MARVEL STUDIOS deals in so many large moving parts these days, it can seem as if it’s in the business of delivering huge interlocking narratives — like a freighter loaded down with requisite story threads the size of shipping containers. Assume the captain’s chair and you’ll know what you’ll be towing.
Yet that is precisely why Marvel is now smart to bet on directors who have idiosyncratic strengths. These spectacles require distinct humanity within the billion-dollar hauling.
On Wednesday, Variety was first to report that Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden had been chosen to direct the Brie Larson-starring “Captain Marvel,” due out in March 2019. That decision marks the first time that a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie will have a woman in the director’s chair.
Crucial to Marvel’s choice is that this duo knows how to bore into the depths of human vulnerability. Starting from their short “Gowanus, Brooklyn” that led to their 2006 film “Half Nelson,” starring the Oscar-nominated Ryan Gosling, Fleck and Boden — who met and dated briefly at NYU’s Tisch film school — have shown a gift for depicting soulful connection on screen.
In between the massive smash-ups of Avenger team-ups, including next year’s “Infinity War,” Marvel — nearly a decade into its run of unprecedented success — can afford to go somewhat offbeat with its other films at this point, allowing the creative oxygen of a sometime auteur.
James Gunn, who directed next month’s “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” said on Twitter this week that Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige allows him a great deal of creative control — including wacky ideas involving a key new character.
Gunn has a true gift for lacing big-budget spectacle with a certain wisecracking brand of endearing humor. The bigger the effect, the shinier the irony.
Marvel seems to have chosen smartly for next year’s “Black Panther,” as well, with director Ryan Coogler. The “Creed” and “Fruitvale Station” filmmaker is eminently skillful at balancing fast action with slower-paced pathos.
Likewise with this November’s “Thor: Ragnarok.” New Zealand-born director Taika Waititi (“Hunt for the Wilderpeople”) has an uncanny way with mining wry humor (a plus for star Chris Hemsworth) and rendering rich characters.
That all bodes well for Boden and Fleck, who have alternated big-screen gems like “Sugar” with smart TV work like “Billions” and “Looking.” They have an ear for intimate dialogue that good actors devour.
In the near-decade since Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man,” Marvel has proved to be a finely tuned machine with green-screen effects.
Wisely for its solo-hero pictures, however, the studio keeps steering toward directors who are especially adept with effects of the heart.