With both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man now in the bag, we’re basically in the final stretch of Marvel Studio’s first grand plan for their universe. Their Phase 3 will kick off next year with the massive Captain America: Civil War, before seeing new faces in the likes of Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel and more introduced into the MCU, and then culminating in the universe shaking two-part Avengers: Infinity War in 2018 and 2019. And that’s not even counting in all the TV projects they have lined, which will also result in their own team-up miniseries in the form of The Defenders. In short: It’s a really good time to be a Marvel fan.
And the man who has been the big driving force of all of this, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, along with Avengers producer Jeremy Latchem, was in attendance at an event in Los Angeles on Wednesday to celebrate the Blu Ray release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. During the event, the two man held an in-depth Q&A with the invited media and dished up details on nearly everything the studio has in the pipeline. It’s a HUGE amount of info to get through, so I’ve collated, sorted and broken it all down below for easier reading.
Of course one of the biggest coups for the studio was the recent deal cut with Sony to finally bring Spider-Man into the MCU proper. The 15-year old character, played by Tom Holland, will be introduced in Civil War, before getting his own solo film directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car) in 2017. And Feige could not be happier about finally bringing the wall-crawler home, where he will add something different to the universe.
Feige: “Making that agreement was great, and was really amazing, and on a personal level making these movies, it means a lot because I think we can do great things with Spider-Man. I think Spider-Man can serve great purpose in our universe and that’s where he belongs. What was unique about him in the comics was not that he was the only superhero in the world; it’s that he was a totally different kind of superhero when compared against all the other ones in the Marvel universe at the time.”
“Now we better not screw it up.”
“[The solo movie is] job No. 1 for us. The most important thing is relaunching Spider-man with his own stand-alone movie and a story line that fits into this universe. The connectivity is great, but doesn’t drive the train.”
- Reacquiring Character Rights
One of the reasons why Marvel was finally able to bring Spider-Man into the MCU was because of the underwhelming performance of Sony’s version of the character in the Amazing Spider-Man films. With the recent disaster of Fox’s Fantastic Four reboots, many fans have been clamouring for the same to happen to Marvel’s First Family. But how could such a hugely important group of characters suddenly just slip into the already established MCU? Well, the same way that Marvel did it for Spider-Man: They’ve already factored them into their plans.
Feige: “If I understand what you’re asking, we had… this has been a dream of ours for a long time, and we always had contingency plans should you know — which we always do anyways. Are we going to be able to make another movie with this actor? If we are then we’ll do this, if not, we’re going to do this. If we get the rights to a certain character that’d be great, then we’d do this, if not, we’d do this. So we always sort of operate with those alternate timelines available and are ready to shift if something happens.”
- Avengers: Infinity War
Now if Marvel have all these “What if?” scenarios built into their plans, how detailed are their plans leading up to Avengers: Infinity War, which is supposed to be the culmination of 11 years worth of movies by the time it concludes? Well, let’s just say that they know all the major beats of what’s going to happen, but they’re still leaving some leeway.
Feige: “Yes, in broad strokes. Sometimes in super specific things, but for the most part in broad strokes that are broad enough and loose enough that if through the development of four or five movies before we get to the culmination, as you say, we still have room to sway, and to go, and to surprise ourselves in places that we end up. So all the movies ultimately when they are finished can feel like they were all interconnected and meant to be and planned far ahead, but can live and breath as individual movies that can be satisfying by themselves.”
- What happens to The Avengers after Infinity War?
Going from the “Infinity Gauntlet” comic book storyline that the MCU has been drawing from for its overarching plot, it’s clear that when the dust settles at the end of Phase 3, things will not be the same any more. That’s especially true for Marvel’s premier super-team.
Latchem: “Well I think it definitely is an end to some version of the team that we’ve come to know as The Avengers. And I don’t know exactly whats going to happen yet in that film, but I think we start to hint at it at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron that the team will be evolving. And one of the things we loved in the comics is the roster’s always changing and you could pick up a new issue of the comics ten years later and you don’t recognize the people on the cover. But the ideas and ideals that make The Avengers still exist, and I think that’s part of what makes this culmination will be: we’re seeing this version of the team doing this thing to save this universe, this galaxy, however you want to put it, and we’ll see where this goes. So it’s not the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it will be the end of part of it for sure. We’re still trying to sort out which parts. (laughs)”
- Thanos and the Infinity Stones
That “end” is of course going to be brought about by celestial despot Thanos and his quest for the Infinity Stones that has been running as a throughline through most of the Marvel movies. Of the six Stones that Thanos needs to complete his reality-warping Gauntlet, we’ve already seen four: The Tesseract (Captain America: The First Avenger), the Aether (Thor: The Dark World), the Orb (Guardians of the Galaxy), and the Mind Stone (Avengers: Age of Ultron). So when are we seeing the remaining two; the Time stone and Soul Gem?
