It’s tempting to think that everything bad about Marvel Studios has been the fault of the mercurial CEO Ike Perlmutter and everything good is thanks to President of Production and Co-President of the Studio Kevin Feige. Ergo, now that Feige has successfully wrestled Marvel Studios away from Perlmutter and will only be answerable to Alan Horn at Disney surely this means the Marvel Cinematic Universe will soon see an influx of pricier directors and happier actors with more generous contracts. The next Edgar Wright to come along won’t be chased away when he’s so close to the finish line, right? Plus, Feige can make a harder push towards diversity with female and racial minority-led superhero movies, and reach out to repair the film studio’s currently non-existent relationship with Fox. That’s not to say Marvel Studios will work out a Spider-Man-esque deal to win back the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises. It’s more that maybe now Marvel Studios employees will simply be allowed to at least attend the premieres of X-Men movies, something which never happened under Perlmutter’s control.
But the truth is we have no real idea what’s going to happen, and neither does anyone in Hollywood. After breaking the news earlier this week that Disney had decided to re-organize Marvel, The Hollywood Reporter has posted a follow-up piece filling in some more backstory as to how we got from the iron fist of Ike to the free reign of Feige. It essentially boils down to the fact that due to the remarkable scale and long list of on-screen talent in next year’s Captain America: Civil War the budget has grown throughout production from something in the standard Captain America/Thor solo movie range (Winter Soldier and The Dark World each cost $170m) to Avengers territory (the first cost $220m, Age of Ultron went up to $250m). Perlmutter and his New York-based committee of executives from the various divisions of Marvel ordered Feige to “scale it down.” Having finally been pushed too far by his frugal bosses, Feige probably said something close to “fuck” and “that,” threatening to leave Marvel until Disney’s CEO stepped in to authorize a re-organization.
“New York had a big say for a long time, but hasn’t Kevin earned the right to some autonomy? He’s made the company billions. Why is he reporting to a 72-year-old man who doesn’t make movies?” one insider openly asked THR’s Kim Masters.
What happens next is a mystery. When I wrote about this earlier in the week, I argued it would be odd for Marvel Studios to change the way it does things after its business model has helped sustain one of if not the greatest runs for a new film studio in modern box office history. It’s been right up there with Pixar, which similarly used to be its own thing before Disney gobbled it up and then promoted John Lasseter to divide his time between Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, much to the chagrin of Pixar employees. Some speculate Feige is being groomed to eventually become the John Lasseter to Marvel Studios and LucasFilms, but that’s getting way, way, way ahead of everything. Kathleen Kennedy would certainly have an interesting opinion on such speculation since she’s the current head of LucasFilms.
One top talent agent echoes my argument that as far as dealmaking is concerned, why on Earth would Marvel change, telling THR, “Why would [Marvel Studios] change? It’s proven to be successful, and everyone still wants to be part of the Marvel Universe.” Another agent merely hopes to be able to negotiate better deals, “I’m secretly hoping that it gets better with this realignment. They’re cheap, they’re aggressive. It certainly can’t get any worse.”
Put that on the big white board in the Marvel Studios conference room, Feige: “It certainly can’t get any worse.” You hear that guys? Agents despise us so much that they can’t imagine things getting any worse. Let’s stick it to them and change the laws which prohibit us from signing actors to contracts for longer than 7 years. We have the power to change that law, right? We’re Marvel mother f’n Studios. We can do anything we want to now that Ike is out of the picture. Maniacal laugh! Maniacal laugh!
Wow, I just turned Feige into a super-villain. Don’t know why I did that. Dude’s always seemed like the nicest and coolest guy in Hollywood.
Anyway, to this point Marvel Studios’ dealmaking has been the responsibility of Perlmutter and Alan Fine. They’re out now, and what Feige and his co-Marvel Studios presidents do from this point forward is anyone’s guess. There are signs that a less-restricted Feige is already steering the studio in a more progressive direction, such as the way it has amassed an all-star (translation: not cheap) cast for Doctor Strange and the rumor of a new Blade movie centered around the African-American vampire hunter’s daughter. Plus, all of a sudden Chris Evans, aka Mr. “I’m going to retire as soon as my Marvel contract expires,” is totally cool with extending his contract.
But from this point forward whatever Marvel Studios’ perceived shortcomings might be there won’t be anyone else to blame. It’ll all be on Feige. He seems up to the task, though.