In a series of recent interviews, the Russo Brothers, directors of the recent Captain America movies, with Avengers to follow, believe that disagreements over plot points in their Civil War film may have led to the splits within Marvel.
These splits saw Kevin Feige take the movie-making side of the company, Marvel Studios, away from the rest of Marvel so that he reported directly to Disney’s Head Of Studios Alan Horn rather than Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter. This also meant that Captain America: Civil War is the last of the movies to have direct input from Marvel and the Marvel Creative Committee.
The timing and content of the interviews does seem curious when lined up with a number of other interviews, such as with Shane Black, and others that throw shade on Isaac Perlmutter and the rest of Marvel. I’ve been aware of considerable Hollywood and comics industry upset and dissent over the last few weeks at what some see as a conspiracy, and with convention season heating up, people are talking. And not just David Meisel.
The fact that it seems to have happened just as the final Marvel Studios film that the comic book side of the company had a say in was released seems more like a planned hit. And one that Disney has approved of.
Let’s dig in.
I’ve talked to a number of sources who disagree with the Russos’ specific take on the cause of the big split at Marvel. Rather than occurring during Civil War, its origins are with Iron Man 2. And what happened when Marvel executives and the Creative Committee of Bendis, Quesada, Buckley and Fine freaked out after seeing an early cut of the movie. A lot of money had been spent, Marvel wasn’t willing to go back to the drawing board. But changes had to be made.
Do you remember the scenes with a drunken Tony Stark in the suit? Originally, they were far worse. Scenes which showed Stark falling down drunk, and being cruel, violent, demeaning and misogynist to Pepper Potts were cut, re-edited and reshot in order keep the character from being totally irredeemable by the end of his first sequel. Though some of the drunkenness still exists in the final cut, in a more comedic fashion.
Kevin Feige encountered opposition by the rest of the Marvel team for a lack of judgement over how he allowed the creative team on the movie to treat Marvel’s up-and-coming franchise. And he was overruled.
But the opposition to his choices appears to have begun the tensions that would lead him to move Marvel Studios away from the comics side. It certainly fostered resentment towards Marvel.
This rift was deepened when Feige seemed to start taking credit for the conceptualising of the Avengers movie, a series of Marvel films that would lead up to that coming together of the characters and the strategy behind that. But when that was being decided, by the likes of high-level executives Isaac Perlmutter, Alan Fine, Avi Arad, David Meisel and others, Kevin Feige wasn’t in the room.
Then in 2012 Alan Horn joined Disney as the Head Of Studios. In this role, he did nothing to smooth out the issues at Marvel, or bring the two slowly fracturing parts of Marvel together. Indeed, he seems to have fostered that split.
He had form in this regard. At Warner Bros, Alan Horn was the man who drove the stake through any remaining connection between DC Comics and WB Studios. Something he seemed he was choosing to do at Marvel as well.
It may be worth pointing out that Horn has never been the best friend to comics. It was his Warners VP meeting a decade ago that saw DC Vertigo forced to change their creator owned contracts to be more restrictive regarding media rights, something that saw Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and others take their projects elsewhere, a creative brain drain that Vertigo never recovered from.
He insisted that Marvel Studios move out of the Marvel offices and relocate on the Disney lot, suggesting it would be beneficial on a creative level. The move finally occurred in 2013.
Feige was now well looked after by Horn and Disney execs who now had instant access to him, and were allowing the fights between Marvel Studios and Marvel to get worse. The inevitable outcome was that Feige and Studios no longer reported to Marvel but directly to Alan Horn himself. Mission accomplished.
But before that split was official, a little over a year ago, Isaac Perlmutter played peace maker – he invited the entire Marvel team to a meeting in Florida in an attempt to clear the air and get back to the business working better together.
It was that meeting when Feige stated his desire to be a part of Disney and not Marvel. This was the point of no return, and when Alan Horn and the rest of Disney learnt of this, they were happy to let the inevitable happen.
So while Ike Perlmutter and Kevin Feige have been seen as Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, Alan Horn is seen as playing at Baron Zemo, pulling the strings of the Civil War, pitting Marvel against itself and putting them on a self-destructive path.
So even though the Russos see their movie as what caused the split, it was merely the last straw.
The TV shows, for ABC, Netflix and others, including Agent Carter, Jessica Jones and Agents Of SHIELD are still part of Marvel. Though they have lost alignment and co-ordination between the movies and the TV shows which would otherwise have co-promoted each other. You may have noted that this season’s Agents Of SHIELD had a scene where the cast talked about what was happening in Civil War – basically after the writers had got to see the almost-finished film.
But Doctor Strange in November will be the first Marvel Studios film without the input of Marvel. It will be the first true test of Marvel Studios-without-the-comics.