Marvel Studios has certainly earned its reputation as a forward-thinking company. After all, it was planning ahead that allowed them build the Marvel Cinematic Universe after releasing Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008, and they currently have release dates lined up through the summer of 2019. But while this image of the company has painted a picture in some minds that every detail of every film or TV show has already been pre-planned, that’s actually a misapprehension. Instead, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has insisted that things aren’t actually laid out to the degree that many fans think it is.
The subject was broached when I recently had the chance to sit down with the executive/producer during a press event held for The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it came up during a discussion of the massive Phase Three slate that was announced last October (and has since added a Spider-Man movie into the mix). Discussing what can be described as invisible flexibility within the schedule, Feige explained to me,
I don’t think people believe us when we say we develop the movies individually, to play as movies themselves. The connectivity is never ever the driving force. Yes, we’re going to say, ‘Where did we leave them?’, so we know where our mindset is, and so we do something that doesn’t go completely against where we’d seen them before.
So when does that connectivity wind up fostering itself within the plans at Marvel? As Kevin Feige put it, it’s really not until the details are being hammered out within the individual projects. Instead of forcing threads, they instead look at the actions and motivations of the characters and let the links reveal themselves organically (with a little bit of creative ingenuity, of course). Said the producer,
We never sit down and go, ‘How can we link this movie to this movie, or this show to this movie?’ We sit down and go, ‘What the hell is Iron Man going to do today? How are we going to explore these characters?’ This happened during Thor: The Dark World: ‘Let’s have Loki screw around with Thor a little bit. He’s a shape shifter, what if he turns into Captain America? Chris [Evans], will you come in?’ That’s how a lot of this stuff happens, and the more toys there are just outside the sandbox, the more we can go, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool...?’
Of course, this is all not to say that there aren’t big picture ideas in play, as the franchise has been clearly developing towards Infinity War for a number of years now, but this also goes a long way in explaining how a new Spider-Man movie can suddenly be tossed into the middle of Phase Three without causing a massive ripple effect. At the same time, it does make us fascinated to see what connective tissues do wind up being established in the future.