Marvel's The Interventioni2t: Executive Orders in the Wake of Edgar Wright's 'Ant-Man' Departure
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Marvel’s The Interventioni2t: Executive Orders in the Wake of Edgar Wright's 'Ant-Man' Departure

By Brian Byrd | Think Pieces | May 28, 2014 | Comments ()


The following remarks were delivered by Dingo Fontana, professional interventionist, to the American Superhero Studio Executives Society (ASSES) during their annual meeting in Los Angeles. Reprinted with permission. You can read transcripts of Dingo’s other comic-related interventions here.

Gentlemen, please take your seats so we can begin. Sir, if you insist on blowing lines off of that hooker’s labia…wait, is she still alive? She is? Wow, I had no idea. OK, sorry. If you continue to blow lines off that call girl’s vagina during my presentation, you’ll have to do so outside.

[studio executive shrugs, throws call girl over his shoulder, walks outside]

Listen, facts are facts: you all are crushing it. Comic book films are now self-sustaining entities. Three of the 12 highest-grossing films from last year were based on graphic novels, as are two of the top three (Amazing Spider Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) so far this year. The new X-Men film raked in more cash over Memorial Day weekend than 656 movies earned in all of 2013. By every fiscal standard known to man, you’re all winning.


Entertainment must fulfill higher standards, however. There’s a substantial difference between profitable and memorable. Transformers earned more in one summer than most US companies generate in a year. That doesn’t mean it’s well regarded.

[studio exec raises hand]

“Transformers is awesome.”

Well, there were few scenes here and there that took your breath away, but overall…

“Chief, listen up: it’s awesome, OK? You hear me? Awesome.”

[chugs two Monster energy drinks, carves the cans into stick figures, aligns them so they’re having sex]

I’m here to discuss a worrying trend: prioritizing dollars over quality. As the studios you represent grow more and more powerful, signs have emerged that key components like plot, character development, and creative vision are taking a backseat to ancillary revenue streams - spinoffs, sequels, and merchandising. These trends, if left unaddressed, could turn your prize cash cow into grade-Z Chalupa Supreme meat.

How many of you here work for Marvel?

[dozens of hands appear in the air]

Great, we’ll start with you. Marvel faces some rare bad press over Edgar Wright’s decision to leave the Ant-Man director’s chair over “creative differences.” According to Latino Review, those differences included Marvel executives hiring low-level screenwriters to rework the script by Wright and Joe Cornish. The draft reportedly came back “poorer” and reflected not Wright’s vision, but one laid out by Marvel honchos. “Franchise characters” for everyone!

That’s all unverified information, of course, but this isn’t the first time a Marvel director has left a project due to studio interference. Patty Jenkins was fired as the Thor: The Dark World director in 2011. A source told the Hollywood Reporter that, “Marvel had certain things they needed to achieve. There were constraints on what she could do creatively,” i.e., the film had to fit the sprawling Marvel Phase 2 continuity and not contain anything that might derail the next 10 years of planning. Jenkins’ replacement, Alan Taylor, also complained about Marvel meddling in everything from forced exposition to added scenes to final cut. It’s worth mentioning that the second Thor was an incomprehensible mess.


Things aren’t much better on the small screen. “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” debuted last fall to monster buzz and spectacular ratings — 11.9 million viewers, the most for any network drama debut in four years. Its May finale drew less than half that number. What the hell happened in eight months? Well, Marvel made the showrunners dedicate 13 episodes to villain-of-the-week procedural nonsense in order to protect an April Captain America: Winter Solider reveal that drastically altered the series. In other words, they squandered two-thirds of “S.H.I.E.L.D’s” freshman season and millions of viewers in an attempt to get more people to see the Captain America sequel. That’s not a television show. It’s a bad marketing campaign. Yes, the series is better now. At least, that’s what I heard. I’m one of the millions who quit back in November.

One could fairly make the case that Marvel views their properties as ancillary revenue streams first and respectable standalone entertainment vehicles second. There’s a formula that works financially. While Marvel does release films that are both competent and lucrative, by marginalizing distinct voices they run the risk that their brand becomes a pile of homogenized goop.

