For a long time, Guardians of the Galaxy was the black sheep of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But that title now belongs to Ant-Man, a risky movie for the studio made even more challenging by the recent exit of director Edgar Wright. While Marvel Studios insists this superhero adventure about a diminutive crime fighter will still land on its July 2015 release date, sources close to the production don't see that happening.

Will Ant-Man be delayed? Right now, all obvious signs point to 'yes'. Edgar Wright is a beloved commodity in fanboy circles, and he has a lot of close friends in Hollywood. While it was believed that Marvel had a backup plan in mind, with a director waiting in the wings, that simply wasn't true, and Marvel president Kevin Feige is having a tough time finding a replacement.

Not only did Edgar Wright bail after a series of rewrites filed to ignite his passion for the project, one he'd been working on for nearly a decade with Joe Cornish, the film's key crew, the heads of all departments, also walked when it became clear that the movie was not going to start shooting on July 28 as planned.

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Paul Rudd is still with the project, as are other main actors Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, Evangeline Lilly, Patrick Wilson, and Corey Stoll. It's not entirely clear if their contracts allow them to leave the movie.

Marvel Studios claims that all heads of departments will be filled very shortly, and there shouldn't be too much of a delay in getting Ant-Man before cameras, though they do not have the time invested in the project that the previous crew had.

While Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish have been working on the Ant-Man screenplay since 2006, Marvel decided it was unhappy with the direction they were taking, and put the movie, which was originally scheduled to begin shooting June 2, on hiatus. Script revisions were ordered, and Wright was willing to make changes. But these new rewrites happened without the director's input. When he got the official shooting script back, he balked at its content and quickly departed.

While Kevin Feige championed Edgar Wright's take on the material in 2006, his stance on Ant-Man has clearly changed over the years. The studio is now owned by Disney, and each new film must be 'Marvel-ized', meaning that it needs to fit the look and feel of their other projects. This method of working has clashed with directors in the past. Kenneth Branagh struggled with the studio over Thor, and did not return for the sequel. Joe Johnston experienced similar clashes while making Captain America: The First Avenger, and was happy to stay at home for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Monster director Patty Jenkins' experience with Marvel mirrors that of Edgar Wright. She, too, had creative differences with the studio, and was quickly replaced on Thor: The Dark World.

Directors aren't the only ones who've had a problem with the studio. Edward Norton didn't see eye-to-eye with Marvel over The Incredible Hulk and was replaced by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner when it came time to shoot Marvel's The Avengers. And Terrence Howard was replaced by Don Cheadle in the Iron Man franchise.

Shortly after Edgar Wright's exit from Ant-Man was announced, it became clear that Drew Goddard was no longer with the Netflix series Daredevil, and had been replaced by showrunner Steven S. DeKnight.

About the many departures over the years, a secret inside source had this to say,

" Kevin Feige [and his top lieutenants] run Marvel with a singularity of vision, but when you take a true auteur and throw him into the mix, this is what you get. They don't want you to speak up too much or have too much vision. People who have never worked there don't understand how they operate, but if you trust them, they have an amazing track record."

Some believe the tone of Ant-Man was too quirky for Marvel Studios, and that they may have already gone too far out of their comfort zone with this August's Guardians of the Galaxy.

The big question is: Will Ant-Man hit its July 2015 release date? And if it doesn't, how does this derail Marvel's future plans for Phase Three?

B. Alan Orange at Movieweb
B. Alan Orange