Marvel Studios are enjoying a golden age. It’s all the more apparent when you compare their popcorn-friendly action films with the steadily mounting pileup of car-crash movies hurtling out of the DC camp.
Marvel have found a winning formula, but in the last two phases of the MCU the studio has been increasingly obsessed with integrating their many disparate characters into one streamlined story.
In the case of Ant Man, the pressure from Marvel bosses led Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright to walk away from the project citing creative differences with the studio, despite having been involved with the film since 2003 – a full three years before Marvel became involved.
Ant Man was left in the capable hands of Peyton Reed who kept some traces of Wright’s lovably offbeat humour, but steered the film in a much safer and more MCU-approved direction.
The film grossed $518 million worldwide, a pretty average taking for Marvel, which seemed like an important lesson for studio execs to let their star directors flex their creative muscles without restriction.
It seems like the bosses at Marvel are finally taking notice, as three of their most eagerly anticipated films are now being branded as ‘wildly different’ to the rest of the rapidly expanding MCU.
In the case of Thor Ragnarok, directed by comedy filmmaker Taika Waititi – this seems like it was inevitable. Waititi was asked in an fan Q&A on Reddit whether his 80s-inspired Thor/Hulk road trip movie (set to an original score by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh – yes, we are excited) would meld with Thor’s first two solo outings.
The director said: ‘I have no idea. It will be a nice addition to the Taika Waititi box-set though’ going on to say ‘you can expect a Taika-esque tone,’ as well as mentioning that Marvel had been ‘very accepting’ of his uniquely bombastic filmmaking style.
This response makes sense coming from the director of What We Did In The Shadows – the only film to date to nail down the vampire flat-share sub-genre – who was never going to trade in his eccentric humour for Marvel conformity.
But it also suggests the studio are giving more creative freedom to cult directors like Waititi, in the hope that a little bit of oddball ingenuity will help them to maintain their stranglehold on the superhero genre.
Guardians of the Galaxy, a bonkers concoction of comedy, space opera and western, has always stood apart from the rest of the Marvel canon and while we’ve seen Thanos teases in both of the Avengers films, writer/director James Gunn isn’t planning to join the Marvel dots in next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2, leaving his ragtag space bandits to be introduced to the MCU’s earthbound adventurers in Avengers: Infinity War.
Even Peyton Reed is asserting his independence from the Marvel fold ahead of the release of Ant Man and The Wasp, claiming that he would like to keep the rest of the Ant Man franchise in ‘its own little corner’ of the MCU.
Although we’re excited to hear that the studio are learning from their past mistakes – because, I mean imagine how much better Ant Man would have been with Simon Pegg and Cornettos – it’s unclear what this new direction will mean for massive, interconnected world that Marvel is attempting to build.
Can a film that features Thor and Hulk cruising down an intergalactic space-highway listening to The Power of Love coexist in a universe where Captain America methodically combats political corruption, while Antman quips his way through a micro-battle on top of Thomas the Tank Engine?
We’re not sure if any of these ideas make the slightest bit of sense when you put them all together, but we’re certainly excited to see how they pan out!