A few days ago, the only thing we knew about the next two Avengers films was that they are releasing in the same year, and the Russo Brothers would not return to direct them. But in the wake of some big Marvel announcements at San Diego Comic-Con, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the studio has chosen Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton to helm the first film, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, due out in May 2025.
While Shang-Chi didn’t have quite the outsized commercial success of its peers, due in part to its 2021 pandemic release, it was widely praised by critics and audiences alike. Last December, Cretton was confirmed to be directing a Shang-Chi sequel, but it’s unclear how the Avengers announcement will impact that film’s timeline. (For what it’s worth, a Shang-Chi 2 did not appear on the three-year slate presented at SDCC by MCU head honcho Kevin Feige.) Before he dove into superhero cinema, Cretton wrote and directed several indie dramas starring Brie Larson, most notably 2013’s Short Term 12.
Coincidentally, this news came out the same day that Vulture published an anonymous visual effects artist’s criticism of the grueling expectations and work conditions on Marvel projects. On one unnamed film, they claimed to have done “almost six months of overtime every day,” while working seven days of the week as colleagues suffered from “anxiety attacks” and emotional breakdowns. The unnamed CGI whiz said one of the main drivers of the delays was Marvel’s penchant for hiring indie directors with no experience with big-budget effects; new to the process, they often ask to see time-consumingly detailed, “final renders” of images early in the project, rather than making creative decisions based on rougher concepts that can be more easily revised on the way to a final vision.
The source for the Vulture story did not cite any directors (let alone Cretton) by name, though Marvel’s penchant for recruiting small-scale directors to make epic blockbusters is well-documented: The strategy has certainly worked out with Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Captain Marvel), and Shang-Chi. (Not so much with Chloé Zhao’s Eternals, though.) But according to Vulture’s source, the studio’s process has been back-breaking—or at least finger-breaking—for these VFX coders. “A lot of [these directors] have just done little indies at the Sundance Film Festival and have never worked with VFX,” says the source. “They don’t know how to visualize something that’s not there yet, that’s not on set with them…. Marvel needs to train its directors on working with visual effects and have a better vision out of the gate. The studio needs to hold its directors’ feet to the fire more to commit to what they want.