[Marvel exec stands up]

“Listen pal, I know Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s been in a bunch of our movies. And she’s no queer, I can tell you that much.”

Excuse me, I think you misunderstood what I’m…

“As for Ant-Man, Wright just didn’t get it. He kept saying crazy shit like, ‘I don’t care that this character has to survive for Avengers 3. His arc demands a noble death. There’s just no story past this point.’ We have toys to sell, E-Dubya. He and his stiff upper lip can traipse back across the Pacific and complain to Earl Grey that he was screwed all day long. Point is, we had different goals.”

“Everyone keeps going on about the screenplay changes. The script wasn’t spectacular anyway. For one, the thing was rife with misspellings. Cornish kept adding all these extra ‘U’ letters to words. ‘Favourite.’ ‘Honourable.’ It was weird. Wright assured us that the film would make tens of millions of pounds, but we’re in this for money. We don’t really care how many minorities fist-bump each other on the way out of the theater. Or as Wright said, ‘Theatre.’”

Uhhh, let’s move on. Is anyone from Sony in attendance? I’d like to discuss Amazing Spider-Man 2’s relatively lukewarm box office take and Sony’s decision to nonetheless move forward with a pair of sequels and spinoffs (Sinister Six, Venom). You sir. Hello. What’s your name?

“I dunno, who cares?”

Sigh…what is your role with the company?

“I’m a contract lawyer.”

Oh, Ok. Is there anyone from filmmaking department here today?

”[rolls eyes] There is no filmmaking department. The entire studio is me and two paralegals. We review all our existing properties once a quarter to determine what action, if any, is required to maintain the rights. If it’s necessary to release a film, we plug the characters and number of desired spinoffs/sequels into an algorithm written by an intern from DeVry University’s marine biology department, and it spits out a script. Then we trick some limey bastard into starring in 17 of these, hire a director that will work cheap and stick to the Mad Libs screenplay, ask marketing to create some insipid NBA tie-ins, and backstroke through our money like Scrooge McDuck.”

What about quality? No disrespect to your computer program, but movies typically involve more than paint-by-numbers plots and massive FX budgets.

“You’re f*ckin adorable. I bet you’d be right at home in my mistress’ Coach purse. Does the film feature beloved characters from our youth? Do buildings explode, bro? Is the cast mostly male and white? Is there a secret scene that sets up nine sequels and causes geeks to unzip their pants in full view of theater staff? If the answer to all those questions is yes, then it’s a great movie. If not, screen that shit for the granola munchers at the Tofu International Film Festival or whatever. Sony rhymes with ‘money,’ if, uh, you use the hard ‘O’ sound, and we’re about money.”

You’re missing the point. While you may be printing money now, there’s no guarantee this model is perpetually sustainable. We’re this close to a bubble, folks. Laziness and oversaturation have made audiences are more circumspect than ever before. CGI and nostalgia isn’t enough to get people’s attention. If you want them to commit to your product, deliver something worth committing to rather than an extended marketing campaign or two-hour trailer. Varied voices should be encouraged, not silenced. Because if these properties become wholly indistinguishable carbon copies of one another, the entire industry will suffer.

[studio executive kicks in door]

“Sorry to interrupt, Mr. Fontana, but that call girl from earlier? I think she just turned into a hooker.”

This meeting is adjourned.

Brian Byrd is a prolific tweeter of subpar tweets. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Coolg82

    I don't really look at the whole situation with derision, because both parties entered into the situation and should have known damn well what they were getting into. Wright is an established auteur who likes to do his own thing and Disney has some kind of plan for the MCU that stretches at least 14 years from now. Neither of these are secret and anyone should have seen this coming. As for the Sony and Fox method, it seems to be working. I really loved Amazing Spiderman 2, much more than Cap 2, and it has only fallen a little short of Cap 2 in terms of domestic revenue, so what Sony is doing works. Probably fueled by the desire to keep the rights from reverting, but they are making good movies. The last bad Xmen movie was Origins, and I liked The Wolverine, so I don't care what motivates Sony or Fox, as long as they put people in charge of the movies that seem to care.

