Kevin Feige is Marvels’ best investment and an Angel Ambassador. Here’s Why
This article is the second part of DKODING’s exclusive series Angel Ambassadors where we talk about people who are just not investors but becomes the face for the brand too. Read part one, Priyanka Chopra: A Branded Affair here
American film producer and President of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, is undoubtedly the most important man in the entertainment industry. He imagines, curated and produced the movie phenomenon Marvel’s Infinity Saga became.
His amazing body of work has entertained millions of fans over the decade. An ecosystem of businesses thrives on the Marvel Cinematic Universe that he created. MCU is the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. Its sub-series – Captain America, Iron Man and Thor come under the most successful film series of all time. Avengers Endgame, the last movie in the 11-year-old saga alone grossed $1.2 billion worldwide on its opening weekend.
Captain Marvel that debuts MCU’s first female-led superhero movie on the big screen grossed $ 1 billion. May 2018 release Black Panther grossed $1.3 Billion worldwide. It broke the domestic collection record of $678 million-grossing Avengers: Infinity Wars by making a sumptuous $700 million. In the past decade, Feige’s Infinity Saga has grossed more than $18.5 Billion for the Marvel Studios.
Feige said in an interview, “We never set out to build a universe. We set out to make a great Iron Man movie, a Hulk movie, a Thor movie, and then be able to do what, at the time, nobody else was doing: put them together.”
Kevin Feige’s net worth as of 2020 is $ 85 million and he’s worth every penny of it.
He started his career as a personal assistant to producer duo Richard and Lauren Shuler Donner. Initially, Feige worked on the films like You’ve Got a Mail and Volcano. Feige told NPR, “I thought I’d made it. That job was walking dogs, and getting lunches and washing cars but I thought I had reached the pinnacle of success in Hollywood. “
Two years later, when Donner was working on X Men, Feige for the first time acted in the capacity of assistant producer due to his knowledge of the Marvel Comic Universe. Being a comic book nerd he was responsible for keeping the storyline as authentic as possible. Founder of Marvel Studios and CEO Avi Arad spotted his potential. Feige joined Marvel Studios in the year 2000.
But all wasn’t sunshine on a platter for Marvel Studios back then. In 2005 the studio decided to make its own movies rather than licensing the characters to other studios. Fox and Sony already held Marvel’s blue-chip characters like the Fantastic 4 and Spiderman respectively.
Beginning of the Feige Era
Feige was appointed as the President in 2007and was helming first Iron Man movie as a producer. Times then weren’t pretty. Marvel studio was in a fix and had taken a loan to produce the movies. At the time the studio wasn’t even sure if there is a market for superheroes. They had high potential heroes like Captain America or Iron Man. But one thing was for sure. DC characters like Batman and Superman had shown Hollywood the potential of a global reach to the audience.
Director Jon Favreau who went on to direct Iron Man told Variety magazine, “That first film could not have felt smaller or more handmade. I was constantly being reminded that if we screwed up and we couldn’t pay back the loan, the bank was going to take all of the catalogue”.
The first Iron Man film became the 8th highest-grossing film of 2008. It garnered $585 million on its $140 million budget. It was then that Marvel first dared to shoot the Samuel L Jackson scene (now released on blu ray). The scene where he mentions the spider and mutants for the first time – a feat Feige managed to achieve recently.
In 2009, Disney acquired Marvel for $4.3 billion. Forbes described Marvel’s turnaround as ‘a Cinderella story that will be told for generations to come.’
The Infinity Saga
What started with the Iron Man culminated with Spiderman: Far From Home – three phases, 23 movies over a period of 11 years – Feige was the orchestrator of all the productions and some more.
The intricacy of storytelling, the layers and layers of Easter eggs planted in scripts, highest level of secrecy around scripts and production, the ever lucrative CGI, animation and effects, and eagle-eyed nerds looking for every clue and leak possible – Marvel Cinematic Universe changed the game on a scale that opened doors to new genre of graphic novels and fantasy series like Game of Thrones, The Witcher etc to thrive on.
An elaborate story-telling format such as the Infinity Saga has a high potential of failing. One movie missed is the entire franchise lost. Also, the risks go higher. The audience needs to connect with each character they are introduced to else the stories just get monotonous.
Harvard Business Review notes director Jon Favreau’s observation, “It’s very difficult to keep these franchises from running out of gas after two [movies]. The high point seems to be the second one, judging by history.”