Feige: “You will see the other two, sometime in phase three for sure. There’s a gauntlet that needs to be filled.”
And speaking of that Gauntlet, there’s a question fans have been asking ever since the post-credits scene for Age of Ultron showed Thanos donning the famous golden glove: How can he have it, when a famous Easter egg in the first Thor showed the glove securely stored in Odin’s vault? It’s simple: Infinity Gauntlets. Plural.
Feige: “It’s a great question. I may as well answer it because you asked it. It’s not the same one.”
Latchem: “Which one do you think is the real one?”[Feige gives an angry look as if he wasn’t supposed to suggest one of the gauntlets isn’t real]
Okay then! But how far back did the idea go to use Thanos’ collection of the Stones as the plot thread that ties the entire universe together? Was that their plan from the start?
Feige: “It was really sort of Iron Man 2 and building the architecture of the entire phase one is where that started to come about, and the notion that the tesseract being not only tying phase one together but also being part of all the other things that tie phase two together. I won’t say its all perfectly planned out in 2009, but that was the genesis of it. It goes back that far.”
Latchem: “I remember we were on set and we had the prop designer drawing the book that Tony Stark’s flipping through when he’s going through all of his father’s stuff and I remember trying to explain to the prompter that ‘no no, this cube you’re drawing is very important, so it needs to be a certain way because thats going to matter later.
Feige: “What Howard Stark says on that film, everything you need to know is right in front of you, when we were on THAT page.”
Like Feige pointed out earlier though, their overall plans are a bit fluid. So who decides which Stone will be featured in which movie? For eg. Why was the Tesseract aka the Cosmic Cube used in the first Captain America film?
Feige: “Some of it comes from the source material. The cosmic cube was alway important for Red Skull and Captain America. We always knew in this film (Avengers: Age of Ultron) that there was one in Loki’s scepter and that was going to end up in Vision’s forehead. And some of the other ones like the Orb (from Guardians of the Galaxy) comes out of structural plot needs for a macguffin. And sometimes a filmmaker will say, okay so theres this orb and we’re like, okay lets put something inside that orb and have it tie into the large mythology.”
- Captain America: Civil War’s huge cast
In case you haven’t noticed, the next Cap film is basically The Avengers 2.5 as it features just about every MCU hero we’ve met thus far, with all of them splitting into two sides that go to war over some philosophical divide championed respectively by Captain America and Iron Man. So how do you balance that many characters in a movie?
Feige: “There were a lot of characters in The Winter Soldier, but it felt like a very singular and relatively simple thriller. Civil War follows in that same way. I think that’s something [directors] Joe and Anthony Russo pride themselves on, and our screenwriters Chris Markus and Steve McFeely are excellent at giving each character just enough. They’re not full arcs for everybody; it’s just enough that their presence is felt and important, but that the very clear single story that is being told is being served at all times.”
- Captain Marvel
One of the few characters that will not be in Civil War will be Captain Marvel who will be getting her own solo movie in 2018. She may have appeared much sooner though, as it was initially widely reported that she would be in the post-credits scene for Age of Ultron, but that of course wasn’t the case. She was originally there though.
Feige: “It was in the script at one point, it might have been one draft. Was it… It might have just been Captain Marvel. And we shot a plate and thought we may add her in there but the truth is it just didn’t seem appropriate to have this new person in a new costume come out of nowhere at the end of this story. It would have been a disservice to, what by the time the movie was coming out, a character people already knew was coming anyway.”
Latchem: “Really early in development there was a notion of there being a ton of new people. But then it was like, we haven’t really introduced them, we don’t know where they are going to come from, and Joss really didn’t love the idea. It was an early discussion and then it just became Captain Marvel. And then that felt weird, to just have one new person and the guys go ‘What?'”
Feige: “And also what does Captain America say? ‘They’re not the 27 Yankees’. Well if Captain Marvel is there, what are we saying about her? The notion that they need to be, certainly Wanda and Vision, and to a lesser extent Falcon and Rhodey, need tolearn what it means to be a team, even if the most dysfunctional team in the history of teams.”
- When will the Guardians of the Galaxy interact with the rest of the MCU?