  • Halbs

    Director's cut of The Wolverine is a lot of fun.

  • Ryan Ambrose

    There are unconfirmed rumours by eyewitnesses saying that while Mr. Edgar Wright was being escorted by security from the Marvel HQ as he was exiting through the enormous metallic door he was approached by a well-dressed studio executive.

    People say that he firmly shook his hand, leaned against him, let out a friendly grin and (presumably) whispered in his ear: "Hail Warner."

    That's my theory as to what happened. It has to be.

  • foolsage

    That was a fun read. :)

  • jollies

    The formula for a good superhero movie is easy: Good script, a charasmatic lead, one (AND ONLY ONE) supervillain, a sense of wonder, and a conflict that humanizes the protagonist. See, easy!

  • stella

    I really dont get why the whole single antagonist thing is so hard to understand.

  • BendinIntheWind

    "It’s worth mentioning that the second Thor was an incomprehensible mess."

  • I typically cringe when that criticism is leveled at films. Movies almost always make sense. Plots can be followed (exception: Primer). But Thor 2 made no sense. It felt stitched together from seven different films. I really enjoyed the first one but the sequel was mehhhhhhhhhhh

  • Ryan Ambrose

    I thought the sharp banter back and forth between Thor and Loki was what made the film enjoyable despite still being a mess as a cohesive whole and having the vaguest MacGuffin I've ever seen committed to film. I'll give five meow-meow-beans to whoever can explain what in the world was that 'Aether' thingy.

    Also, when Stringer Luther stabbed an elven spaceship and crashed it into the rainbow bridge. Looked like something out of a Norwegian heavy metal album cover.

    But the tone of the film just didn't feel right to me, is it a space viking Shakespearean tragedy about fending off the elven horde or a rom-com with Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings' intern and a pantsless Stellan Skarsgard?

  • foolsage


    Basically, the Aether, like the Tesseract from Captain America, is one of the six Infinity Gems (or as they're now called, Infinity Stones). Each Infinity Gem is essentially a conduit to limitless power of a specific type: Mind, Soul, Power, Space, Time and Reality. "Guardians of the Galaxy" will almost certainly explain more about them; at this point Marvel is just planting seeds for future movies.

    Put another way, if you have all six Infinity Gems, you're God. Not a little-g "god" like Thor or Odin; like the guy they'd pray to.

    The villain who gave Loki the army and the staff in "Avengers" is named Thanos. In the comics, he set out to collect all the Infinity Gems, and with them he literally killed one half of all living things in the multiverse, snuffing them out with a thought. Trouble ensued.

  • Ryan Ambrose

    Sir, I concede you five meow-meow-beans as promised. Use them wisely.

    Thank you, I appreciate the explanation. It's just that I thought Marvel relied a bit too much on the audience's knowledge of obscure trivia instead of weaving the importance of the MacGuffin into the narrative.
    By the end of the movie all I knew was that it generated "energy blasts" and that it could "tear apart the fabric of reality" in that ominous tone being told by a character when trying to convey motivation and exposition at the same time, it didn't help that the Dark Elves were a blank slate who wanted to "bring the darkness back", which sounded as vague at the time as a saturday morning cartoon villain wanting to "destroy the world". If it weren't for Hiddleston and Hemsworth bickering with each at other I would've thought that film was worse than Green Lantern.

  • foolsage

    Excellent! Now my plan is almost com... I mean, um, thanks for the meow-meow-beans.

    Honestly, the MacGuffins shouldn't have been explained all that much in their respective films, if that makes any sense. The characters involved don't know that the Tesseract and Aether are Infinity Gems at this point. As far as the Red Skull or Malekith know, these are just strange sources of power to be used for their individual ends, not parts of a greater whole with unimaginable potential.

    Probably the first person we're going to see onscreen (other than Thanos, who was only a cameo in the "Avengers" credits scene) who can figure all of this out will be the Collector, played by Benicio del Toro in "GotG". I expect that he'll explain it to the audience-proxy (probably Star-Lord).

