Marvel’s Kevin Feige Has Some Advice For The DC Extended Universe


As we head toward Avengers: Infinity War, which – as demonstrated by the trailer – is a giant culmination of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe up to that point, the chief architect of the juggernaut franchise is understandably getting a lot of attention. While the MCU is the product of the talents and skill-sets of thousands of dedicated craftspeople, the achievements of Kevin Feige in overseeing the film series, and steering it to over $13 billion in global box office receipts, cannot be ignored. For that reason, Vanity Fair recently conducted an in-depth interview with him.

Evidently, the interview was done well into the theatrical run of Justice League, at a point where the financial disappointment was becoming very clear. Unsurprisingly, then, Vanity Fair asked Feige – without specifics – if he had any advice for others who are perhaps “struggling to emulate” the success of the MCU:

“The only advice, and I’ve sort of said this already today, is don’t worry about the universe. Worry about the movie. We never set out to build a universe. We set out to make a great Iron Man movie, a Hulk movie, a Thor movie, a movie, and then be able to do what, at the time, nobody else was doing: put them together.

Bring that experience that hardcore comic readers have had for decades of Spider-Man swinging into the Fantastic Four headquarters, or for Hulk to suddenly come rampaging through the pages of an Iron Man comic. We thought it would be fun for filmgoers to get that same—on a much bigger canvas—rush, because there is something just inherently great about that: seeing characters’ worlds collide with one another.

Continuing on, he said:

“That’s what is so amazing every day on the set of Infinity War. These characters have no business being in the same room together. It’s ridiculous. Everyone within Marvel Studios just knows the individual movie trumps the overall picture. If there’s a better idea for a movie—if we were going to plant a seed in this movie that was going to be awesome and pay off three movies later, but that seed is not working and that seed is screwing up the movie, goodbye. We’ll do something else later.

Make that movie work. The notion of sitting down going, “Let’s build a cinematic universe,” might be a little off. “Let’s sit down and make a great movie and if people are interested in that, there are ways and ideas to tie them together going forward.”

There are those in the fandom who have argued that Warner Bros. and DC do not need to emulate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at all, and that there are – to use a popular and appropriate, if slightly strange, phrase – ‘many ways to skin a cat.’ While this is a factually correct statement in terms of franchise building, there’s only way to read a bottom line – and it’s that bottom line that ultimately matters most to Hollywood studios. The Marvel Cinematic Universe established a consistent ‘winning formula’ in its earliest stages, while the DC Extended Universe has yet to do the same.

Kevin Feige’s ‘advice’ is therefore interesting, especially when seen in the context of the films that launched these respective series. While the DCEU may not have been on the radar when Zack Snyder released Man Of Steel in 2013, the nature of the lead character, and the ending of the film make it clear that it was always intended to be the start of a trilogy – in much the same way as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, eight years earlier. In spite of Kevin Feige’s insistence here that Marvel simply “set out to make a great Iron Man movie,” anyone that has seen that film knows that the seeds of the wider MCU are right there, setting down roots with a great cliffhanger ending, and a post-credits scene that ties the film directly to the idea of The Avengers.

So the difference, then, lies not in the intention of the opening gambits, but in the intentions of the choices that followed. The Marvel Cinematic Universe – by virtue of essentially breaking new ground, and ‘being first,’ – was able to grow through its first phase in a very linear fashion, before branching out in different directions in Phases Two and Three. This allowed for the steady establishment of brand recognition and loyalty for the audience, as much as narrative and plot for the filmmakers.

The DCEU, meanwhile, has taken a different approach – which was certainly an admirable idea, in terms of artistry, at the time – but which has left them with a perception of playing catch-up, while anchoring the franchise on the work of a director who, though able to deliver epic comic book movies, is not necessarily conducive to enormous box office numbers.

Now that the Marvel model has been established, it’s inevitable that all that follow will be compared to it in ways that 20th Century Fox has not had to face with its X-Men franchise, thanks to the fact that it is a relatively self-contained subset of Marvel comic book characters – for the time being, at least. As we now watch to see how Warner Bros. and DC will respond in the long term to the financial disappointment of Justice League, it will be interesting to see if the series begins to adhere more closely to the Marvel model moving forward.

In the meantime, while some of his comments may gloss over the speed with which plans for the MCU clearly came into being, we can certainly all get behind the main point made by Kevin Feige here: “Don’t worry about the universe. Worry about the movie.”