If The Hollywood Reporter's list of prospective “Ant-Man” directors is accurate, it is my considered opinion that “Ant-Man” represents a genuine problem for the studio.
I like Adam McKay quite a bit. I enjoy the way that big weird thing he calls a brain works, and I like the way he is unafraid to smuggle really serious ideas into the silliest possible movies. While he definitely snuck in a bit of buddy cop action while making “The Other Guys” and his new film “Get Hard” also plays with that, I'm not sure action is what I'd think of when I think of him. Ruben Fleischer's “Zombieland” was huge fun, but he botched “Gangster Squad” pretty much across the board. I am even more confused by the idea of Rawson Thurber being on the list. I know “We're The Millers” made a startling amount of money considering it's terrible, but does that really mean he's the guy you offer a Marvel movie to?
The one thing that I can say for sure about the current state of “Ant-Man” is that no one's got the full story yet. I know everyone has jumped to line up behind the Latino Review version of events as the absolute truth, and I think much of their story is accurate, but I also think there's more going on here. Marvel is under more scrutiny right now for the choices they're making than they ever have been before, and while I understand why it's happening, I think we're reaching a tipping point where the press is starting to turn on them and actively look for cracks in what they're building.
There is a perception problem that is starting to become a very real thing for Marvel, and that is that they are not open to “real” filmmakers. One of the things I find a little bit uncomfortable about that narrative is that it slams anyone who has successfully worked with the studio, although in a back-handed way. The perception that's starting to take hold is that the only people who do well at Marvel are people without a strong, discernible style of their own who will take orders and do whatever the company wants them to do.
That sucks. That sucks if you're The Russo Brothers and you turn in a stylish film like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” that feels totally different than anything you've made before. That sucks if you're Jon Favreau and your one big-canvass movie since your Marvel films tanked. That sucks if you're Joss Whedon, who directed the third-biggest film of all time, but who is still primarily dismissed as “a TV guy.” That sucks if you're James Gunn, who has established a very strong indie persona and who appears to have smuggled all of your subversive sensibilities into a giant mainstream space adventure.
And it doubly sucks for whoever follows Wright into this job, because anything good in the film will be seen as a holdover from Wright's work in pre-production, and anything bad will be blamed on the new guy.
I've spoken to people in and around the “Ant-Man” team over the last week and a half, and there's a good deal of anxiety about how things are going to shake out. Will the cast be the same? Will the film make its release date, and if not, can Marvel push anything else forward to be ready in time? And will this moment become the place where Marvel suddenly started finding themselves the bad guys in the narrative that the media press loves to create?
Only time will tell, and if “Ant-Man” hits theaters as scheduled in 2015, I'm curious to see whose fingerprints are most prominent in the finished product.