    Really, you're not behind the curve at all. This is slow-building stuff. Marvel is planting seeds for stuff that will make sense several movies from now.

  • Halbs

    To be fair he DID find his pants.

  • foolsage

    I don't think it was incomprehensible. As you noted, the plot did make sense and I could follow it. It felt very much like a movie by committee though; it didn't have a clear authorial voice pushing a clear vision, as the first Thor did.

    I still enjoyed the second film, and it remains better than the vast majority of comic book films. As a lifelong comic fan, I cringe when I think how many utterly terrible films we've had pushed at us. Thor 2 really wasn't that bad, in comparison. That doesn't make it great by any means; just not terrible.

    I'd rather watch Thor 2 than Superman Returns any day, for instance. And though I love the Fantastic Four, I've yet to see one of their movies that I'd consider giving a passing grade to.

  • BendinIntheWind

    The scientific nonsense surrounding the "convergence" really didn't make any sense at all, but I have to say, after rewatching it on a plane just last week, I still found it eminently enjoyable.

  • foolsage

    Welllllll I partially agree. The concept itself is fairly clear to me; every 5000 years the Nine Realms cross over each other a bit, and the boundaries between them grow thin. That's hardly a novel concept - cf. pagan views on Samhain and Beltane. The portals were more plot devices though than any sort of reasonably expected outcome from said crossing over.

    The pseudoscientific explanations for what happens during the convergence didn't work at all for me, because it's a magical concept, and thus works best if just presented as fact and left unexplained.

  • BendinIntheWind


    Full disclosure: I hated "Primer". Appreciated what they were trying to do on an intellectual level, but did not really make for compelling movie-watching.

  • lowercase_ryan

    fuckin Primer man.....

  • I have yet to see a movie this year in theaters. I just can't stomach it anymore. Between the gamble of never knowing what kind of audience you will get, the forced "pre-show" ads, the uncomfortable seats, and the less than stellar presentation it is just not worth it. And now that the quality is really starting to dip it's even less interesting except for a really special event. At this point the next movie I see will be "Guardians of the Galaxy" because at least it looks different. I just absolutely don't care about big dumb blockbusters. That said give me a day-and-date release where I can pay $20 at home and I'll be back on the train. Admitedly most of my problem is the absolute pain in the ass dealing with all the trappings of going to a theater. Especially when the ones in town are fairly crap.

  • Buck off

    One of the upside of working part time is I can go to the cinema at 11am midweek, there were about eight people there last time I went and we all sat where we wanted and kept quiet and comfortable. Plus it is much easier to sneak in food and drinks when the day staff don't give a fuck.

    I'll agree on the seats though, they're just not right.

  • BlackRabbit

    Yeah, I'm a midday theatergoer as well. Not a fan of crowds, and you can choose your seat and be reasonably sure no one is gonna take your food if you have to run to the john.

  • Halbs

    The audience thing is rough for me, too. We have theaters that enforce no talking/texting, but everyone knows who narced (I think they can tell) and I don't want to get jumped in the parking lot or have to be uncomfortable in what should be a fun experience.

  • lowercase_see

    Why am I not surprised this guy can't write a "think piece" without littering it with snide misogyny.

    Seriously, Pajiba, you're still giving him web space?

  • BendinIntheWind

    To be fair, the dead hooker/call girl lines are jokes from "Archer"

    "But you said she was a call girl!"
    "No Cyril, when they're dead, they're just hookers!"

    Not saying the source isn't misogynistic, but they're clearly not coming from Bryan's own head.

  • stella

    Yeah. The dead hooker jokers seemed kind of unnecessary to me...

  • foolsage

    It's an "Archer" reference, and it's intended to show that the studio people involved in these movies ARE pretty clearly misogynistic. If you're putting words into a misogynist's mouth in a satirical piece, isn't it appropriate for some of those words to be, you know, misogynistic?

    Brian clearly isn't into that whole coke and prostitute thing anyhow, or he wouldn't make the rookie mistake of suggesting anyone could do lines out of a call girl's vagina. Eww. Lines on a call girl's vulva, sure.

