For those of you who don’t remember, the Marvel film slate got a bit of a change last week, with the Avengers film being pushed back to 2012, and Spider-Man 4 taking the time slot of the upcoming Thor film.
Part of the reason, I speculated in my last Dial H column, was due to the fact that (A) Sony has a lot of leverage to put the gigantic Spider-Man franchise wherever they feel like it, and Marvel and Paramount need to play musical chairs with the other films to accommodate, and (B) the entire slate needed to readjust their stance considering the final Harry Potter film is set to come out the summer of 2011.
But after reading this article, I think there are two other considerations which are just as — if not more — important.
Money and talent.
As we’ve reported in the past, Samuel L. Jackson — who was supposed to be the lynchpin of the entire franchise as Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD — had almost backed out of the Avengers project altogether, saying “there seems to be an economic crisis in the Marvel Comics world.” The same sort of thing happened to Mickey Rourke, who was only offered $250,000 as an opener, despite the fact he had just been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the wrestler.
Now based on what we already know, the Marvel films already had some heavy hitters (Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, as well as the aforementioned Mickey Rourke and Samuel L. Jackson), and the deal is — with the upcoming slate of films, there’s certainly more money that’s going to be needed.
And keep in mind that Marvel — despite its successes — is still a fledgling studio, especially considering the fact that they traffic in a very visually-focused medium. (Even moreso than most genres — special effects work like in the Spider-Man trilogy or in Iron Man, where you work with vets like John Dykstra or Industrial Light and Magic, don’t come cheap.) So what am I getting at? Marvel may be slowing things down in order to raise the necessary funds for all this. Which should be a good sign for fans: I for one would rather them take their time and get something out that’s good rather than them rush a product out (see Daredevil, Elektra, Ghost Rider, and arguably both Fantastic Four films) that bombs after a week or two.
But there’s another reason at play as well, one I didn’t realize was still in Marvel’s agenda: getting Jon Favreau to direct the Avengers film.
I think it’s pretty obvious that Jon Favreau exceeded all expectations with how the first Iron Man film turned out. His previous credits had only been directing the Will Ferrell holiday vehicle Elf, the space Jumanji-thriller Zathura, and the irreverent talky comedy Made. I think people have been remiss in failing to note that he had some heavy hitters on his side — Industrial Light and Magic, the cinematographer for Requiem for a Dream, two of the screenwriters from Children of Men, as well as the improvisational and comedic gifts of his main star — but its seems as though Marvel has made Favreau the patron saint of superhero films.
So perhaps its no surprise that Marvel wants him to direct the Avengers, the culmination of what will be four years of film efforts.
It’s certainly a tough sell. Not to audiences — who, as I mentioned before, have placed the credit of Iron Man’s success right on his shoulders — but to Favreau himself, who is already hard at work pushing together Iron Man 2. So the delay in the Avengers film may in fact be Marvel’s attempt to accomodate for their newest superstar, in addition to distancing itself from Harry Potter. But questions still remain: if Iron Man 2 tanks (and it very well could — whereas you had Children of Men alums writing the first script, you have Tropic Thunder’s Justin Theroux writing the second), will Favreau still seem as solid a choice? Will the Avengers hype somehow die down in the nine month waiting period? We’ll have to wait to find out.