Marvel Studios have been surprising people recently. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 cemented James Gunn‘s role as a maverick director taking charge of a megabucks movie punt-turned-franchise. Now Taika Waititi (above) is getting plaudits for his unconventional work on Thor: Ragnarok, number three in that particular strand of the comic giant’s cinematic universe.
The stage is set for yet another discussion about how the corporate outlook of such films might shift. That creative vision might just take precedence over financial concerns. Marvel are certainly doing things differently. Head honcho Kevin Feige has talked about a bold approach to the future via the likes of Black Panther. But one comment Waititi made throws all that into focus.
When asked if he would helm a Star Wars movie he replied:
That particular franchise seems really hard. There’s not much room for someone like me.
From a breakthrough talent like this, that should come as a shock to Lucasfilm. His instinctive, improvisational style matches that of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the two directors fired from Solo: A Star Wars Story. He’s seen what’s been happening with creatives over there and figured he’s not going to waste his time trying to join in.
It’s a sad day when exciting artists rule out Hollywood projects altogether but it underlines a fundamental truth – directors with big ideas aren’t a good fit with major franchises. You’ll get two or three GOTGs. You’ll get a Ragnarok. Yet Gunn and Waititi were hired as much because they were small fish and easier to dismiss than they were offbeat shooters.
Marvel did a brave thing putting their output in the hands of these guys. However, Gunn isn’t going to want to carry on forever. When he goes will the studio bank on someone fresh for future Star Lord instalments? Or will they simply try and replicate the formula he established? I’m betting on the latter. And I’m convinced Waititi sees his Marvel work as a limited engagement. They’re setting a new standard to bag big box office by, not broadening the horizons of Tinseltown for good.
I’m here to say a so-called new era of creativity for Marvel is more a pleasant blip than an ongoing deal. The relationship between the best-of-the-best helmers and comic book fare is overrated. (Ang Lee‘s Hulk anyone?) I’d be happy for them to prove me wrong! However I think the movies are only a step on the road to greater things for Gunn and Waititi. Once they get a taste of total artistic freedom they’ll want a canvas Marvel can’t provide.
Look at David Fincher. He too highlighted the difficulties of working with Han, Chewie and co, revealing he wouldn’t set foot aboard the Millennium Falcon as it would be far too complicated:
You’d have to really be sure this is what you wanted to do because either way it’s two years of your life, 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
Interestingly, he also makes reference to the level of input he’d receive from actors, showing the bigger the prize, the higher the pressure from all quarters to succeed. Fincher doesn’t want that pressure, and surely Gunn and Waititi don’t want it either.
My final point concerns the content of a franchise in the first place. Unique concepts don’t typically fit into the established world of a film series. Marvel get away with it due to a breadth of characters and time zones. By the way, can I stick my neck out and venture that GOTG is a blast but not as original or different as it’s made out to be? It was a fun ride, though a far from radical one in my book.
Franchise entries arguably work best when there’s a workmanlike hand on the tiller. This is Spider-Man, not Shakespeare, right? You can still be inventive and funny and intelligent. Do you need to be a top flight director to do it? Nope. In fact great directors should avoid a lot of stress for themselves and avoid these humungous sequences altogether.