    That was also a joke; I don't support prostitution or the use of cocaine.

  • lowercase_see

    This piece in no other way references the misogyny in Marvel studios (which, hello, minimization of the original female lead actor in DoFP, kind of ripe for the picking). Calling something satire doesn't make it so.

  • TK

    FYI, while I agree re: the shittiness of dumping Kitty Pryde as the protagonist, Marvel Studios didn't make DoFP, FOX did. They own the rights.

  • foolsage

    Yup, you're entirely right.

    I'd add that, though I'd have preferred to see Kitty Pryde as the lead, the replacement probably was based entirely on projected earnings. Wolverine is a more bankable star in the franchise than Kitty is. I'm not saying that's right, or good, just that it's comprehensible from a strictly ROI perspective.

    Now, there's a good discussion to be had on whether the projected earnings of Wolverine vs Kitty are rooted in underlying misogyny (i.e. cultural acceptance of female heroes is kind of pathetic). I'm certainly not denying that. I'm only noting that from the point of view of the studios, it's apparently money first, and everything else a distant second.

    I really like Ellen's version of Kitty. I'd have loved to see her front and center the whole time. At least she might be part of future X-films now, so that's something.

  • foolsage

    Denying that something is satire doesn't change reality, either.

    The article pretends to present the words and actions of a group of people. Those people are mocked via the words and actions presented. That's actually a very clear example of satire. You don't need to agree, and you certainly don't need to like or enjoy it; it's still satire.

  • Rookie mistake assuming it's not possible. Process is patent pending, bro. Laugh all you want. I'll be on Shark Tank making licensing deals with Mr. Wonderful.

  • foolsage


  • Lord Inferno

    I suppose it depends how mostly dead the hooker is. Frozen solid might work.

  • BendinIntheWind


    Seriously, I refuse to call him "Mr. Wonderful", and I try to mute the show any time he speaks.

  • Afferbeck

    Yeah I've pretty much stopped seeing them myself. Every now and then I'll catch up on one from a couple of years ago but they don't do much for me, and the new ones fail to excite. The most recent ones I got around to watching were Thoroughly Adequate Spider-man and Man of Cardboard.

    There are still many I haven't seen such as Iron Man 3 what with 2 being such a shitfest, the second Thor, and the most recent Captain America. I can't work out if I'm looking forward to Batfleck vs Whoever or whatever they're calling it now. That new X-Men came out apparently but I can't be bothered to see it. Then there's that one with the tree and the raccoon and Andy from Parks and Rec. I may actually see that one because at least they seem to be trying.

  • abell

    I want to clarify, they killed the hooker, didn't they?

  • She died. We'll leave it at that.

  • Lord Inferno

    This ain't Pretty Woman.

  • Lord Inferno

    This is BRILLIANT!

    This and SLW's Hot Pie adventure are shining examples of why this site kicks all kinds of ass.

  • Halbs

    I don't see why there's such blowback. Captain America 2 was my favorite Marvel movie (they're getting better IMO) and they're giving Pratt a huge opportunity. It seems like the Marvel movies are getting better instead of worse.

  • Captain America 2 was quite good. Iron Man 3 was average, and Thor 2 was subpar. Agents of SHIELD never took off the way it should have and has to be considered a critical and ratings dud at this point. Nothing in Marvel's second phase of releases can touch the original Iron Man, Avengers, or the first Thor, IMO.

    I go back and forth on whether Marvel really wanted to make a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, or if the plot/characters of Avengers 2 forced them to. And I'm not sure if they deserve credit for Pratt, or are merely following their formula of hiring affordable headlining actors.

    FWIW, I don't think the studio is failing or anything. Just that there are a few troubling signs lately.

  • foolsage

    I really enjoyed both Captain America movies; they fit nicely into the MCU but don't really share the vibe of anything else out there.

    I definitely agree about AOS. Damn, that had and squandered a lot of potential. Still, it pulled around at the end, and I retain hope. I'm on the same page as you overall there.

