Pro-Disney or Anti-Disney?

Jan 9, 2020

This coming after the news of Scott Derrickson being removed as Director of Doctor Strange 2: Multiverse of Madness over creative differences.

We (or at least I do) hear the term "creative differences" a lot in the film industry, as screenwriters and directors often leave projects after falling out with the producers and the corporations who hired them. When such creatives leave a film due to creative differences it points to studio meddling, which is something all major film corporations are guilty of, but none so much as Disney (which happens to be the reason for other studios meddling with their projects), which seems right as it is the biggest fish in the ocean as far as film and television is concerned.

I didn't have a problem with Disney until the world-renowned Marvel Cinematic Universe started to hit its peak in 2016, and since then they have gotten far worse, and not just with their overseeing of Marvel Studios, but Lucasfilm and other original Disney products.

Cinema auteur Martin Scorsese pointed out that Marvel films take no risks in comparison to original filmmakers and independent corporations, and I think this observation points to Disney as a near whole. The problem did not start with the genesis of the MCU, as Iron Man (2008) was actually a massive risk with a ostracized actor who served not only in prison, but was fresh out of rehab and considered by many, a box office deterrent. So all in all the MCU was started by taking one massive risk (not to mention Iron Man wasn't even a household name at the time).

Marvel continued to make consistently solid films for a couple years, with some missteps, but eventually we got a glimpse of their agenda. Make money first, build a giant franchise second, and let a filmmaker make their film freely third. Avengers Age of Ultron, while enjoyable as hell, was a messy film filled with countless plot contrivances and easter eggs, and set ups for future installments. Those things bogged down the film and only the plot issues can carry the blame of Joss Whedon, the more than competent director. Disney pushed for easter eggs and set ups because they thought it was about time to build their mega-franchise. That was scratching the surface of studio interference, as soon enough every film had to be connected in order to form the Infinity Saga, which worked with some films, but it also meant that we got more and more large-scale and never managed to get a small-scale, personal story with dramatic tension driving the plot forward instead of blockbuster movie logic, where things just happen. Where comedy and romance flow from the characters and their personalities instead of necessity and franchise formula. 

There are exceptions to this, as is apparent in the two Guardian of the Galaxy films and Thor Ragnarok, probably directed by the two best directors in the franchise, James Gunn and Taika Waititi. James Gunn managed to tell a hilarious story of a bunch of misfits with their own individual issues, as they team up and save the galaxy. the protagonist first has mommy issues, then major daddy issues. that's personal, and it works. Not to mention the visuals in the Guardians films are easily the best when it comes to cinematography and colour grading in the entire MCU. The Guardians films feel like something different because they are, and that's how you can tell they were director-driven not screwed over by corporate meddlings. Thor Ragnarok completely surprised me because Instead of following the shakespearian way of the first two Thor films, it went all out comedy and succeeded, and even managed to have a satisfying arc for its protagonist, something the last film was lacking. I suppose I could add The Winter Soldier to this category, while it's directed by the Russo brothers, who made half the films in the Infinity Saga, I do think this film is different from the others. The Winter Soldier isn't a comic book film, it's not a superhero movie, it's a grounded political thriller with spy elements. TWS dared to venture near the border of another style of film, one that hadn't been done before in the MCU, or even in the genre itself.

The problem with Disney now is that their philosophy promoted the idea that films ought to be made by committees instead of filmmakers and their respective team of creatives. The Marvel formula worked well once, so why not replicate it in every film? But that's a problem. It's no longer taking risks, it's just using an old strategy that everybody knows works (by works i mean makes money). The beauty of filmmaking is that new strategies can work but only if there are people ballsy enough to try them out, and as the industry is oversaturated with the Disney formula, experimental filmmakers don't always get the funds to complete their vision, and even then their project doesn't make it far in the theatres because formulaic sequels, remakes, and spin-offs are dominating the industry. 

Not only is the writing patterns in the marvel films formulaic, the cinematography is pretty hard to watch at times, as we get ugly grey filters in so many of the films, as the same filter was used for AoU, Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame. The Endgame finale? It was one of the ugliest sequences of 2019. This leads to my next point, the action. Lucrecia Martel was told that she could direct the 2020 Black Widow movie, but not to "worry about the action scenes, we will take care of that." and she subsequently opted out of the position. We don't actually get to see long take, innovative action in the MCU. Endgame was a massive hodge podge of personal victories but we've seen the same thing over and over again so many times. In Infinity War it was all quips and no tension, despite the stakes being apparent. For a final fight as big as Endgame, it deserved some battle progression, or at least something better than a recycled forumula with some unwarranted fan service. Look at Lord of the Rings, look at the Battle of Helms Deep, it had personal victories but it also had actual battle progression. Ant-Man and the Wasp didn't do anything particularly new with the action, despite the potential being there. Captain Marvel had the worst of it, it was stale, and worst of all, quick-cut. I remember watching it for the first time and noticing six cuts in the space of four seconds in one brawl. That's bad, really bad, but worst of all it's lazy.

That was me scratching the surface of the Marvel Studios portion of Disney, I'll try to talk about Disney more broadly later but I've run out of time.

Are you pro-disney or do you think that they need to change their tactics?