Marvel has had an amazing year so far in 2018, but it's only happening because 2017 was a shockingly chaotic 12 months of production. Not only were both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 filming back to back, but that time also saw the beginning and endings of filming for Black Panther, Ant-Man & The Wasp, and reshoots for Thor: Ragnarok. That's a whole lot of films within the same continuity to be filming at the same time, and as I learned from Avengers directors Anthony and Joe Russo recently, coordination was key. Said Anthony Russo,
Here's where it generally needs to be coordinated, is when movies are being executed concurrently. So in this case that was Ant-Man And The Wasp, [Thor:] Ragnarok, Black Panther. And so there were examples with Ant-Man And The Wasp that I don't know if we can go into because they're spoiler details for both movies, where we did have to sync up a little bit on a couple issues.
That last bit is a mystery that we'll get to chew on for the next few months while we wait for Ant-Man & The Wasp, but it was just the start of the discussion I had with Joe and Anthony Russo about their movie's effect on Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. During our interview at the Avengers: Infinity War press junket, they told me that they didn't really have any influence on the creative direction for most of the preceding MCU blockbusters (for example, having the Time Stone in Doctor Strange wasn't their call), but that communication was key when three different projects were being made at the same time.
Continuing his brother's point, Joe Russo brought up Thor: Ragnarok and working with director Taika Waititi. With the third God of Thunder film, the creative team essentially reinvented one of the starring characters of Avengers: Infinity War, and that made it very important for all of the directors to sit down and talk about their visions. Thor couldn't go from being a one-liner generator back to a stoic warrior, so changes needed to be made. Joe Russo explained,
It was also Taika [Waititi] retconning. Obviously it's important for us to be in contact with Taika, seeing footage, talking to him. Taika flew down to Atlanta to sit with us for a day in the writers' room to talk through what he was doing with the character. We had Hemsworth come in with him.
Fortunately, working with the production of Black Panther was a bit easier for the Russo brothers. While Thor: Ragnarok was primarily filmed in Brisbane, Australia, both Ryan Coogler's movie and Avengers: Infinity War used Atlanta, Georgia as their respective home bases. As a result Joe and Anthony Russo were able to not only visit the Wakanda sets, but utilize them:
Joe Russo: [Ryan] Coogler, we were probably over to his set two or three times, we shared sets with him.
Anthony Russo: He looked at a lot of our stuff.
Joe Russo: We sat with him and his whole production team for a day, and he explained how he was building out at the universe of Wakanda. So that kind of information is important - if something's pre-existing, we already understand what that universe is.
Of course, these overlapping productions not only had an effect on the various directors of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the stars as well. When I sat down with Danai Gurira, Chadwick Boseman, and Mark Ruffalo during the Avengers: Infinity War press day, we also talked about the insane year of production that was 2017, and how there was a lot of running back and forth involved:
The great news is that it's all paying off. Thor: Ragnarok was a massive hit when it was released last fall; Black Panther has made over a billion dollars; and Avengers: Infinity War just had the biggest opening weekend of all time. It may have been crazy working on all of these projects simultaneously, but it definitely appears that the folks at Marvel Studios made the situation work.