The Guardians cast is furious over the loss of their fearless director. Disney could pack up and go home.
The firing of director James Gunn continues to be the hottest topic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disney fired the Guardians of the Galaxy director during pre-production for the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 for offensive tweets that were resurfaced from 10 years ago. The cast has been outspoken with support for Gunn including a signed letter and many public statements. No cast member has been as outspoken as Dave Bautista who plays Drax in the series.
Bautista has called out Disney for firing Gunn over a “smear campaign.” In a tweet voicing his displeasure with how these events have transpired, Bautista explained that “@Guardians without @jamesgunn is not what I signed up for.” It suggests that he will continue to do his work, but he is unhappy. Bautista told the website ShortList that he would quit if Gunn’s script wasn’t used for the new feature. He said, “Where I’m at right now is that if [Marvel] don’t use that script, then I’m going to ask them to release me from my contract, cut me out or recast me. I’d be doing James [Gunn] a disservice if I didn’t.” No James Gunn script, no Drax.
With no plans to rehire Gunn and an unhappy cast, Forbes correspondent Scott Mendelson suggested Disney could take this opportunity to reboot the Guardians of the Galaxy.
There is a precedent for recasting a roll in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as Col. Jim Rhodes in the Iron Man series. Disney has explained the reason for Howard’s departure as difficult behavior and/or salary concerns, but it shows that Disney has no issue with replacing troublesome actors. If Disney needed to recast Rocket Raccoon and Groot that would be simple enough. You don’t need Vin Diesel in there to say Groot for the thousandth time, anyone could do it. Assuming there is still time for edits Infinity War directors, The Russo Brothers, could make Gamora’s death permanent. She need not come back after her father, Thanos, sacrificed her for the Soul Gem. The difficulty would lie in replacing Drax (Bautista) and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt). Mendelson says Disney could consider parting from them because it “might cause only a slight dip in the overall box office.” Chris Pratt is A-List star at this point. His presence makes a large difference on the box office a movie would take-in. Bautista might not command audiences in the same fashion, but the humor he brings to the franchise is one of the strong points in both previous films.
There are other avenues Disney could take. First, they could change course on the Guardians of the Galaxy films and follow Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar Ogord who was introduced in the Vol. 2. Second, The Guardians of the Galaxy have not always been consisting of the team depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There have been many characters who have come in and out of the comic book series over the years, similar to teams like the X-Men or The Micronauts. The most unlikely scenario is to scrap the entire project and move on.
Disney isn’t dumb. They don’t want to risk losing millions on one of their biggest franchises. This idea of playing with a “soft-reboot” that Mendelson tosses around in his article is foolhardy. There is no replacing Chris Pratt from Guardians of the Galaxy as of now. He is the focal point of Infinity War. His arc leads to the victory of Thanos. Even if you went with another actor in that role, it would lose the chemistry that has been built with the other characters. It would be hard to imagine someone else in that role. Even if Disney parts with Bautista since he is the most displeased with the current state of affairs, it would do a lot of damage to the brand. It would show that Disney has no qualms about dismissing cast members, even when their concerns were well-founded.
Disney learned this summer that a brand can only open a movie so far. Solo: A Star Wars Story should have been a home-run given its attachment to the Star Wars brand. It floundered though and became one of the summer’s biggest disappointments. Another movie from the Marvel realm, Ant-Man and the Wasp, opened modestly. Even with the bump from Avengers: Infinity War, the movie has only brought in $200m, which is on the low side for the MCU.
Marvel movies function on basic principles: the star power of the actors involved, the chemistry between the cast and extended cast, and the brand recognition. One of these three principals cannot act alone. Disney won’t walk away from the millions of dollars at-stake for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3. Disney will have continuous PR trouble from the firing of James Gunn. Unhappy cast members who are only working so they don’t get fire and public opinion on both sides for Gunn. The best thing they could do is release a teaser for Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 and get the public talking about something else. The entire conversation is about the Guardians and it is bad for business. Disney will not rehire James Gunn, but they need to talk to their talent and get this PR disaster under control.