Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Favreau Ironed Out

So, the big news that hit the geek wires yesterday was that Iron Man director Jon Favreau is bowing out of the third entry in the hugely-successful series, choosing instead to tackle Disney's promised product placement-palooza The Magic Kingdom. This is somewhat of a surprise considering Favreau's role as executive producer (mostly ceremonial, no doubt) of next summer's Avengers, and especially considering he was laying out plans for the franchise's future as recently as last summer. Beyond that, I don't think one can understate the key role Favreau played in the current Marvel movie renaissance, with his creative choices on the first Iron Man (including going to bat with the studio for star Robert Downey) laying the pipe for almost everything that's followed in its wake.

While Favreau's statements go to great pains to show that everyone is playing nice on both sides of the break-up, I'm guessing the real test will be in whether or not he reprises his role of "Happy" Hogan, stalwart bodyguard to Tony Stark, when the third movie inevitably gets made.  Ultimately, it's not too far a walk to assume that money played some kind of role in this parting-of-ways.  As a studio, Marvel is famously (or notoriously) thrifty -- demonstrated by Terence Howard getting priced out of the second Iron Man, and Favreau's own iffy negotiations for the sequel -- and it seems clear that Favreau, with two successful Iron Mans and the surefire blockbuster Cowboys & Aliens next summer, is suddenly becoming too pricey for a franchise that really has only one indispensable element -- Robert Downey Jr.

I'm sure the bean counters took a long look at the fact that Fox's big screen X-Men series hasn't missed a step (financially, anyway) since original director Bryan Singer left, and I'm sure they also noted that Sam Raimi's sticking around for Sony's third Spider-Man didn't exactly do that series any favors. When you think about it, what's happening with the Marvel Movie-verse isn't altogether different from what the comic book line has been dealing with for decades -- trying to balance the role of the creatives while highlighting that it's the characters who matter above all else.  It's a tightrope act that I don't doubt will become increasingly fraught, especially as Marvel continues to lure in big names to shepherd their various properties while trying not give up too much creative sway.

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