Marvel Studios — the Disney-owned juggernaut that kicked off a shared universe phenomenon with Iron Man in 2008 and has ruled the box office ever since with hits like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy – has become such a Hollywood force that its behind the scenes machinations are almost as interesting as the intricate superhero adventures it produces. If you’re a casual moviegoer, Marvel just makes fun movies that go boom, but if you’re a fan of Marvel superheroes, insider Hollywood gossip, or the process of filmmaking in general, the studio is also a treasure trove of intriguing details and, sometimes, dirt.
At the heart of it all is Kevin Feige. His official title is “President of Production,” which means he oversees every movie Marvel Studios produces, but to fans his real title is “Mastermind.” Feige is widely credited as the man who created the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which so far has earned more than $7 billion at the box office with no sign of slowing down. He oversees every Marvel film (that is, every Marvel Studios film; we’re not talking about the X-Men today) from development all the way through to the end, and he’s credited as the architect of the studio’s master plan that, so far, extends in to 2019, but Feige has teased in the past that he’s got projects planned all the way through 2028. Feige’s not a flashy guy. He’s not Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Pratt, but to many die-hard fans he’s a star, and when he shows up to tell them what they’re going to see next, they cheer like he’s an icon.
This week, two pieces of news dropped concerning Marvel Studios, and both could have a huge impact on the future of its shared universe, and the power Feige wields. First, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Feige will no longer be reporting to Ike Perlmutter, CEO of Marvel Entertainment, and will instead report to Alan Horn, the chairman of Walt Disney Studios who’s already overseeing the Pixar and Lucasfilm empires. Now, that might sound like nothing but corporate shuffling to you, but it actually might be a big deal. Perlmutter, a self-made billionaire who’s kept a low profile throughout Marvel’s rise, is infamously cheap, to the point that he’s had Subway cater Marvel Studios press events. He’s also, if you believe sources, a bit erratic. Devin Faraci of Birth.Movies.Death noted that Perlmutter is the kind of guy who would fire Feige on a whim, and he’s also been tagged as the guy who kept Marvel from making female-led superhero movies for so long. He also, reportedly, was the guy who kept Marvel from shipping more merchandise featuring Black Widow, because he thought (thanks to his background in the toy business) that they wouldn’t sell. So, Feige has apparently gained more autonomy and power within the Disney machine and the ability to spend money when he sees fit — and Alan Horn is the guy who routinely unloads a truck full of money to whatever island Johnny Depp is living on these days to get more Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
The second big bit of news came two days later, when Umberto Gonzalez of Heroic Hollywood reported via Periscope that Marvel Studios’ “Creative Committee” was undergoing some kind of shift. Faraci then confirmed the report, and elaborated on it a bit, noting that he believes the committee is “actually finished altogether.” So, what is the committee? Well, it’s a group of Marvel experts, including Marvel publisher Dan Buckley and one of the publisher’s most prolific writers, Brian Michael Bendis. The committee’s job is, essentially, to provide advice and notes to the studio, and Bendis has noted in the past that they’re privy to scripts that audiences haven’t even heard about yet.
So, why is that a bad thing? Well, it might not have been, but Faraci’s report on the breakup notes that the committee was often nitpicky, focusing on little details that didn’t have much to do with the overall story of a script, and according to his sources, they’re the ones who drove Edgar Wright away from Ant-Man, a project he’d been developing for nearly a decade. The committee was also often late with its feedback, because they all have other jobs, and that can slow the filmmaking process.
So, assuming all of this is actually falling into place (Disney has confirmed the Perlmutter move, but not as of now the dissolution of the Creative Committee), what does this mean for fans? Right now, almost nothing. Captain America: Civil War is already headed for post-production, and Doctor Strange is in pre-production, so any impact this news might have could very well wait until 2017. Beyond that, it’s tough to tell, but there are reports that Perlmutter was the guy holding back diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it’s possible we’ll see more announcements for films (Perlmutter still controls the TV arm of Marvel) starring women and people of color in the coming years, as well as more merchandise featuring female characters.
The other big factor here is Feige’s longevity. The Marvel Universe mastermind was only set to be around for a few more years before this news (assuming he didn’t renew his contract), but with Perlmutter out of his way, he could stick around until transitioning to another Disney property like Star Wars (which he is a noted fan of). For now, for better or worse (and most fans would say better), Feige has consolidated power at Marvel, and that means his vision of the universe will play out with even less resistance in the coming years. We are primed to witness a blockbuster juggernaut guided by one man’s vision, and watching how it’ll all play out couldn’t be more exciting.