When all is said and done, historians will look at the first few decades of film history in the 21st century as the golden age of Marvel. That may sound like grandiose talk from a fan-boy, but Marvel Studios truly has changed how Hollywood things about blockbusters, franchises, and tent pole filmmaking. If one needs any evidence, merely look at the “universes” popping up, from more traditional comic properties like X-Men or D.C.’s heroes to other less likely candidates like the Universal “monster universe,” the 14-films-in-devleopment Transformers’ universe, the Kaiju universe, or rumors of a Men in Black and 21 Jump Street-verse. Everyone wants an interconnected cinematic universe and they’ll do anything to make it happen, including an Aunt May movie. While critical plaudits have been relatively lacking, this idea to interconnect film and television projects has been a financial masterstroke. It also has effectively altered how many films look at themselves as their storytelling becomes more serial than stand-alone. When people ask, “How does Marvel have so much success?”, Kevin Feige will be at the core of the answer. He spent some time recently to sit down and talk about how it’s all come to be.
One of the major factors that make Marvel successful is that they focus on action and humor. Those two elements are the core of their approach to films.
We don’t sit there and say, ‘We need 15 jokes in the first 45 pages,’ but it just is something that we are naturally entertained by…Certainly in the Guardians films, as James would point out, in the Ant-Man films — it might rise to the surface more. It’s been a long time that we haven’t done a screening of a film that humor and action aren’t the top two things that are listed in those movies…That’s the only sign you get when you’re in the dark theater that they are with you…I also believe that laughter is the way you hook the audience. Then you can scare them. Then you can touch them deeper than they were expecting to in a film about a tree and a raccoon and aliens that don’t understand metaphors. Humor is the secret into the audience’s other ranges of emotions.
Going a little further in explanation, Feige also talks about humor is one of the easier things to gauge early in production, before test audiences can appreciate the un-finished visuals of a film. Fans immediately liked James Gunn‘s writing but struggled to see how the film would look in the first screenings, which Feige says were
[H]orribly, horribly painful … Imagine watching a Guardians movie without Rocket, without Groot, without any of the ships.
While talking about the studio’s approach he also said that he thinks a rush to make R-rated movies misses the point of why people loved Deadpool and Logan. Tailoring films to audience tastes is just a backward approach to things. Instead, Marvel has made films they way they thought they should be made and people have responded to that artistic vision. This has been particularly true with the international box office, where Marvel has claimed little effort has gone into adjusting the final product for international taste.
An amazing thing happened as we started making movies: The world started responding to the movies we were making and therefore we didn’t have to change or cater them in any way outside our own natural instincts…When it comes to marketing, you’ll find us taking different tactics. But when it comes to the actual film itself, I cannot think of a single example where we altered anything, made a decision based on trying to appeal to the ‘global market.’
(As a side note, as the Hollywood Reporter notes in their interview, Iron Man 3 did have an additional scene for Chinese showings (featuring famous Chinese actors) which fans elsewhere can see in most of the home release special features. It’s a small counterpoint, but still is a “single example” of some effort put into those things.)
Feige also talked a bit about the situation with Spider-Man, confirming that Marvel has nothing to do with the new Venom project and Black Cat/Silver Sable project. Interestingly, he also agreed with recent comments, in several places, by Amy Pascal. When asked about Spidey after the confirmed appearances in Spider-Man: Homecoming, its sequel, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers 4, he said:
That’s as far as it goes for now.
This is exactly in agreement with Pascal that those movies are part of the deal and there is no deal beyond them. It also suggests, however, that there easily could be an extension. “For now” seem an obvious way to say, “We think it’s working and will be something to extend in the future.” It is surprising that Feige was not thinking about a Spider-Man trilogy when the decisions were made, but that appears to be the case.
All of the success hasn’t lead to Marvel being too jealous with their talent. Recently fans noted “defections” to other universes with Joss Whedon going to work on Batgirl and Josh Brolin becoming Cable in Deadpool 2. While some fans and commentators have made much of these creators working on other franchies, none of this is remotely concerning to Feige.
[Whedon] called a couple months ago, which he didn’t have to do and was super cool of him and super nice of him…And we couldn’t be more supportive. We want to see a Joss Whedon Batgirl film be awesome.
We don’t have anything written into our contracts about other roles that people can do…Indiana Jones and Han Solo are the same person…it hasn’t been a problem. And I think Thanos and Cable are two very different characters.
It seems unlikely that Marvel doesn’t have some sort of non-compete clause in their contracts, but that’s what Feige is saying. Perhaps the difficulty of shooting schedules means that Marvel doesn’t have to worry so much about these things. If Robert Downey Jr. was suddenly cast as Batman his contractual obligations to Disney would leave him without time to star elsewhere. So an actor like Brolin, who has a relatively limited role in the MCU, can do this in a way the main stars might not be able to do. Recently this sort of scheduling situation has been proven true with Jeremy Renner turning down Mission Impossible 6 for Hawkeye duty.
There is more in the interview, including some thoughts on James Gunn‘s role in the long term future of Marvel Studios, so head on over to the Hollywood Reporter for all of Feige’s thoughts on the current state of the MCU.
What do you think about all these comments? Do you think humor is a key to Marvel success? Do want to see more than two MCU Spider-Man films? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Source: Hollywood Reporter