Being a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has given its actors, from Chris Hemsworth to Chadwick Boseman, a major career bump, but can the same be said of its directors? For the next eleven days leading up to the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, I will cover a Marvel Studios director and weigh in on whether their time as a cog in the well-oiled MCU machine has helped to boost their careers.
First up is Jon Favreau. Favreau is one of the standouts of Marvel Studios’ directors as he was the director of Iron Man, the domino success that singlehandedly paved the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and established a second coming of superhero films. Despite the production being legendarily known for not having a script, with Jeff Bridges famously calling it a “$200 million student film,” Iron Man was a smash success in May 2008, making $585 million worldwide and transforming Robert Downey Jr. from a formerly-incarcerated junkie into a bonafide movie star.
Favreau returned to direct Iron Man 2, but infamously clashed with Marvel. The tension between the director and studio showed in the rushed, uneven and overstuffed sequel. Afterwards, he cashed in his chips to make the science fiction Western mashup Cowboys & Aliens, starring Daniel Craig (Skyfall), Harrison Ford (Blade Runner) and Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies) for Universal, which was released in July 2011. The less said about this ill-conceived genre Frankenstein creation, the better. Cowboys & Aliens could generously be labeled a cult classic but it bombed big time, making only $174 million worldwide on a reported $163 million budget. Ouch - that had to hurt.
From there Favreau regrouped and went back to basics with Chef in May 2014. He directed and starred in foodie dramedy for Open Road Films alongside Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Bobby Cannavale (Adult Beginners) and John Leguizamo (Ice Age), with Iron Man buddies RDJ and ScarJo making cameos. It was a summer hit and with some juju back in the tank Favreau landed the job to direct the CGI-animated/live-action hybrid adaption of the House of Mouse’s The Jungle Book. The March 2016 film was a critical and commercial success, making nearly a billion dollars worldwide and continuing Disney’s successful streak of adapting their intellectual property (IP). The Jungle Book also netted Disney the Best Visual Effects Oscar at the 89th Academy Awards.
Career Verdict: 8/10. Despite some minor bumps in the road after Iron Man, Favreau’s directorial career leveled up from work with Marvel Studios. Directing Iron Man and Iron Man 2 most likely opened the door at Disney (which owns Marvel) to direct The Jungle Book. It speaks to an enormous amount of faith in Favreau that Disney has handed him one of the company’s most beloved Renaissance era IPs to work his CGI/Live-action Midas touch on - The Lion King, starring Donald Glover (Atlanta) and James Earl Jones (Star Wars). Favreau also has some interesting projects in development. The Magic Kingdom for Disney once again (I’m guessing he’s a company man now), the Battle for Bonneville, based true story about the drag racers Art and Walt Arfons, and an Untitled NFL project, are all on the backburner.