(This article is a follow-up to an earlier one I penned about the fan’s predicament, which you can find right here.)
Disney CEO Bob Iger had been on vacation when James Gunn was fired from his role as director of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, which gave some hope to fans that maybe there was some chance that the decision would be reversed once Iger made it back to the office. I personally like to think ol’ Bob likes to slap on a fake mustache and baseball cap so he can vacation at Universal Studios Orlando, but that might be a stretch, and certainly in conflict with his company. When the CEO did make it back to Mickey’s top secret headquarters, it became clear that any hope of reinstatement for Gunn was lost.
With the studio digging their heels and standing their ground, I would like to turn the discussion from “How could you?” to “What’s your next move?” It’s clear that James’s vision empowered and defined the Guardians series, and selecting a successor might prove quite the creative challenge. Convincing fans to accept that successor could be a greater challenge still. While I would love to craft a list of directors to take over the helm for Gunn, this particular piece will stay grounded in reality. Or, at least as grounded as a story with a talking raccoon and “Vin Treesel” can be.
Inside Baseball: Marvel’s New Switch-hitter?
The most immediate choice for people might be Thor: Ragnarok director, Taika Waititi. The film was this weird, funky space story that shares a lot of the aesthetic and humor of the Guardians movies, even down to its throwback soundtrack and score. On top of capturing many of the core components of Gunn’s work, Waititi’s film was very successful for Disney Studios, netting 854 million US dollars at the box office. That’s close to double the box office of the original Thor. Disney likes to reward its critically and financially successful directors with more work, including the likes of the Russo brothers and Rian Johnson. While this kind of combo is right up Disney’s alley, the greatest question comes in regards to the director himself: Would Taika say yes? Taika and James seem friendly, with visits to each other’s sets during production, and even some fun banter on social media. There is a clear respect for each other’s work, and while there are many similarities between their respective Marvel films, both have been lauded for unique and original productions. Taking over a friend and colleague’s project might feel disingenuous or even slanderous. What’s more, he’s been taking time to still work on original projects, from the What We Do in the Shadows TV spinoff to a film about Hitler being a child’s imaginary best friend (it’s real, I swear). His time management might not allow him to take on a project as big as Guardians 3.
Reeling in a Fresh One
When Marvel isn’t propelling from within, they’re hiring obscure indie darlings. Indie-d, filmmakers like Gunn and Waititi began with small films and out-there projects (that wordplay doesn’t work as well in a written format, but I’m still proud of it). Marvel could very well be scouting for some fresh eyes to finish out Gunn’s trilogy, and maybe that’s a good thing. If Gunn isn’t fully driving the ship, then letting fresh eyes take stabs at the script and direction could open up new avenues for the characters and story. It might very well be time for a new vision anyways. We gave Sam Raimi Spider-Man 3, and all we got was sick gifs. Christopher Nolan fared better with the third entry in his superhero series, but we still ended up with a lackluster conclusion. I’m willing to bet that the Guardians are going to soldier on with new members and missions, and a new voice under Marvel Studios could provide a better pivot into new stories than a director looking to finish out a trilogy.
An Uneasy Choice
Disney and Marvel have plenty of options going forward, and that’s a creative problem. Before the revelation of tweets from 2011, the studios were able to coast into a third film without worrying about the results. After all, the first two films under Gunn were beloved and lucrative. After the fallout, now they have to choose a path: keep it in house for something very familiar to what was loved before, or continue their never ending search for new talent in hopes of finding new directions. If it’s not Gunn, then I hope it’s someone new and untested. We’re getting to the point where superhero movies are running rampant, and new innovations in how we tell those stories might just stave off fatigue.
As of this week, Disney has halted production on a third Guardians film. This adds a thin veil of uncertainty to the future of a finished trilogy. Whether this film goes the way of the once long-shelved Ant Man or the failure-to-launch of an Inhumans movie is hard to say, but I can imagine that Disney can find a way to make money betting on Chris Pratt.
For fun new directions that Disney could take in a new director, check back here in the coming days.
Joe Brueggemeyer hosts and edits The Marquee podcast with Logan, and has an unhealthy obsession with baking.