Tom Jolliffe looks at the fallout of James Gunn’s sacking, and whether the next Guardians of The Galaxy is damaged beyond repair….
In case it’s all bypassed you, recent weeks have seen a furore surrounding the director, James Gunn. He’s the man that brought, very successfully I might add, the Guardians of the Galaxy to life. He also helmed the sequel and was due to round off with a third, and possibly final instalment. That is until Disney got wind of some old tweets, which were pretty horrendous (a rather sad attempt from Gunn to be provocative and funny, but minus the impish charm and wit required to get away with it). That these came before Disney hired him in the first place is of course, a point of contention.
So Gunn got canned. His tweets did not fit in with the Disney ethos (interesting from a company who could well acquire Family Guy). Someone, somewhere on an internet keyboard, who put this before Disney’s execs, tossed a hand grenade and watched it explode with glee. Look, I don’t agree with Gunn’s tweets, nor do most of those who have come out to defend him, but people grow and change and there’s nothing about that excessively macabre humour in Guardians. Still, he’s gone, it’s done.
Here’s the problem. The third instalment is now entirely enveloped in the Gunn saga. Petitions are being fired at Disney, left, right and centre to re-instate Gunn. Most of the GOTG cast have made clear their disappointment at his sacking, none more vehemently than Dave Bautista. After all, Bautista is a bonafide movie star now, almost entirely thanks to that breakout role as Drax. Two films that were inherently Gunn, will now change ownership. Taika Waititi has been earmarked to replace him and he’d likely be the only suitable person for the job. Someone who could at least pull together a team in discord and also keep in line with the humour of the franchise.
However there’s a big problem here. A big sub-section of Marvel lovers really want Gunn back. They see the films as very much his baby. This cannot happen though. It’s just not workable. Too much damage is done, too much water under the bridge. Even if Disney were convinced to re-instate him, there’s no going back and ultimately, for better or worse, Disney should stick to their guns. If you make a decision you’ve made for ethical reasons, you can’t really go back on it without losing a lot of respect. It’s also hardly as if the overwhelming majority feel Gunn’s sacking was the wrong decision. The consensus has been slightly leaning to the notion that he didn’t deserve that, but it’s been fine margins. A bit like the Brexit vote.
Right from the off, Guardians as a production is on a back foot. Can Disney in all good conscience use anything Gunn has been working on and developing? Assuming that production being quite close, that he probably completed a script, it’s going to be very difficult to still use that. Any consistent, recurrent vision Gunn may have had for a three film arc will now probably go out the window in favour of Disney’s approach to Star Wars. New film, new visionary and said visionary’s own distinct ideas (even at the expense of anything built up in the previous film).
You then have the small matter of engaging a cast that in some cases may now only appear through contractual obligation. Yes these guys are professional but when an actor’s heart isn’t in something, it often shows. Much had been made of Daniel Craig prior to Spectre being a little tired of the role. It showed in that film. Robert Downey Jr. has looked jaded as Iron Man a couple of times (though perpetually escalating pay seems to have cured that in his last couple of outings). What of someone like Bautista, who has gone as far as saying the idea of playing the role for Disney is nauseating? I’ve no doubts he’ll do it, and he’ll be professional (not least because he’s an actor who is currently treading a line between box office star and straight to video specialist) but will he be able to match the levels he’s set previously?
A key aspect too is the production schedule. The release is set and Gunn will have been working solidly, getting this film ready to shoot. To an extent, whoever comes in will come in cold. So do Disney delay the release? They’re unlikely to given so many films are currently in the offing. You also have the issue of fan power too. Whilst it’s not a significantly huge number that are loyal to Gunn who will actively rebel against seeing the film, it could be enough to damage the box office. Let’s face it though, Disney know they can take a small hit, and a small hit is all it will be.
What could effect it more is a film that is haphazardly put together.
Marvel’s rivals know full well of messy productions that turn into messy final products. The MCU is indeed no stranger to this. Someone could come in and do a pretty safe Guardians film, coast the ship nicely into shore, but it may be uninspiring. A bit dull, like Solo. Overly conventional. That may be a preference to a poorly constructed mess of course, but these results can effect box office if word of mouth isn’t great. Disney do good opening weekends on the most part, but they can be prone to big drop offs if the final product isn’t up to par. The first two set a very high box office bar and falling significantly below that will be deemed a disappointment.
So is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 doomed to fail now? Will the franchise peter out? Or will Marvel continue its hot streak, regardless of James Gunn’s involvement? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…