fans will go into it sneering that it wasn’t Edgar Wright and they will decide they hate the movie before they even start watching it… Because that’s what they do. And that’s it.

 

The Avengers was a hit and a lot of people say that’s all thanks to Joss Whedon and, yes, to a certain degree that’s very true. I am not going to downplay his work as director of that greatly entertaining movie. And he showed that he could craft a screenplay that juggled all these characters and gave them their moments… And he showed that he could orchestrate the large scale, epic action the movie required. 

But he did all that, while doing what they wanted him to do.

That’s it. I’m done.

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