Things are not looking good for Marvel's Ant-Man, which is why the studio should take a deep breath, make the right decision and squash it.
With news breaking that Rawson Thurber (We're the Millers) became the second director to pass on the project after Edgar Wright walked away (Adam McKay was the first), the situation for the movie has become much more dire.
Although there was a third director in the mix as well -- Ruben Fleischer -- he is said to be a contender for Ghostbusters 3 and less interested in inheriting the disaster that Ant-Man may well be turning into.
So Marvel now has no director, by all accounts a rotten, rewritten script, and a July 2015 release date staring them in the face. What should they do?
Our suggestion: Cancel the movie.
This all started last week when Wright, the director and co-writer who had been developing the film for seven years, abruptly left the production. From the stories that have circulated around the industry, it seems that Wright's script was retooled by a different set of writers -- and not by order of Marvel, but its parent company Disney, which demanded changes to the character of thief-turned-hero Scott Lang and wanted the movie to align more closely with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
If Marvel/Disney wants its movie to fit better into the universe it's building, that's fine, but why pull the rug out from under a director who, like him or not, has his own unique voice that the company has known about for years? Wright reportedly got one look at the new screenplay -- which is rumored to be horrendous -- and bolted, with a lot of his top crew following.
Whoever comes in now to direct -- and Marvel can probably find someone who at least knows how to point a camera and shoot -- has the deck stacked against them. They must contend with the legacy of Wright's original concept and the taint of his departure, for one. They have to rush through filming with a severely compromised script. And they may be working with a very unhappy cast, especially star Paul Rudd; after all, this is not the film he signed up for.
The more you think about it, the more cancellation seems to make the most sense, for these reasons:
1) The Ant-Man that's been in development for seven years has been filtered through Wright's own personal vision. Slapping another director into the chair and hoping he or she can navigate that and create a decent film is a very tall and difficult order indeed.
2) Rushing the movie out just to make a release date goes against everything Marvel has been doing so far, and bringing a substandard product to the screen would quite possibly be the first major failure on the part of a studio that has made mostly all the right moves. A failed Ant-Man movie would not ruin the studio -- anyone who thinks that is being silly -- but it would be a blot on what has been an otherwise solid record, especially in the past two or three years.
3) Comic book fans know all about Ant-Man, but it's not like the general public is jumping up and down with anticipation for the movie. In fact, the vast majority of moviegoers have no idea who Ant-Man is (or Edgar Wright, for that matter). There have been no trailers and nothing outside of a few minutes of test footage that Wright showed at Comic-Con. Take Ant-Man off the schedule and most people won't even know it was ever there.
4) Are comic-book fans even waiting for this version of Ant-Man? Wright deliberately chose to make Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man, the main character of his movie, and not Hank Pym, who is not only an original Avenger, but also a crucial component of much of the larger Marvel Comics canon (an older, retired Pym is slated to be played by Michael Douglas in the current film). That, in itself, said a lot about Wright's intentions to make his own movie, and while many fans respect him as a filmmaker, I certainly think there was a sense that Hank and his wife Janet, aka the Wasp, were being short-changed.
So, yes, cancel Ant-Man as it currently stands. Don't make this movie that is already damaged goods. If Marvel can't fill that release slot, that's okay: The Avengers was its sole movie for 2012, and certainly The Avengers: Age of Ultron can carry that load for 2015. And speaking of the Avengers, here's our ultimate solution to the Ant-Man problem:
Forget about a standalone movie, forget about Scott Lang, pay off the cast and let it go. Then introduce Hank and Janet Pym into the MCU in The Avengers: The Infinity Gauntlet, coming out in 2018. Ant-Man was already a risk as a stand-alone character; make the Pyms and their complex dynamic a central piece of the third Avengers movie and I think they'll be more successful as a result. Plus you can always bring Lang into the mix later on -- and maybe even lure Edgar Wright back, as well.
What do you think? Should Marvel scrap Ant-Man now before it goes any further and introduce the original in The Avengers 3? What is the best way for Marvel to move forward?