Every great hero needs a tragic flaw. Iron Man grapples with alcoholism, the Incredible Hulk suffers from uncontrollable anger ... and now, if the rumors are true, Marvel (NYSE: MVL ) may be undone by its own greed.
Iron Man, Marvel's first self-financed movie, has raked in blockbuster box office and drawn rave reviews. The studio's next effort, The Incredible Hulk, has survived early rumors of star and co-writer Edward Norton's gamma-irradiated rage to generate favorable buzz ahead of its Friday debut. But troubling reports now suggest that Marvel Studios Chairman David Maisel may be taking steps to wreck the company's new cinematic empire before it's even built, by ditching Iron Man director Jon Favreau for the Armored Avenger's sequel.
Apparently, Favreau wants a "modest" pay bump to direct Iron Man 2. That seems entirely understandable, given the film's huge success. In response, Maisel reportedly would consider a less expensive replacement. In this Foolish fan's opinion, that's a bad move on Marvel's part.
Reviewers particularly praised Iron Man's quirky performances, sharp script, and effervescent tone -- all factors owing strongly to Favreau. Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. seems to have forged a strong friendship with Favreau, too. Firing the director over money issues could throw off the delicate chemistry among the cast that makes the first film such a pleasure to watch.
If any studio should know the importance of matching the right directors to their properties, it's Marvel. Get it right -- Sam Raimi and Spider-Man's quirky, hyperkinetic action, Bryan Singer and X-Men's simmering sociopolitical subtext -- and you've got box-office gold. Get it wrong, and you've got ... well ... Elektra. Or Daredevil. Or the Singer-less, widely panned third X-Men movie, which opened strong but fizzled fast.
Marvel shareholders should keep their fingers crossed that Maisel, Marvel, and Favreau come to terms that make everyone happy. A studio that respects and rewards its creative talent for outstanding efforts could help Marvel reap tons of cash from future franchises. But if Marvel ditches Favreau, it could create a bad precedent -- how dare you make a good movie for us? -- that might keep similarly talented folks away.
Tony Stark learned the error of chasing a profit at any cost. Will Marvel?
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