Despite ‘Ant-Man,’ Marvel Studios’ Glory Days Aren’t Over

But that doesn't mean we're over it yet.

Despite every less than savory piece of news we’ve heard about Marvel Studios, the end is not here.

Actually, it isn’t even nigh.

It’s been easy over the course of the last week to worry about the state of affairs at the Disney-owned superhero house, what with Edgar Wright reportedly walking away from “Ant-Man” over an unapproved rewrite and Drew Goddard leaving the Netflix “Daredevil” series behind for Sony’s “Sinister Six.” But what might seem like omens of a downturn in luck are actually just par for the course.

For better or worse, Marvel Studios is good at what it does. While that doesn’t include making films with particularly distinctive cinematic voices shining through — as we’ve seen with the Wright situation — they have managed to create a complex network of interconnected and consistently entertaining superhero movies.

And that doesn’t happen by accident. Marvel Studios is a successful-superhero-movie-making machine that works in a very particular way. When a gear isn’t working with the rest of the mechanism, it’s replaced in a strictly-business manner.

Though Wright’s departure sounds like it was a particularly nasty side effect of how Marvel Studios runs its Cinematic Universe, it doesn’t signal the end of that universe. It’s just a symptom of its uncompromising shrewdness. As “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn put it in his Facebook post addressing the breakup, “Not everyone belongs in a relationship together.”

Marvel Studios films have never been known for their thrilling variety. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” looks like “Thor: The Dark World” looks like “Iron Man 3.” Any uniqueness between the films has come mostly from idiosyncrasies in the voices of their writers, like Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” and very-Shane Black “Iron Man 3,” as opposed to filmmakers with a strong visual style to boot.

What Marvel Studios does do well is trust in their characters, and that’s why these movies will continue to thrive. If you love a particular hero from the comics, you can trust that the he or she (but mostly he, and that’s an entirely different problem) will be recognizable on the screen, not only by the costume but by the spirit.

And it’s with its characters that Marvel Studios has been the most daring. In a few months, we’re going to see a talking raccoon and a tree team up with three other aliens to defend the galaxy. Within the next four years, we’re likely to see a film about the Sorcerer Supreme and perhaps the studio’s first female-centric movie, “Captain Marvel.” These are the kind of unexpected creative decisions that other studios producing superhero movies have failed to make, and it’s what we’re going to have to appreciate when it comes to Marvel Studios.

None of this is to say that things couldn’t be better. They could be much better. The reality is that Kevin Feige and company are not the crusaders for nerd tastes that we very often want them to be. If they were, Edgar Wright would be heading into production on a wonderfully weird “Ant-Man” movie.

Marvel Studios is a business, and to paraphrase the words of the character it doesn’t own the screen rights to, it’s the best there is at what it does, and sometimes what it does isn’t always nice.

Writer/editor for MTV. If it involves cowboys, spies, or hitmen, I'm there. All three would be ideal.
@KPSull