Excitement is high for Marvel Studios’ Phase Two-capper Avengers: Age of Ultron, but while Marvel’s other 2015 release was originally intended to act as the kick-off film for the massive Phase Three, it has since been relegated to a Phase Two postscript. Indeed, this July’s Ant-Man may have been the most tumultuous production of any Marvel Studios film since the early days of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, which is kind of fitting given that Edgar Wright’s take originated in the very early days of Marvel’s Phase One.
By now the ins and outs of Wright’s tenure with Marvel—and subsequent departure from Ant-Man after completing most of the casting for the film—have been covered, but someone else has now weighed in on the matter: the “creative consultant” of Marvel’s Phase Two and writer/director of both Avengers films, Joss Whedon.
Speaking with Buzzfeed, Whedon lamented the creative differences that led to Wright departing Ant-Man and Marvel subsequently setting Paul Rudd and Adam McKay to rewrite Wright and Joe Cornish‘s original script to their specifications:
“I don’t get it,” he said with a sigh. “I thought the script was not only the best script that Marvel had ever had, but the most Marvel script I’d read. I had no interest in Ant-Man. [Then] I read the script, and was like, Of course! This is so good! It reminded me of the books when I read them. Irreverent and funny and could make what was small large, and vice versa. I don’t know where things went wrong. But I was very sad. Because I thought, This is a no-brainer. This is Marvel getting it exactly right. Whatever dissonance that came, whatever it was, I don’t understand why it was bigger than a marriage that seemed so right. But I’m not going to say it was definitely all Marvel, or Edgar’s gone mad! I felt like they would complement each other by the ways that they were different. And, uh, somethin’ happened.”
“The best script that Marvel ever had”—as if we weren’t disappointed enough at never seeing Wright’s Ant-Man. At the end of the day, though, these are Marvel Studios movies, and the studio has earned the clout to oversee and dictate the content of these films, for better or worse. The problem with Ant-Man, of course, is that Wright was hired before Marvel Studios was “Marvel Studios,” so when it came time for him to make an Edgar Wright Ant-Man movie, Marvel needed the film to fit into the groove it created with its other features.
Later in the piece, Whedon addresses the notion of Marvel’s episodic approach to storytelling when discussing the importance of making Age of Ultron feel like a complete experience and not just a cog in the Marvel machine:
“No matter how much they may talk about, ‘Well, this is going to lead to some terrible stuff down the line,’ in my movie, it’s designed to be a complete experience. And if I don’t do that, if I haven’t brought you on that journey and closed it out, fuck me. That’s the danger of this sort of serialized storytelling, turning the motion picture experience into episodic TV. Because we have episodic TV, and now you don’t even have to wait to watch it, you can binge it. So that’s to me a dreadful mistake.”
Marvel does take a pretty episodic approach to its films, but the key is finding filmmakers that are able to infuse each movie with just enough of their own flavor without rocking the boat too heavily. People like James Gunn and Joe & Anthony Russo have successfully brought their flavors to Marvel movies without making each film feel wholly out of sync with whatever else is going on in the MCU. Wright, however, is a singular, unique talent, and though his Ant-Man movie would’ve no doubt been incredible, it would’ve been unmistakably Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man. It’s akin to the notion of Quentin Tarantino‘s Black Widow or Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Doctor Strange: we, as audience members, would watch the hell out of that, but Marvel would never greenlight those films because they wouldn’t fit the Marvel Cinematic Universe mold.
I remain very curious about this new version of Ant-Man, mostly because I think the prospect of Paul Rudd as a superhero is genius, but I don’t think I’ll ever get over the “what could have been” of Edgar Wright’s vision—especially after Whedon’s comments.