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How 'Ant-Man' puts the Marvel method to the test
Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang/Ant-Man in "Ant-Man." - photo by Jeff Peterson
With the release of Ant-Man this weekend, the Marvel Cinematic Universes Phase 3 is officially underway. The event has been met with surprisingly little fanfare, considering this will probably be, for many of the superheroes that audiences have grown to know and love, the home stretch.

Ant-Man is important for another reason, though. Like last years Guardians of the Galaxy, it puts the Marvel method to the test in a way that could determine how future films in the MCU are made.

Guardians proved that the Marvel brand is strong enough to bring audiences to theaters without any big-name stars or recognizable characters. All it takes is the red and white Marvel Studios logo. Thanks to that, the doors of the MCU have been kicked wide open (with Hooked on a Feeling blasting in the background) and things are going to get a lot weirder because of it.

But Ant-Man has another point to prove: In a nutshell, that the huge Marvel machine with all its interconnected moving parts must always take priority over individual filmmakers visions even great filmmakers.

Heres why:

Ant-Man had possibly the rockiest production history of any Marvel movie to date. Its also the first Marvel movie that managed to tick off its core fan base before it even began filming. The reason for both was original director Edgar Wright. A fan favorite, the British filmmaker behind cult comedies such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World was, for most people, including MCU architect and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, the only reason there was any interest in Ant-Man or Pym Particles.

Ant-Man had been a passion project of Wrights for years. As far back as 2004 before Marvel Studios even existed he was in contact with Feige about the possibility of directing a movie based on the diminutive hero. As Feige told MTV in 2013, shortly after Ant-Man was finally, officially announced as part of Marvels Phase 3 lineup, Wrights passion for the character was the only reason the studio was even making it.

Then, just months before filming was scheduled to begin, Marvel and Wright dropped the bombshell announcement that the director was leaving the production due to differences in vision for the film," according to an official statement (via Screen Rant).

This isnt the first time Marvels approach rubbed a director the wrong way. According to Cinema Blend, Jon Favreaus experience shooting Iron Man 2 with a rushed production schedule and an incomplete script is one reason he opted not to come back for Iron Man 3, which was directed instead by Shane Black.

Likewise, Thor director Kenneth Branagh decided not to return for Thor 2: The Dark World, citing creative differences; his replacement, Patty Jenkins, also jumped ship for the same reason, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Even Avengers director Joss Whedon has expressed frustration over studio-mandated limitations he ran into while filming its sequel, Age of Ultron.

But Wrights departure was a unique situation that left fans feeling betrayed, especially as more details of the situation started to trickle out through various sources. Allegedly, the reason for Wrights last-minute decision to exit a project that he had nurtured for literally a decade or more was Marvels insistence that the script be rejiggered to better fit the rest of the MCU, including notes to tweak the protagonists core morality and to incorporate franchise characters.

When a new draft by Wright and his co-writer Joe Cornish didnt satisfy the studio, in-house writers were brought onboard, producing a script that, according to an unnamed source for Latino-Review, was poorer, homogenized and not Edgars vision.

Speaking to Buzz Feed, Whedon compared it to a marriage gone wrong, saying Wrights script was the best script that Marvel had ever had. Im not going to say it was definitely all Marvel, or Edgars gone mad! I felt like they would complement each other by the ways that they were different. And, uh, somethin happened.

At its core, the problem seemed to be one of individualism versus conformity. A source quoted by the Hollywood Reporter said, "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."

Hollwood has long prioritized the director over every other aspect of the filmmaking process. The word auteur itself belies the inherently collaborative nature of any film set. But Marvel with its complex interconnected universe, is pushing against that with a type of filmmaking that relies on everyone fitting in to a larger picture, working for a common goal.

According to Evangeline Lilly, who plays Hope Pym, Wrights version of the film, although it might have been great, wouldnt have done that. Via BuzzFeed: "... I feel like, if (Marvel) had created Edgars incredible vision which would have been, like, classic comic book it would have been such a riot to film (and) it would have been so much fun to watch. (But) it wouldnt have fit in the Marvel Universe. It would have stuck out like a sore thumb, no matter how good it was. It just would have taken you away from this cohesive universe theyre trying to create. And therefore it ruins the suspended disbelief that theyve built. ... I saw with my own eyes that Marvel had just pulled the script into their world. I mean, theyve established a universe, and everyone has come to expect a certain aesthetic (and) a certain feel for Marvel films. And what Edgar was creating was much more in the Edgar Wright camp of films. They were very different."

Wrights replacement, Peyton Reed, is, like a lot of Marvel talent, a director whose previous film credits dont obviously recommend him for the job. His biggest hit to date was the Kirsten Dunst cheerleader comedy Bring It On. And Reed wasnt even the first director after Wright to whom Marvel offered the job. Despite that, Feige has been insistent that Reed is a perfect fit, telling IGN, As I said to the Comic-Con audience a few years ago, You might not have heard of ("Captain America: The Winter Soldier" directors) Joe and Antony Russo, but youre going to be big fans of them soon. And Id say the same thing about Peyton Reed now.

After Wrights departure, there has been a wait and see attitude towards Ant-Man for the majority of the hardcore fans.

Marvels track record so far has been nothing short of incredible. Each of its 11 films so far has been a financial success. All of them have opened No. 1 at the box office. But that could change at any time, and with troubled production of Ant-Man and some surprisingly tone-deaf marketing, a lot of people have wondered if Marvels devotion to its singularity of vision is a good thing.

If Ant-Man stumbles at the box office, the conversation will inevitably turn to how much better, funnier, more unique, etc., it might have been if Wright had directed it. But if it turns out to be the blockbuster Marvel is hoping for, it will be vindication for Feige and Co., showing once again that, even though the Marvel method might be different, the company knows what it is doing.