Of Ants and Men

Before things took a decidedly dark turn last weekend, the Internet’s attention had been fixated on one thin: director Edgar Wright’s sudden departure from Marvel’s upcoming Ant-Man film. As usual, the reason given for the split was “creative differences”, a phrase so vague that it could literally mean anything. Of course, vague statements and a complete lack of concrete information didn’t stop the Internet denizens from wildly speculating on the matter. Most laid all the blame on Marvel, with some even going so far as to demand that they apologize for whatever hypothetical wrongdoing caused Edgar Wright to split. Others seized the opportunity and proclaimed this event as proof the Marvel’s movie juggernaut was falling to pieces. It all struck me as a tad ridiculous.

Like everyone else, I’m disappointed to see Edgar Wright leave Ant-Man. Although I can’t say that I’ve seen or even particularly liked all his films, I am a huge fan of his previous film based on a comic book, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Honestly, it’s second only to Star Wars on my list of all time favorite movies. For a while, I watched it on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis, memorizing my favorite lines and annoying all my friends with allusions that amused only myself. Needless to say, I very much wanted to see his take on this obscure Marvel superhero.

As saddened as I am by his departure, however, I don’t think it’s fair to blindly blame Marvel when – and I feel this needs to be emphasized – we know absolutely nothing about why this happened.

Edgar Wright is clearly a talented director, but he also may not have been a right fit for this project (or what it became after the success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe). Strange as it may sound, things like vision and gravitas don’t always guarantee success. Just look at The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton, which I had the “pleasure” of watching for the first time not too long ago. Given Norton’s reputation as a high-caliber actor – thanks in part to his roles in films like Fight Club and American History X – I’ve often wondered why he was replaced by Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers. His performance in The Incredible Hulk, however, displays none of that reputed talent. Norton spends almost all of his screen time looking bored: he say his lines on cue and goes through all the correct motions, but he puts no effort into actually selling to character or the story. His performance is just slightly less wooden than the entire cast of the Star Wars prequels. In a movie full of problems, Edward Norton should have been the highlight instead of its biggest flaw.

That said, I don’t believe that Edgar Wright’s version of Ant-Man would have been a train-wreck of Incredible Hulk proportions; in fact, I suspect it would have been very good. I use this example only to illustrate that talented artists, if misplaced, can actually be a detriment to the work as a whole. It’s been eight years since he was originally announced to direct the Ant-Man movie, and a lot has changed for Marvel in that time: is it really so strange to think that maybe he was no longer the best choice?

In a perfect universe, I’d be able to watch both hypothetical versions of Ant-Man and decide for myself which movie is better. Lacking that, my plan is to continue waiting and reserve my final judgment until the movie is actually done and playing in theaters…. which, by my calendar, is still another 13 months away.