That is one short and succinct announcement.
“Marvel and Edgar Wright jointly announced today that the studio and director have parted ways on ANT-MAN due to differences in their vision of the film.”
Marvel, might I suggest that this was not your best move ever?
Honestly, if Edgar Wright and his co-writer Joe Cornish had not stayed dedicated to the idea of making an “Ant-Man” movie in the first place, I doubt this would be a film that would have been tapped as a major cornerstone in Phase Three, which kicks in after Marvel's release of next year's “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” As far back as I can remember Edgar talking about the movie, it's always been something that he and Joe kicked around as a crazy sort of left-field idea. Marvel took some serious convincing, and they've been more than happy to leave the development on a time-table that had nothing to do with marketing. They even put it off so Edgar could finish the Cornetto trilogy with “The World's End” first because there were personal reasons for wanting to finish that film in a timely manner.
So what sort of “differences in their vision of the film” could have suddenly reared up as they're actually on their way to the start of shooting? The simple truth is that we don't know right now, and we may never know. Edgar's always been a very straightforward and honest guy, but he's also well aware that there is no winning this sort of thing by bitching about it to the media. And Marvel's not going to come out swinging because there's no upside to that. So they put out a press release (in the middle of the afternoon at the start of a three-day holiday weekend, which isn't remotely because they were hoping most editorial offices were already closed), call it an amicable split, and they reaffirm that they are still planning to release the movie on the same release date next year.
It would be easy to try to turn Marvel into a bad guy on this one, but that's also playing into this idea that you can judge these situations from the outside. Marvel's taken chances on other filmmakers that have paid off tremendously. Has everyone forgotten the trailer from last week with the talking raccoon and the giant space tree? Or when they hired two guys who were best known for their work on “Community” to make a spy thriller out of the “Captain America” sequel? Right now, they're deep into production on Whedon's second time at bat with “The Avengers,” and it's so much bigger and weirder than the first one that I think it's going to shock some people who don't know Whedon from anything except the first film. Marvel is on one of the biggest sustained commercial rolls of all time, and they've done that by balancing artistic risks and commercial instinct, and for the most part, they've done it right. It think it would be ridiculous to suddenly declare war on them over this, but looking at my Twitter feed right now, it's like Marvel announced that they had Edgar killed, not that he left a film.
And here's the bright side: Edgar Wright will go make something else. There. Feel better? Because I certainly do. We're talking about a guy with a remarkable sense of style and wit, and while I am sorry that the time he put into the film isn't going to pay off in something I can sit and watch, I think he'll turn around and make something that will be his, and we'll have that to enjoy. It's not a loss. At the very worst, it's a delay. We may have to wait a little longer to see his name onscreen again, but if he's not happy with what he's making, I don't want to see it anyway. He's managed to do things his way so far, and that seems to be working just fine, so I'll happily wait for it to happen again.
And, no, I don't think they're going to hire Joe Cornish to direct it. Joe and Edgar have been friends since long before they started working on “Ant-Man” together, and if Edgar wasn't happy with where things were going, I think there's a very strong chance Joe wouldn't be, either. I do think that when we see the film, there are going to be a lot of Edgar's ideas in there. They're deep into pre-production at this point, gearing up to shoot in Atlanta, and I doubt they're planning to scrap everything and start over. That's just not practical. Chances are, it's still going to have any number of touches that will remind us Wright was calling the shots for the longest time.
So… how long until they hand Edgar a “Star Wars” spinoff? Anyone taking bets?
“Ant-Man” arrives in theaters July 17, 2015.