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Why ‘Ant-Man,’ ‘Daredevil’ upheavals probably won’t affect Marvel’s winning streak

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, June 5 2014 3:50 p.m. MDT

In this film image released by Disney, Chris Evans, portraying Captain America, left, and Robert Downey Jr., portraying Tony Stark, are shown in a scene from "Marvel's The Avengers."

Disney

Over Memorial Day weekend, Marvel Cinematic Universe fans got hit with a one-two punch of disappointing news.

First, it was announced that Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) would be stepping down from directorial duties on Marvel’s upcoming Phase Three movie “Ant-Man” due to “differences in (Marvel and Wright’s) vision of the film," as reported by Deadline.

Then, less than 24 hours later, Latino Review broke the news that the creative mastermind on Marvel Television’s Daredevil series for Netflix, showrunner/director/writer Drew Goddard (“Cabin in the Woods”), had jumped ship, as well, apparently to direct the “Amazing Spider-Man” spin-off “The Sinister Six” for Marvel competitor Sony.

Either one of these announcements on its own would have been bad enough.

Wright’s last-minute departure, in particular — mere weeks before filming on “Ant-Man” was scheduled to begin in Atlanta — has led to unconfirmed reports and speculation of basically everything movie fans fear most: studio interference, unnecessary rewrites, a compromised creative vision, a disgruntled auteur, etc.

However, while there will always be that question of what Wright’s “Ant-Man” or Goddard’s “Daredevil” might have been like, there’s no reason to think that these personnel changes will really hurt Marvel’s onscreen universe — or they won’t be for the best in the long run.

As one anonymous source told the Hollywood Reporter, commenting on Wright’s decision to step away from “Ant-Man,” “(Marvel Studios president) Kevin Feige (and his top lieutenants) run Marvel with a singularity of vision, but when you take a true auteur and throw him into the mix, this is what you get. They don’t want you to speak up too much or have too much vision. People who have never worked there don’t understand how they operate, but if you trust them, they have an amazing track record.”

And that’s key. Eight movies in, with its ninth and most ambitious film to date (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) already generating tons of positive buzz just on the strength of its trailer, Marvel hasn’t had a box-office dud.

That isn’t because its films have all been amazing.

Despite an overly generous 73 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the studio’s first sequel, “Iron Man 2,” is generally regarded as a creative misfire. Likewise, “The Incredible Hulk,” “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” — three of the movies that laid the foundation for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe — all had major issues of their own.

Only “Iron Man” (93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), “Marvel's The Avengers” (92 percent) and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (89 percent) have been as successful with critics as they were with audiences at the box office.

In other words, even more than quality, Marvel’s success speaks to its consistent brand identity, and a big part of that is the ability to tie all of its films (even the mediocre ones) into a larger, cohesive picture, creating an incentive for audiences to go and watch something no matter who the director or star may be.

In the case of Wright, specifically, although his quirky, irreverent sense of humor and unique directorial voice would probably have made for a great Ant-Man movie, they might not have made for a great Marvel movie.

Based on comments by Wright and Feige from the last several years (Wright has been unofficially attached to “Ant-Man” since 2006 — before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was even a thing), at least part of the “differences in their vision” may have stemmed from how much, if at all, Wright even wanted his “Ant-Man” to tie in to the Avengers universe.

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