When Iron Man blasted into theaters in May 2008, it marked the beginning of a triumphant new era. Up until that point, superhero films had simply been light-hearted, low-commitment escapes that attracted fans of the source material but couldn't really reel in new viewers. Now, though, they are an investment. You want to go see each new movie because you want to be fighting, weeping, and living with these endearing characters. So what happened? How did superhero films become the wildly popular money-makers they are today, and why does everyone go bananas every time a new Avengers film comes out? The answer, inquisitive reader, is Kevin Feige. Most of the creative decisions made concerning the shared film universe must go through something I call “The Feige Filter.” If Feige thinks an idea, concept, or direction is complete horse shit, he'll either have the director or the screenwriter rework it or he'll scrap it completely. Obviously, others share some of that clout, but ultimately it's Feige who calls the shots and it's Feige pulls the reins. If Marvel Studios was a ship, Kevin Feige would be its fearless captain, its Mal Reynolds. Those who pay close attention during the credits after almost every Marvel movie have probably caught Feige's name listed as an executive producer, but those same people may have no idea that his duties extend far beyond that. He is the architect for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the man who puts it all together and earns the bragging rights when one of his movies busts through the billion dollar mark at the box office. Obviously his go-to guy, Joss Whedon, deserves a big chunk of the credit as well, given that The Avengers assembled over a billion dollars globally and quickly climbed its way to the top five highest grossing films of all time. But it's Feige who plans what happens to these characters, it's Feige who decides which juicy tidbits will be teased after the credits of each successive film, and it's Feige who makes the Mad Titan Thanos tremble under his might.
A businessman first and a storyteller second, Feige plans (and plays) to win, obliterating his competition with his winning blend of marketing finesse and unmatched foresight. While he's smashing his opponents with the efficiency and ferocity of the Hulk, he entrusts each movie to a talented, somewhat eccentric director who can bring a fresh perspective to an older property. More often than not, the chosen director rewards and reinforces Feige's intuition with a critically and financially successful film that lures excited fans to the theater in droves. There are obviously some exceptions to that statement, but what's important is that the winners outnumber the stinkers ten to one.
DC, watching Marvel's successes with envy and awe, has decided to throw together their own set of interconnected stories in a vain attempt to steal the throne from their formidable competitor. Unfortunately, it will be years before they can even hope to compete with Marvel, but it is possible. They just need their own Feige. There's already some solid interest in Zack Snyder's Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but even those already set on seeing Batfleck have expressed some skepticism. The entire project feels half-assed and thrown together, as if the DC heads panicked at the very sight of Marvel raking in shit tons of cash with each successive film in their franchise.
If one were to discover that Marvel and DC had bank vaults hidden deep below the Earth's crust, they would certainly find that one is well-fed and the other is quickly running out of rations. After Marvel's internet-shattering announcements yesterday. Feige and his capable compatriots have almost finished nailing DC's coffin. Not only did they announce their movie line-up through 2019, they secured their hard-earned place as the most ambitious, most audacious film studio on the planet.
Every studio needs a Kevin Feige. They need the passion, the confidence, the charisma he so effortlessly exudes, because that's what draws all the talent to him. He tells good stories and markets those stories better than almost anyone in the industry, skills that pulled A-Listers like Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johannson, and Samuel L. Jackson onto the scene.
He's already shown us how capable he is, but I have a feeling this is only the beginning of what he can really do.