Marvel Has Director Problems

Marvel Has Director Problems

Marvel Studios is currently running the biggest multimedia franchise on the planet right now with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As of October 2022, the studio has put out 29 theatrically released films and 20 television shows across several networks and streaming services. It is the definition of an industry juggernaut and in its first few years alone, the MCU has changed the game of the business forever with several other studios adopting the shared universe strategy that Marvel put in place. There are countless moving parts at play, but the primary force and vision behind it all is producer Kevin Feige. At this point, Feige is an industry vet, especially when it comes to superhero movies. The man goes far back enough in the genre to have credits for the original X-Men, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and Ang Lee’s Hulk

Feige is a man who likes to keep things uniform. Given that all of these films and television shows take place in the same universe, no matter how different each individual project’s influences might be, you basically know what you’re getting at this point. Viewers are guaranteed a series with entries having the same look, feel, sense of humor, and a massive cast of characters whose potential appearances are never out of the question. Under Feige’s gargantuan Marvel umbrella is a wide variety of filmmakers who have come to play in the studio’s wheelhouse. That being said, not everyone has met the industry titan where it counts, and when push comes to shove, Marvel gets their way. With director Bassam Tariq recently exiting the forthcoming Blade and several other directors who have left past Marvel projects, it’s well past time to talk about the somewhat understandable yet troubling tight grip that the studio has on its directors.

Marvel Has a Lot on the Line
Now listen, it’s hard to put yourself in the shoes of a captain that steers a multi-billion dollar corporate ship like Marvel. Taking on the stress that somebody like Kevin Feige has sounds like a nightmare. Feige has the overlords at Disney breathing down his neck at all times, an insane amount of money flowing into new projects, and a ridiculous amount of storylines across film and television in which he has to keep track of the ways that they zig and zag out of each other. Talk about a long to-do list. And honestly, to keep himself, as well as the other heads at Marvel, sane and in their safety net of success through this entire process, it’s understandable that they would prefer to keep an in-house tone and style for the films. As stated before, there is a ridiculous amount of money at play here. A sea of artists are being paid for their work in the various stages of pre-production, production, post, marketing, you get the idea. Those of us on the outside can complain about the tiring assembly line quality that these releases have, but there’s a lot at stake at all times. That being said, not every project has to be a wildly unique foray into abstract pop storytelling, but would it really be that hard for there to be a completely unique vision at play every once in a while?

Over the years, Marvel Studios has hired a ridiculous amount of filmmakers to direct their own pieces of the larger cinematic puzzle. These credits range from ex-indie filmmakers like Ryan Coogler and James Gunn to bringing on long-time studio filmmakers such as Sam Raimi and Kenneth Branagh. Amidst the sea of talent that has entered Marvel’s system, hardly anything that is released feels wholly succinct to one artist’s vision. The studio is so set on keeping things artistically uniform and tightly-knit into pre-conceived stories that once hired, it seems as though directors are there just to call “action.” Sadly, several directors have come to work on projects and left far into the process of getting these adaptations to the big screen. That, or directors come out on the other end of releases totally disenchanted after experiencing the studio’s meddling.

Directors Who Have Left Marvel Productions
Director Patty Jenkins was attached to Thor: The Dark World for some time, eventually leaving the project while still in pre-production. While never citing an out-and-out terrible experience as her reason for leaving, there were enough creative decisions that studio had made to where the director felt as though she couldn’t make a good movie. Later on, Scott Derrickson would leave the directing duties of his Doctor Strange sequel due to, you guessed it, creative differences. While the director had already made a Strange movie, there was promise that the sequel would delve further into the horror territory that Derrickson is known for. Raimi’s eventual film would somewhat deliver on these promises, it’s just a shame that another director had to go through studio troubles for audiences to get there.

Most famously, in 2014, one of today’s most beloved filmmakers, Edgar Wright, left the original Ant-Man after a near decade of pre-production, just over a year before the film would be released. In the wake of his leaving, director Peyton Reed and a whole slew of writers came in to make last-minute changes to the film before shooting, clearly showing that there were creative clashes behind the scenes. Fast-forward one year and the team behind Ant-Man pulled off a miracle by making a movie that wasn’t actually bad, despite its troubled journey. Surprisingly, the film would go on to echo Wright’s signature visual style and humor, it just does so about as well as a watered-down glass of Coke. This all makes you wonder how great the original vision might have been had Edgar been given greater control over the film. Finally, notorious filmmaker Joss Whedon spoke out about the studio making him choose between scenes that would either be kept or cut for his Avengers sequel, Age of Ultron, an experience that led to him cutting ties with the studio. These are only a few of the times that Marvel stood in the way of their director’s visions.