A set photo from test footage for Edgar Wright's Ant-Man.
On Friday, just before the start of the Memorial Day holiday, Marvel released a tersely worded announcement. Director Edgar Wright – he of the gay-positive Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the great Coronetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, last year's The World's End), had exited Ant-Man, the Paul Rudd-starring superhero film he had been slated to direct for a July 2015 release. The culprit was that time-honored Hollywood excuse: “creative differences.”
It was an excuse that, to be blunt, reeked. Wright was no mere director for hire on the film; Ant-Man was a passion project, to which he'd been attached since 2006 – well before the first Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Test footage screened at Comic-Con in 2012 earned near-unanimous praise, suggesting that the seemingly iffy premise of a shrinking hero could be used to stage some genuinely cool scenes. In fact, it's unlikely that Marvel would even be making the film in the first place had he not been involved (Ant-Man having never been the most popular of Marvel characters). So it's difficult to believe that substantive “creative differences” with Marvel would have arisen only a few weeks before the film began production.
Quickly, rumors and speculation began to arise. One Reddit post claimed that Wright had been fired due to running behind schedule on the film. Another, more troubling rumor was that the creative interference prompting Wright's departure came not from Marvel, but from Disney – that its executives were now taking imposing a weak, generic script on the project.
Wright himself, probably under non-disclosure agreements, has offered no public comment, beyond a now-deleted, cryptic tweet featuring Buster Keaton. And Joss Whedon, now directing Avengers: Age of Ultron, tweeted a photo of himself holding aloft a Coronetto cone in solidarity:
Marvel's announcement indicates that it intends to keep the film's current release date – and with a cast that includes Rudd and Michael Douglas already in place, as well as much of the pre-production work completed, it's likely that the film will move forward on schedule. Still, it's hard not to look at what happened and wonder if Marvel Studios' success is going to Disney's head in all the wrong ways.