This past week the director of DC's upcoming (we hope) Wonder Woman movie quit. The official reason was “creative differences”. The unofficial reason, of course, is that this project is fucking cursed and we will never see this movie happen. At least, that was my initial reaction.
It may not be completely irrational but I do tend to assume disaster on the part of DC's film offerings. True, they have a very long history of not being able to make anything other than Batman work on film but it isn't entirely fair to assume failure for everything they do.
The converse, of course, is Marvel Studios who seem almost incapable of critical failure. So I reach the assumption that losing a director on a legendarily hard prospect of a film might sink the film, if not seriously dent DC's Justice League masterplan but what could sink Marvel's efforts, in theory?
Because one of the odd things about Marvel Studios is that its an absolute machine. The machine is run by talented individuals but seems to have enough redundancy that it can survive losing them. Edgar Wright quit Ant-Man in a way pretty similar to this Wonder Woman situation yet the new director's trailer has character and humaour to spare. Yes, its a trailer and will have most of the best bits cherrypicked for it but there were at least enough good parts to make a cool trailer. Its not like the bedevilled by rewrites and reshoots mess that Fox's recent Fantastic Four represented.
So what else is there?
They've long passed the point of relying on any name recognition beyond “Marvel Studios”. They made a success out of Guardians Of The Galaxy and, in partnership with Pixar, Big Hero Six. These are comics a lot of comic fans hadn't heard of, let alone the general public who could be relied up on to know who the Hulk or Captain America were.
Actors quitting? The Iron Man, Thor and Captain America films are all ending after the third instalment with Marvel's post-Age Of Ultron slate designed to introduce new properties. Even when Thor: The Dark World was impacted by poor actor availability it was entertaining and I'm saying this about what I consider the weakest Marvel film. True, they lost Natalie Portman to dissatisfaction after Dark World but we'll see how that plays out in Ragnarok.
Will it be when they give up on their cherished “loyalty” to the source material? We passed that Rubicon with Guardians Of The Galaxy which massively rewrote the history of most of its main characters and even ignoring that Big Hero 6 was practically a new IP it had so little to do with the original comic. Hell, looking closely at most of their films massive liberties have been taken with almost every character they've used and the supposed loyalty is mainly cosmetic. Of all the headlining characters I'd say only Captain America is a functionally perfect replica of the comics version.
Will they spread themselves too thin? They've released eleven films and three TV shows so far with a five year plan for another twelve films and three shows on the books over the next five years.
Honestly, there's only one thing I think can actually sink Marvel and its the reason I think they have done so well and banked so much good will:
I think this ride ends when it stops being fun. Essentially, if there's a secret to Marvel's success compared to Fox, Sony and Warner its that the people working on these films want to be working on these films. I'm not claiming every Marvel film is a passion project but there's a level of enthusiasm in the finished project that's lacking in a lot of other superhero films, especially the ones made just to satisfy contracts like The Amazing Spider-Man or even the generally better X-Men films. In those stakes DC has the potential to be the worst offender, which is where the real worry about Justice League and its planned spin-offs come in.
Because ultimately its being done to beat Marvel at Marvel's game. I genuinely believe that done right and with the correct level of passion DC has the superior product. Whatever else might be true about the two companies its DC that owns the most famous superheroes in the world: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman. It absolutely baffles me its taken this long to get a Wonder Woman project off the ground (...ish) because on name recognition alone Marvel has nothing comparable. Their female headlining project? Captain Marvel. Captain chuffing Marvel!
Yeah, I like Carol Danvers fine and she's a real success story for Marvel, this is a movie that deserves to happen but Marvel has a very thin bench for female protagonists compared to DC. Carol genuinely is the best choice that isn't just a woman from a team or the female version of a more recognisable male hero (She-Hulk, otherwise, would be a better choice, in my view).
If I'm not putting this across well: I want the Wonder Woman film to happen, I want it to be good, but I do worry that Warner's historic inability to make anything beyond Batman work worries me.