Speaking of dysfunctional teams, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy went from being complete unknowns to some of the most beloved characters in the MCU overnight. So of course fans want the team to eventually make it from outer space down to Earth to hook up with the Avengers (for that epic Iron Man vs Star Lord snark battle!), especially since it’s inevitable with Guardians‘ strong connections to Thanos. But when will that actually happen?
Feige: “Well, its a good question. And certainly Thanos and the Infinity stones are the connection between all those movies and especially Guardians. So I do think they’ll be [crossing over] into that sector of the Marvel literal universe. When or if those specific characters start switching remains to be seen. And the Guardians 2 team just left for Atlanta on Monday to start that movie, so all the Guardians effort and thought is going to that — which is shaping up very nicely right now.”
- Doctor Strange
Another new character scheduled to show up in Phase 3 is the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange, who will be played by Benedict Cumberbatch. After it was announced that the new Spider-Man would see an already in-action Spidey, a rumour sprung up that Marvel were now no longer doing origin stories for the movies, much like how Guardians of the Galaxy kept its character’s backstories pretty light. But that’s totally not the case.
Feige: “For some reason people sometimes talked about how we’re not doing an origin story, we’re bored of origin stories. I think people are bored of origin stories they’ve seen before or origin stories that are overly familiar. Doctor Strange has one of the best, most classic, most unique origin stories of any hero we have, so why wouldn’t we do that?”
Besides for Cumberbatch, it’s also been confirmed that Tilda Swinton will be playing Strange’s mentor, The Ancient One. In the comics, the Ancient One is depicted as a wizened old Asian man. In case you haven’t noticed, Swinton is a middle-aged white lady. The Scottish actress is of course famous for playing androgynous roles, so this has led many to question whether she would even be playing a female in the movie.
Feige: “We get an amazing actress to play an amazing character, and do it in a way that’s very unique and doesn’t fall into any outdated stereotypes that sometimes pop up in the comics from years past. It’s funny you ask ‘Will Tilda Swinton be playing a woman?’ and you ask it because she does an amazing job of being sort of ambiguous in terms of gender. I think you’ll see us playing it in ways that she’s played other characters that way. Clearly she’s a woman, but it is very ambiguous in her portrayal.”
One person that will definitely be a woman in the movie is Rachel McAdams, who has been cast as the film’s female lead, although right now that’s all we know about her unspecified character. According to Feige though, she may not have top billing like Cumberbatch’s titular character, but she serves an important role.
Feige: “[She’s the audience’s eyes] to a certain extent. She plays a very, very big part in the movie and represents a certain point of view of the worlds that we experience in that movie, but Doctor Strange, without a doubt, is the character we follow through the movie.”
- Will Marvel’s TV show crossover with their movies?
With the gigantic success of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix, fans have chomping at the bit to see Charlie Cox’s blind vigilante kicking butt on the big screen alongside the big boys like the Avengers, and vice versa. Sure, Agents of SHIELD has already several crossovers, but besides for Samuel L. Jackson showing up in the pilot episode, the interactions have been kept to the (no offense) lower-tier cast members like Jaimie Alexander’s Lady Sif. So will there be more overlap, especially since the Netflix shows will essentially be building it’s own little corner of the MCU?
Feige: “I think its inevitable as we’re plotting the movies going forward and they’re plotting the shows. The schedules do not always quite match up to make that possible. Its easier for them, because they are more nimble and faster to produce things, which is one of the reasons you see the repercussions of Winter Soldier or Age of Ultron in the shows. But going forward as there continues to be more shows and casting such great actors as they have, particularly with Daredevil, that may occur. But a lot of it is, by the time we start doing a movie they might be midway through (filming) a season and by the time the movie comes out they’ll be done with their second season and starting a third season. So finding timing on that isn’t always easy.”
- How Marvel gets their filmmakers
With all the fuss surrounding Edgar Wright’s 11th hour departure of Ant-Man, and Joss Whedon’s very public criticism of his experience making Age of Ultron, a lot of attention has been called to how Marvel treats its filmmakers. While Feige and Latchem didn’t share any details about those perceived bad experiences (and I highly doubt we’ll ever get anything more than a very politically correct response), Feige did explain the process of just how they actually pick their directors.
Feige: “We pitch them what we think the movie could be. And then we start a discussion. If over the course of three or four or five meetings, they make it way better than what we were initially spewing to them – they usually get the job.”
You can watch all 26-minutes of Feige and Latcham’s Q&A in the video below.
Last Updated: October 2, 2015