    I will say, in Marvel's defense, that Guardians of the Galaxy seems to be something they're doing because they want to, not because they need to. Surely they could hit the few necessary plot points without including a whole new batch of characters. Some of the Guardians appeared in "The Infinity Gauntlet" (assuming that's the direction we're headed) but the ones in this movie weren't key players by any means. Hell, we need Adam Warlock FAR more than the other Guardians, if we're sticking to established continuity.

    I absolutely share your concerns though about the studios' priorities and plans though. Great article, again.

  • Dave Dorris

    But most of what you said are incredibly subjective. IM 3 was a huge improvement over 2, from what I saw and read. Thor 2 was also far more popular and profitable that the first. And you didn't mention it, but as much as I really love Captain America, TFA, the Winter Soldier was a mammoth home run. Shield improved dramatically in it's last 3rd. And do you really, really think Marvel had to do a walking tree and talking raccoon to set up A2? I don't think so.

    Benefit of the doubt until they prove me wrong.

  • Emmet O'Cuana

    ......Iron Man 3 was the 1980's superhero film we never knew we wanted and it was awesome.

    Anyone who says different is just using insane troll logic.

  • foolsage

    I'm quite fond of the original concept of the Mandarin. I was sincerely disappointed to see that the MCU version is just some schmuck. That character, in his original form, was a legitimate archenemy for Tony; Trevor Slattery wasn't. I liked the reversal of expectations, but felt the cost was high.

    I did enjoy the movie, but with reservations. Still, it was better than IM2, IMO.

    But I'm ok with being labeled an insane troll. S'all good. :D

  • If they had used The Mandarin in his original concept, people would have maundered on and on and on about racism and cultural appropriation and all those other words the Internet loves to fling around so much.

  • foolsage

    You're right. I know, that's a real danger. I want to believe that there was a way to work past it though.


  • Emmet O'Cuana

    Instead they made it into a comment of how we use racism to incite fear in the public, justifying a totalitarian response.

    Which was a lot more interesting than refried Yellow Peril.

  • foolsage

    I agree that's a very interesting and meaningful take. I never meant to support or justify the implicit racism in the old take on the Mandarin. I just appreciated the threat the old character posed. I think there's room for all of the above, but the studio chose to only deliver one part.

  • They should have gotten the guy who played Shiwan Khan in 'The Shadow' to play an old-school scenery chewing Mandarin. Just crank it up to 11, do Ming the Merciless on steroids.

  • foolsage

    Yeah, the key with such an over-the-top villain is to take everything completely seriously. No winks to the camera, no admissions that anything about it is silly. Just OWN IT.

  • Nothing ruins you like success.

    Phase I worked so well for Marvel that they now feel this is all they need to do to end at Step 3 (PROFITS!) But between them, DC, the indies, there is a saturation on the market and it won't stand for long.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Great piece. I see the potential problems coming but I just finished season 2 of Arrow and I'm in awe of what DC has been able to do with that show.

  • Siyabonga Africa

    I love Arrow and I take quite a bit of flack from my friends for it. DC has done well with their TV properties so far, I'm not quite sold on Gotham though but that's for other reasons. I just wish they could think their movies out better.

  • logan

    Really? People keep telling me this but I just cant believe it because the comic was so mediocre.

  • Halbs

    I think the pilot is really good, but the first season takes a little to get going. Once it does, though, it REALLY gets going. The stunt work is pretty much better than anything else going right now.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Seriously, so damn fun/entertaining. Definite watch.

  • logan

    Alrigtht i am going to have to try it.

    But damnit it's still a man bringing a bow to a gun fight.

  • BlackRabbit

    Actually, bows have a lot of advantages: 1) Quieter and no muzzle flash 2) Bulletproof vests don't help 3) Bigger scare factor for just the reason you mention 4) They're a great workout!

    Don't get me wrong, I know which I'd pick, but still.

  • Ryan Ambrose

    The show also incorporates his bow as a weapon to assist him in hand-to-hand combat, like a baton or something similar. It's a nice touch and adds to the intimidation factor despite still being a tad silly.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I'll stab anyone that tries to tell me the TRUE grade of Chalupa meat.

  • foolsage

    It... varies? * ducks *

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