There are many ingredients to the unprecedented success of Marvel Studios and, to those in the know, one of the biggest components is hardly a secret. Whether it’s in development, pre-production, production, post, or anywhere in between, filmmakers have come to rely on Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige not only to keep up with the goings on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also as an invaluable creative collaborator.
In Captain America: Civil War there is a key moment at the conclusion of the airport fight when Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), a.k.a. War Machine, is accidentally struck by a blast from Vision (Paul Bettany) and free falls from high in the sky all the way to the ground. In the commentary track for the film’s Blu-ray release, directors Joe and Anthony Russo tell the story of how a small editing note from Feige made a big difference and maximized the impact of Rhodes’ fall for the audience.
Joe: “There was a reconstruction we did very late in the editorial process. This is where Kevin is probably one of the most value-add producers in the history of the business. He was sitting in with us in the edit room and he said ‘I think there’s another way we can get more impact out of that.’ And we literally, I think, changed the construction of two shots at the end there and people gasped in the next test screening that we did.”
Anthony: “It was better. It was changing the shot sequence. It was when [Tony] said ‘Rhodes!’ You lose how close [Rhodes] is getting to the ground so it becomes more of a surprise when he hits all of the sudden.”
Joe: “He’s still in the sky and you don’t reveal the ground till literally he hits, which creates a surprise for the audience.”
Joe Russo has even more praise for Feige in a recent conversation with Vanity Fair‘s Joanna Robinson, as the director explains why the shared universes of other studios haven’t found the same success as the MCU.
“Simple. They don’t have a Kevin.”
Marvel Studios invented and popularized the modern shared universe approach in Hollywood. Competing studios have tried to build their own set of interconnected franchises within a single continuity, but none have been able to replicate Marvel’s success. Universal’s Dark Universe died after a single film with The Mummy earlier this year.
The DC Films universe seemed like the most obvious and natural challenger to the MCU, but a string of lashings from critics, interrupted only briefly by Wonder Woman, and the recent box office struggles of Justice League are going to have Warner Bros. questioning its own commitment to the shared universe concept. That does not mean Warner Bros. will exit the game, but it seems the studio will focus more on solo adventures first and worry about the interconnectivity of it all later on down the line.
That so many studios are trying for the same thing while only one, Marvel Studios, can claim total success is a testament to just how good Kevin Feige is at his job. The shared universe concept has come under fire because other studios have struggled with it, but the problems lie in the execution, not the idea. Under Feige’s leadership, Marvel Studios has had both the idea and the ability to execute.
In order to match Marvel, everyone else is going to have to go out and find their own Kevin Feige, but as far we know, there is only one.