What Marvel seem to appreciate is that a track record as a really good director is worth a lot more than a track record with big budgets, special effects or comic brook properties. Indeed, some really smart thinking seems to be going into tracing a thread from some of the thematic traits of the back catalogues of these directors into the tone of their MCU efforts. To whit, Kenneth Branagh was able to sow his familiarity with directing Shakespearean family dynamics into an effective portrayal of Asgard’s fraught family politics. Similarly, Joe Johnston’s flair for a nostalgia-tinged old fashioned adventure (Rocketeer) helped greatly with getting Captain America’s tone just right. Joss Whedon’s success with balanced ensembles and team-building banter (Firefly/Serenity, Buffy) fed directly into the monumental task of keeping The Avengers from being bloated and unbalanced. We could go on. What has been consistently demonstrated is that quality work will be noticed and rewarded with opportunity. So let’s look at some of the less high-profile work lurking in the back catalogue of MCU’s expanding alumni, not to attempt a revision history at showing they were destined for MCU, but simply to celebrate some really good films before they joined the behemoth that is Marvel.
Jon Favreau – Elf
The Christmas Movie marketplace is a crowded one, but properly decent ones are harder to come by and recent deserving additions are even rarer. Considering recent dreck like Deck the Halls, Four Christmasses and Fred Claus, Elf has done exceedingly well to lodge itself in the public’s affections and shows exactly how you blend genuine comedy with seasonal sentiment.
Will Farrell’s winning performance is of course a great asset and it is hard to identify anything specific from Elf that would have made Kevin Feige think, “I should get this guy to direct Iron Man”, but here is Favreau showing himself to be an adept director of physical comedy and also a dab hand at establishing a very particular tone.