The Secret Sauce Behind Marvel's Movie Machine

Marvel Studios has everything it needs to build a massive movie franchise. Or several, to be precise.

Beloved characters. Decades of complex sub plots to mine. An endless supply of good vs. evil narratives.


That doesn’t mean it’s easy to build those franchises. The company did it all the same, partly by treating its audience with respect. And that means steering clear of alienating themes.

Billions (with a “B”) are at stake, and the minds behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU in Geek Speak) take every step with care. So far it’s working.

Captain America: Civil War” hauled in a tidy $179 million during its opening weekend, earning rave reviews in the process. Those figures could reach $300 million as soon as this weekend. That’s not counting the massive overseas sales which started at north of $200 million in week one alone.

What is the studio’s secret sauce? Don’t skimp on budgets or A-list stars (Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo). Avoid unnecessary talking points that could insult roughly half the potential audience.

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige recently told how it goes about making movies:

We make all of our decisions on all of our films, and certainly on Doctor Strange, for creative reasons and not political reasons. That’s just always been the case. I’ve always believed that it is the films themselves that will cross all borders and really get people to identify with these heroes, and that always comes down to creative and not political reasons.


How … refreshing.

And that doesn’t mean Marvel movies don’t deal with real-world issues. The “Captain America” franchise alone involves the war on terror, civilian casualties and other subjects ripped right from the cyber-headlines.

“Captain America: Civil War” finds the good guys thrashing each other over possible UN control of the supergroup the Avengers. Do you choose freedom over government accountability?

What you won’t see in the movie? An overt ideological perspective.

Marvel Studios could run into trouble on another front, though. Feige seems more than eager to diversify its movie lineup. Generally, that’s a positive note. The introduction of a minority hero, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, to “Civil War” gave it an intriguing new hero.

Hollywood’s record on gender and ethnic diversity remains embarrassing. But placating social justice warriors’ need for instant fixes could force the creators’ hands.

Here, Feige discusses who will likely helm an upcoming Marvel film starring a female superhero.


In terms of Captain Marvel, we don’t send out edicts. That being said, we are meeting with many, many immensely talented directors, the majority of whom are female.

No edicts. Yet most of the director candidates are women … in an age when the vast majority of film directors are men.

Studios thrive when they choose the most talented people for a given gig. Should Marvel engage in gender politics, it could ding its otherwise stellar track record.


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