News broke this afternoon that Edgar Wright has left his long-gestating Marvel superhero project Ant-Man, which is due out next July and is supposed to star Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. The reason was cited as "differences in their vision of the film," and will likely reinforce the prevailing opinion that Marvel exerts a stifling amount of control over every aspect of its Cinematic Universe.
Wright has literally been plotting an Ant-Man movie since 2006, when he was hired by Marvel to produce a script with his writing partner Joe Cornish. Marvel said that a new director would be "announced shortly," to keep things on schedule, but given Wright's level of investment in the project it is hard to imagine someone being able to just pick up where he left off.
In picking its directors, Marvel has relied on experienced journeymen (like Joe Johnston) or people with heavy experience in TV (like Alan Taylor, the Russo brothers and Joss Whedon). But James Gunn, who directed this August's Guardians of the Galaxy, was a more out-of-the-box choice and the advent of Wright, an undeniably singular filmmaker who had produced cult hits like Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, making a Marvel movie had many fans excited.
Marvel has so far been a pretty smooth-running machine: the abrupt departure of Patty Jenkins from Thor: The Dark World caused a fuss, but the end product was well-liked enough to dismiss most fears. By all means, it may be able to keep the ball rolling on Ant-Man, but the film will now be judged under a very harsh microscope by a lot of hardcore fans, and this could mark the end of the honeymoon Marvel's films have largely enjoyed. With increased scrutiny on the "comic book bubble", this is the kind of press they don't need.