In what may be non-news to normal functioning adults, Marvel Studios and director Edgar Wright have decided to go their separate ways. Wright had been attached to direct the phase 3 Marvel movie, Ant-Man, for the past few years. Everything was going according to plan until last week, when Wright announced he was leaving the project.
Rumors are definitely abound as to the actual cause of his departure. Now, verified accounts state that Marvel took Wright and Joe Cornish’s script and rewrote a significant amount to fit their homogenized blockbuster-making approach. Until recently, Marvel was grabbing some stylish cult directors, like Wright and James Gunn (who directs this Fall’s Guardians of the Galaxy). If you’ve seen Wright’s other classics like Shaun of the Dead or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, it’s clear that his vision wouldn’t align with the vanilla that Marvel puts out. Also, while Guardians looks like a lot of fun, anyone who knows the work of its director, wouldn’t say it’s the work of James Gunn.
It makes sense that Marvel is only willing to go with the formula that’s proved successful time and time again. Wright has a certain flair and it would probably go the heads of a large portion of the movie-going audience. Kevin Feige and the management at Marvel had the script changed to an unrecognizable story and Wright didn’t want to compromise his vision. Marvel has announced that a new director will be found soon for the movie that’s intended for release on July 17, 2015. I’m sure they’ll find a serviceable director to direct what they want. As of now, this is the first dent in Marvel’s armor.
At this point, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man.
The following projects were scrapped for one reason or another. For better or worse, we never got the chance to see these super-heroic flicks.
5 – George Miller’s Justice League Mortal
This was just a bizarre project. Christopher Nolan had already found success with Batman Begins and was finishing up work on The Dark Knight. Meanwhile, Warner Brothers thought they’d cash in on recent DC successes (Superman Returns was less successful than they hoped) and started work on a Justice League movie. Justice League Mortal was meant to start filming in early 2008 and was going to disregard Christian Bale as Batman and start completely afresh. This probably wasn’t a good idea considering how successful Dark Knight became.
George Miller, known for the Mad Max and Happy Feet movies, started Justice League Mortal as his passion project. The movie even had a cast training for their roles right before principal filming. DJ Cotrona (GI Joe 2) was meant to play Superman, the charismatically challenged Armie Hammer (Lone Ranger) was supposed to play Batman and Jay Baruchel was going to play the villain, Maxwell Lord. The only inspired casting from this movie was Adam Brody playing The Flash. If that casting carried over into the 2018 version, I’d be happy.
This movie ran into trouble when Miller’s proposed budget surpassed $200 million and the writers’ strike approached. Also, fans were overwhelmingly receptive of Bale’s Batman and wouldn’t care to see another play him. Eventually, Miller left the project and left it to rot. Just as it deserves to.
4 – Darren Aronofsky’s The Wolverine
Director Darren Aronofsky has been attached to nearly every A-list hero at some point in his career. At one point, he was extremely close to directing Batman: Year One. It would have been an unseen version of Gotham, where Batman doesn’t wear a suit and fights thugs in alleys and Detective Gordon would be a tough-as-nails cop. One movie I was excited for was Aronofsky’s personal take on Wolverine. Even though it doesn’t seem like the Black Swan/Requiem for a Dream director would be the obvious choice, he would have made the film unique and memorable. Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) wrote a script that was meant to essentially place Logan as a Clint Eastwood-esque antihero in a Kurosawa samurai movie.
Even though Hugh Jackman had personally brought Aronofsky onto the project, the director eventually had to drop out because he “didn’t want to leave his family for a long period of time.” His relationship with Rachel Weisz had just fallen apart and he didn’t want to leave his son for a year of filming in Japan. Many believed that Fox didn’t want to give up creative control and that caused him to leave. Once again, why would studios get an art house director and expect them to make a standard movie? Aronofsky also saw the opportunity arise to film his dream project, Noah, and pursued that instead.
As he left the project, so did screenwriter McQuarrie. Mark Bomback was brought on to doctor the script (dumb it down) and James Mangold directed a half-decent, but forgettable Wolverine movie.
3 – James Cameron’s Spider-Man
After the comic book movie success of Batman and Batman Returns, James Cameron tried to throw his hat into the superhero ring. In 1993, he wrote a script treatment for a dark Spider-Man movie. In his version, a radioactive spider bites Peter Parker while Peter attends a college lecture on genetic mutation. The main villain of the movie is Electro, who in this version is a corporate capitalist stereotype with electric powers. Sandman is one of Electro’s henchmen. The final battle takes place atop the World Trade Center. This mid-90s Spider-Man leaned towards an R rating. Apparently the script had more than its fair share of profanity. Also, Peter and Mary Jane have a graphic sex scene on top of the Brooklyn Bridge. Friendly red light district Spider-man anyone?
The movie was owned by a production house called Carolco. They never quite knew what to do with the possible franchise. Matters were also made more difficult when everyone started getting sued with copyright infringement. Then, in 1996, Carolco and Marvel went bankrupt. MGM picked up the series at that point.
We almost saw Leonardo DiCaprio play Spider-Man. Also, Arnold Schwarzenegger was set to play Electro. At least he got a chance to ruin Batman just a few years later.
2 – Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman
Joss Whedon is known for creating strong feminine types. So, it made sense when he was hired by producer Joel Silver and Warner Brothers to write a script for Wonder Woman in 2005. This origin story would have been similar to the DC animated movie in which Steve Trevor crashes on the island of Themiscyra. Diana/Wonder Woman brings him back to the states and ends up traveling the world seeing the senseless destruction that man brings upon itself. This is when she accepts her role as a hero and protector.
This project fell apart for several reasons. Whedon cites that the studio and he couldn’t see eye to eye on certain aspects of the script. WB most likely got impatient because after two years on the job, Whedon still only had an outline for the movie and not a completed script.
Now, Whedon is the godfather of the Marvel franchises and it seems a shame that DC was never able to take advantage of his writing talents.
1 – Tim Burton’s Superman Lives
One of the most infamous ‘almost was’ movies is the film specfically designed for development hell – Superman Lives. The big comics event of the ’90s was the Death and Return of Superman. In the late ’90s, that story was being developed for a gigantic tentpole summer movie. After several rewrites (including one by Kevin Smith) the project was put in Tim Burton’s hands. That doesn’t sound so bad right? Remember, Burton brought Batman to the big screen. He had also made Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands in the same decade. He was on a hot streak. The project was given some credibility, believe it or not, when Oscar winning actor Nicholas Cage was brought on to play the Man of Steel. Once again, remember this was the ’90s.
The story pitted Superman against Braniac, Lex Luthor and Doomsday. Sounds a little crowded. Luthor and Braniac team together to block the sun and mitigate Superman’s powers. In turn, Supes and Doomsday fight to the death. Eventually, Superman returns in a new suit and is now called the Eradicator. (see also, electric Superman suit).
This movie was supposed to be released in 1998 originally. Then it was delayed to 1999. It was delayed once again and Tim Burton left the project saying that he had already wasted a year on the project. The script was touched up by at least 8 more people and WB offered the job to several A-list directors. They couldn’t run away from it quickly enough.
Isn’t it crazy that Nicholas Cage was once seen as so versatile, that he could pull off playing Clark Kent and Superman? Not to worry, at least he got to star in Ghost Rider…