Why did Marvel stop using A-List directors for its films?

Why did Marvel stop using A-List directors for its films? by @DirkHooper

Answer by Dirk Hooper:

Marvel Studios creates films more like a television series than like a typical movie series. Studio heads (particularly Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios) and movie producers have more power than the directors, and that’s all part of the plan.

What is a Marvel Movie?

Before we move on, let’s dispel some misconceptions about what a Marvel movie is. Marvel Studios, which is owned by Disney produces the highly successful Marvel movies based on Marvel Comics with characters including the Avengers, Captain America, Thor, the Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, among many others.

Movies based on Marvel Comics characters are also made by 20th Century Fox (who owns the film rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties), Sony (who partially owns the film rights to Spider-Man) and Universal (who currently has some shaky rights regarding any Hulk movies). [1]

So, directors like Guillermo del Toro, Ang Lee, Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer, have made movies based on Marvel Comics characters in the past, but the Marvel Studios movies have been created under a different plan.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Plan

The Marvel Studios plan is to have a strong production team that unifies and oversees all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. It doesn’t mean that directors are unimportant, but they do have to work within certain creative limits to make sure that the Marvel Studios brand stays consistent across movies.

If you go to see a Marvel Studios film, you know exactly what you’re getting, every time.

There have been some excellent workman directors like Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1 & 2, Kenneth Branagh (Thor) and Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger). But Marvel Studios is increasingly seeking creators known for episodic television and grooming them to carry on the plan.

Joss Whedon, who had a highly successful career creating “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and, to a lesser extent “Firefly” was tapped to help write and direct the first two Avengers movies and help on the creative team overall.

Anthony and Joe Russo, who were known for directing comedy television series “Community” and “Arrested Development” have now co-directed two Captain America movies, “The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War,” and are going to helm the next two Avengers movies.

Television creators have a very specific set of skills that Marvel Studios is looking for.

  • They are team players.
  • They work within a tight budget.
  • They respect time constraints.
  • They value and understand character development over a series.
  • They have strong skills in both writing and directing actors.
  • They are not as ego-driven as a big movie director.

Where’s the Love for Directors?

As someone who loves movies by visionary directors, I understand why some people would be upset that movies are being created in this manner. What they don’t understand is that Marvel Studios is actually making movies based on a plan that is drawn directly from Marvel Comics.

Marvel Comics has always had strong individual writers and artists who create monthly comics, but they ultimately answer to the editors that oversee and unify the Marvel Comics brand. Marvel Studios is just bringing the Marvel Comics plan into a series of movies and by doing so changing the industry forever.

It’s hard to argue the success of this plan. Even movies about mostly unknown characters like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant-Man” have a built in audience and were critically and financially successful.

Marvel Studios has had an unbelievable box office track record that has carried on for nearly a decade now. Audiences love the product that Marvel Studios is delivering.

The End of an Era

In comparison, Warner Brothers, who owns the DC Comics characters, tried a “director-driven” plan with director Zack Snyder taking the lead on “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

After both of those movies underperformed, Warner Brothers readjusted their plan by putting DC Comics chief content officer Geoff Johns and Warner Brothers executive vice president Jon Berg in charge of the DC Extended Universe. [2]

The era of the “director-driven” superhero universe is over.


[1] Universal Hulk Rights Not a Problem for Marvel After All

[2] Geoff Johns to Co-Lead DC Films Division at Warner Bros.

Why did Marvel stop using A-List directors for its films?


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