The movie world is so affected by Jon Favreau’s departure from the Iron Man franchise that there’s even speculation that some sort of BFF break-up between the director and Robert Downey Jr was to blame. That will most likely never be proven (until the tell all book comes out in three decades), but it’s clear that fans are reaching for any sort of explanation that rationalizes why the man who was at the forefront of the Marvel solo launch would choose to walk away from his creation in its adolescent phase.
The reason, however, is less important than the simple fact that leaving was absolutely the right thing to do.
For one, there’s the state of the franchise to consider. The first Iron Man was explosive in its domination ‐ it launched a worldwide phenomenon out of a B-level comic book hero and has a legacy that will live on through the rest of the Marvel movies. The second didn’t make nearly as large a divot, but from the creative stand point, it leaves Favreau a nice opening to exit without much ado. Even if his leaving is a large deal, there’s always the conceit (whether based in fact or not) that a new director and direction might be best for Iron Man.
In fact, that’s exactly what’s happened. Whether it’s because of salary squabbles, creative differences, or Marvel making Iron Man 2 a difficult shoot matters little at this point. All that matters is that a door was opened for Favreau to exit gracefully through, and he took it.
What that door is leading to is the chance to create something new. In his own words, Favreau explained his decision to direct Magic Kingdom for Disney, saying:
“Between the theme parks and the movies, the Disney iconography was probably the first set of archetypes that I was exposed to. Walt was able to expose me as a child to the full array of emotions, including fear and sorrow. Those movies and attractions haunted my dreams and made a deep impression on me as a child.
When I first heard about the [‘Magic Kingdom’ film] project, I was on my way to visit Disneyland with my family. I took notes and had no problem filling a book with all the ideas that this concept offered, even on first blush.”
Favreau became a directing icon because of Iron Man, and Iron Man became a blockbuster hit because of Favreau. He aided directly in the launching of a studio, a branched franchise, and the re-launching of an actor into the stratosphere. Now, he’s been given the opportunity to launch something new, and his work there is done.
He’s also been given the opportunity to have his name uttered alongside Guillermo Del Toro and David Fincher, who will be helming the other Disney projects of the pack ‐ The Haunted Mansion and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. No matter what Favreau’s profile is, being associated with that level of talent can only help his career.
Plus, he’s joining forces with a massively powerful studio that will give him the opportunity to utilize a large budget to make the kind of family action film that he seems to like making. In a way, he’s really graduating from Zathura here more than from Iron Man, and it’s almost certain that his ability to put together something exciting, gripping, and kid-friendly helped him land the job.
In conclusion, Favreau’s decision is like the star high school ball player graduating and moving on to college. He helped the school’s reputation while helping his own, but now it’s time to move on to something bigger and better. As with most things, there’s no guarantee that he’ll score like he did before, but when an opportunity this good knocks, it’s foolish not to answer.
He leaves behind a giant franchise (that admittedly could use some fresh air) to work with a household name, to create a new adventure film, and to take the next step in his career in the shadow of Walt Disney’s shoes.
What do you think?