All good things must come to an end. This phrase applies no differently to the tenure of Kevin Feige with Marvel Studios. Feige began producing for Marvel 17 years ago with the first X-Men movie (directed by Brian Singer), and last week’s Spider-Man Homecoming marks the 16th film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe that Feige has overseen since 2008 (Iron Man).
The ingenuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (for which Feige absolutely deserves credit), has been its interconnectedness and deep-running continuity between films. This has seismically altered the way audiences approach movie-viewing, and has spawned many ‘copycat ventures,’ such as Universal’s Dark Universe, the DC Cinematic Universe, and to a certain extent the new model Lucasfilm is using with the Star Wars franchise.
Feige deserves, and has received, ample credit for creating this so-called business model and applying it to his films. Fanboys and peers alike have praised Feige for his hands-on creative control, which has allowed the MCU to flourish in the last 10 years. It’s easy to imagine Feige as a circus performer, juggling and balancing many spinning plates, all towards the end of delivering a consistent product that wide-ranging audiences love. However, this method is not without its casualties.
It’s easy to look at various films within the MCU and see that many of them contain the same themes, archetypes, and loose-plot structures. Take Ant-Man, for example. The Paul Rudd flick essentially follows the origin story-mode so successfully employed in Iron Man: Hero is presented as being a flawed individual, is given the opportunity to change and become something more, faces a villain who possesses the same technology/power-set, and in defeating him, defeats his own demons. Ant-Man also devotes a good portion of its runtime to incorporating the character Falcon into its narrative- a move that truly served the MCU and not the character/film of Ant-man itself. Still, for what it’s worth, this writer enjoyed Ant-Man. However, as most know, Ant-Man was at one point the decade-long brainchild of writer/director Edgar Wright, who recently has seen massive critical and commercial acclaim for the film Baby Driver. Wright is a unique, inspiring talent as a filmmaker and no one truly disagrees that his vision for Ant-Man would have been an excellent, off-brand addition to the MCU (much in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy). Wright left the project over creative differences with the studio-essentially creative differences with Feige. In this sense, Feige robbed the MCU of original filmmaking, in favor of bolstering the brand of Marvel Studios. This is just one example. Iron Man 2, highly regarded to be the worst MCU film, is held down by its excessive ‘Avengers-setup,’ and what little plot it has, mirrors the structure of Iron Man. Furthermore, Wright is not the only director to leave Marvel over creative differences. Patty Jenkins, who recently crafted the excellent Wonder Woman for Warner Brothers, exited the second Thor Film before it began filming. If Iron Man 2 is indeed considered the worst MCU film, Thor: The Dark World certainly follows close behind. The film’s entire plot centers around one of the powerful Infinity Stones, a move clearly made to further the Avengers-narrative, which will culminate with Avengers 3 & 4 (currently in production). This represents another move, orchestrated by Feige, which sacrifices good directing talent and original filmmaking.
These examples, as well as others, contribute to the idea that Feige should exit the MCU following Avengers 4. The Infinity Stones narrative will be complete, and the MCU will have to take on a different identity to remain relevant, and lucrative. This identity should be the embrace of genre films and original content. Spider-Man: Homecoming, in embodying the “coming-of-age”, John Hughes-esque approach, proves that this approach would most certainly work. It’s easy to see that Sony’s influence might have contributed to this outcome, as opposed to Feige calling all the shots as he has done in the past.
Marvel Studios should consider toning down the interconnectedness and overused plot-structures, and embracing individual filmmakers with their own ideas and visions. For this to occur, Feige should move on from Marvel Studios, or vice versa. His position within the studio is now essentially a repellant for established auteurs; and for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to exist beyond 10 years, this roadblock must be overcome.