It's been a big week for Disney and its two largest acquisitions in Lucasfilm and Marvel Entertainment. While the former is enjoying the benefits of record-setting licensing deals thanks to Star Wars 7 toys filling up store shelves worldwide today (Force Friday), the latter is undergoing a restructuring of sorts which may benefit future Marvel Studios movies.
Kevin Feige, producer and President of Marvel Studios, now has autonomy over key business and creative decisions for Marvel's film division but before this week he didn't. Feige had complained to Disney earlier this summer that his boss, Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac "Ike" Perlmutter, was an obstacle and as a result Perlmutter has been taken out of the equation; he will instead work on Marvel's New York operations (which include animation, comics, and television). Had this not changed when it did, Feige might have been on his way out of Marvel, it seems...
According to THR, the original source of the news of Marvel Studios' leadership shuffle, the turning point for Disney may have been over budget issues with Captain America: Civil War. Perlmutter is well-known for being super-tight with spending; he's not a movie person so much as he's a smart business one, which conflicted with what Feige has been attempting to do on the film side of Marvel.
Of course, the "frustrations" the reports have referred to have been in play for years, when it comes to the challenges for Kevin Feige of working within the constraints of Ike Perlmutter and the Marvel Creative Committee (which we learned has been mostly pushed out of the film division too). However, the inflated budget of Civil War had Ike, his right-hand Alan Fine, and the committee all attempting to make changes and tighten things up.
Right or wrong, that just didn't work for the Civil War production - which has spent quite a lot to bring Robert Downey Jr. back into the fold (along with most of the core Avengers cast), while also introducing two new franchise leads in Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland). This third Captain America film is the launch pad for Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after all.
Disney CEO Bob Iger had a plan to address Feige's concerns by implementing a shake-up - one which now sees Marvel Studios working on the Disney lot and Feige reporting directly to Disney Studios chief Alan Horn. Feige is top dog at Marvel Studios now and will work with Marvel Studios co-president/executive producer Louis D’Esposito and fellow producer Victoria Alonso, going forward.
And as for the Marvel Creative Committee (which consists of Alan Fine alongside comic book people Brian Michael Bendis, Dan Buckley, and Joe Quesada), they'll still exist in a way, but working mainly on Ike's New York operations - not as a source of approval and notes on the much more lucrative films. They're still needed to ensure some semblance of a relationship between Marvel TV, comic book tie-ins, and the films to maintain the shared continuity them.
While Feige having full control could be a good thing for effectively shaping movies going forward, every report on this subject since news first began breaking has been overwhelmingly one-sided. Ike Perlmutter is known for being a very private person so all of the "insider" quotes are coming from Feige's people (which have shaped this entire week's worth of stories). Bleeding Cool has an interesting piece on the other perspective of the situation.
Secondly, with these changes, Marvel TV is seemingly now even more distant than before to the film side which is not a good thing for universe-building. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series on ABC for instance, has battled criticisms or its lack of Marvel-ness and has been wholeheartedly ignored in the films (see: Avengers: Age of Ultron) and the Marvel Studios shake-up may make that even worse. Will this effect the likelihood of seeing Marvel's Netflix Defenders characters appearing in the films, too?
If anything, the Marvel formula could use a bit of a shake-up. Phase 2 was somewhat polarizing and this year's releases in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man - two films which had very public controversies surrounding their directors - were generally well-received, but not seen as great films. If they want to stay relevant against the Star Wars brand and the growing comic book movie universes from Warner Bros. (with their DC Comics movies) and Fox (X-Men), change is needed. And it could be exciting.
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man– July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther– July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.