But instead from Feige’s vision, fans get a spy-thriller like Captain America, a geopolitical conflict with social commentary in Black Panther, a space opera in Guardians of The Galaxy, Cosmic fantasy with a tinge of sci-fi in Thor Ragnarock, a heist movie in Ant-Man, and much much more.
Producing Blockbusters – One Movie after the Other
Feige’s solution was simple to hire people who have expertise in domains where Marvel doesn’t. Out of 15 directors in the entire Infinity Saga, only one had the experience in the superhero genre. Handpicked from indie scene these directors have domain expertise like Shakespeare, horror, espionage, and comedy.
And Marvel used it to their best. Marvel Studio gives directors and actors the freedom to execute their visions. Taika Waititi, Jon Favreau, James Gunn, Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt – all are living, breathing examples of Kevin Feige and the studio’s thought process. However, Marvel Studio keeps complete control over the blockbuster aspect and directs a lot of logistics and special effects decisions.
The ease of throwing around ideas and executing them also gave the entire crew a sense of being core marvel group. Also, to keep fetching new talents for each movie and maintaining them for a prolonged period of time in a continuous universe such as MCU isn’t a small feat.
Kevin Feige achieved a bigger feat than that in 2016 by finally bringing Spiderman home after endless conversations with Sony. Spiderman first appeared in Captain America: Civil War under the mentorship of Tony Stark. After the stand-alone Spider-Man: Homecoming, his last appearance in Far From Home marked the end of phase 3. Last summer, fans were heartbroken when the Sony-Marvel deal ended. But Feige managed to turn it around. The deal continues and we are in for two more Spiderman movies.
Extending the Marvel Cinematic Universe
So, the upcoming Black Widow stand-alone movie marks the start of phase 4. This will be a new chapter for Marvel Studios and also the biggest challenge yet under Feige’s leadership. Marvel’s phase 4 and 5 schedules are tempting with Studios’ clear focus on customer elasticity. They want to release up to 4 movies a year against the 3 they did for the first three phases.
The extensive universe expands further into Disney + series. The shows on the schedule are the Falcon and the Winter Soldier, She-Hulk, WandaVision, Ms Marvel, Loki, What if, Inhuman and more. The studio has become more inclusive and diversified over the years.
Moreover, it now has a gay character set to debut on screen. Asian characters are taking their much-deserved space. Furthermore, there are glimpses of an all-woman superhero team in Avengers Endgame. The future of Marvel Studios looks ever so exciting.
Kevin Feige is executing the biggest marketing gimmick that is to keep the customer curious.
Marvel’s Angel Ambassador Kevin Feige
All because Kevin Feige grew up comic book nerd. Not just that, he listens to movie soundtracks and kept a journal as a kid. Feige still keeps souvenirs from the movies he produces. He is a fan of long-running franchises like Indiana Jones and Star Trek.
When you look at him he is always dressed in a T-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap — a shirt and jacket for a more formal event though the cap stays. And that is the image fans resonate with.
After late Stan Lee, he is the most sought out face of the Marvel Studios. If Lee is the creator of the Marvel Universe then Kevin Feige is definitely the Angel Ambassador that the universe deserved in its tough times. And that’s why Kevin Feige is Marvels’ best investment.
During ComicCon nerds and fans wait desperately for Feige to make a comment about the future of the MCU. He is the harbinger of the individual and collective success of each Marvel production. Right from the stars to directors, the crew and to the studio all begin and propel through Feige. He is very well the reason that fans connect better to Marvel characters than DC. — it’s the nerd connection.
In fact, being a nerd, Feige and his team always approach a movie as fans first. Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Co said in an interview, “Marvel Studios have redefined superheroes for a new era, greatly expanding their relevance across gender, generation and geography — setting new standards for compelling storytelling. This kind of creative success is never an accident; it’s the result of talent, vision, passion and courage — and at Marvel Studios, that all begins with Kevin.”
However, it’s hard to get into the headspace of a creative maverick that Feige is. The man is a nerd, a producer, and a marvel fan. But Feige summed it up once to Variety Magazine before Endgame. “There’s an amazing line that Downey says in the film: ‘Part of the journey is the end’. That’s what it is.”
The Infinity saga might have ended with the phase 3 but the future seems to hold more for the fans and Marvel Studio, Feige will make sure of that.