Image via IMDb

Marvel and Scott Derrickson Parting Ways is a Huge Step Backward

Just as it seemed the studio was ready to take some real risks, they lost one of the directors primed to take them into new territory.

We’re not even a month into the new decade, and Marvel Studios already shit the bed. Now that the once-independent studio is now the House of Mouse’s most successful franchise, it had the opportunity to take some risks and create some filmmaker-driven blockbusters. One of those blockbusters was supposed to be Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which was announced at San Diego Comic Con last year as Marvel’s first horror film. Sadly, Scott Derrickson has exited the project due to “creative differences,” leaving all of us with one question: WTF?

Before making his Marvel debut with Doctor Strange (2016), Derrickson’s most prominent works were horror flicks The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister. Both of these films are planted firmly in horror, a genre that Disney avoids at all costs. The director’s darker sensibilities peppered Doctor Strange, but the tone was far different from his earlier works. That’s why, when he announced that Multiverse of Madness would be a horror film, both Marvel and horror fans alike grew ecstatic.

Oh, how we should have known. When Derrickson said the film would be Marvel’s first in the genre, Kevin Feige interjected with an assurance that the sequel would be rated PG-13. Duh, Feige. Good ol’ Walt’s signing your paychecks, so we definitely knew that. Why bring it up? It seemed a petty reassurance, and an unnecessary one at that.

Still from ‘Doctor Strange’ — Image via IMDb

Marvel still isn’t in the business of taking risks, even though they could slap their brand name on an hour and a half iPhone video of the four Chrises drinking coffee in silence and make over $400 million domestically. This feels strikingly similar to the pre-production woes of Ant-Man, in which director Edgar Wright was let go and replaced in the weeks before filming began. Wright ended up getting a writing credit (just as Derrickson will recieve an executive producer credit on the Doctor Strange sequel), but the finished product felt flat. The elusive idea of an Ant-Man directed by Edgar Wright still leaves fans wondering.

What bothers me the most is how much effort and love Derrickson put into the development of this film. He clearly had a love for the character, posting cryptic teases to his social media accounts and talking up the process. It’s a shame that his vision will never come to light. Marvel’s best offerings have been the ones that allow their filmmakers creative liberties. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy films, Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther were all filmmaker-driven efforts that stood out from the pack of the Marvel monotony. Multiverse of Madness should have been Derrickson’s film, and one of the most unique entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I have no doubt that Disney and Marvel will now hire a yes man like Ron Howard or an inexperienced indie director to take over for Derrickson. And I’m sure that whatever film Mutliverse of Madness ends up becoming will be perfectly fine. But it won’t be anything more than that.

Italian Poster for ‘Doctor Strange’ — Image via IMDb

I was already on the fence about Marvel’s future slate, with very few of their announced projects grabbing my attention. One of the few that did was Multiverse of Madness. Now that Derrickson has exited the project due to “creative differences,” I couldn’t care less about what Marvel has to offer. Even with a list of diverse people behind and in front of the camera in upcoming films, are diverse stories going to be allowed? This indicates that we won’t be seeing Marvel taking many risks in Phase 4, and after eleven years of the same old formula, it’s time for something new.

It’s sad to think that a franchise that was once the underdog on the verge of bankruptcy is now forgetting how to take a risk — if you could call making a horror film a risk. Horror films tend to be box office winners, boasting small budgets and big returns. I would put money on a Marvel brand horror film being instantly successful, but it appears the studio didn’t have the same confidence.

Oh, well. I’ll just go watch Sinister again and wait for Derrickson to announce his next project. Maybe, like James Gunn, he’ll hop over to Warner Bros. and try his hand at a DC film. They seem to have some unique things on the horizon, and I’ll take a unique film over a bland one any day.

A film critic with a taste for genre fare, living in Sioux Falls, SD. If you love movies, we’ll get along just fine.

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