Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo spoke at San Diego's Comic-Con International about their creative choices over the weekend. What they said should please us all.
Before Iron Man was released in 2008, Marvel Studios was simply chugging along. They filed for bankruptcy in 1996 and sold many of their intellectual property rights to film studios. When the recently instated president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, greenlit Iron Man starring Robert Downey Jr. they had to rent studio space to film. Even with a budget $60 million less than Iron Man 3, Feige was taking a risk. It created a boom that rippled throughout cultures around the world to create the largest franchise of all time.
2008's Iron Man was the spark that lit the revolution, but the Russo Brothers fanned the flames. Before the brothers entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the studio was reaching a turning point. The massively successful The Avengers debuted in 2012, setting a precedent for what the franchise could be. Following the ensemble flick was Iron Man 3 in May 2013 and Thor: The Dark World about six months later. Both films received lower ratings than most of their predecessors and are hotly debated among fans. Talk of "superhero fatigue" began.
Enter the brothers Russo. With filmographies that consisted mostly of shorts and TV episodes, Feige was taking another risk by hiring them to direct the second Captain America installment Winter Soldier. Once again, it paid off.
From the moment Steve Rodgers kicked the man over the side of the boat, it was obvious Captain America: Winter Soldier was going to give us a very different Cap. For arguably the first time, Marvel was painting a bit outside the lines of what had become known as a "superhero" film. Instead, they were working within the spy-genre to create a movie that had a superhero. Critics and fans loved it. The Marvel Cinematic Universe flame grew higher.
The Russos followed their success with Captain America: Civil War and the massive culminating film, Avengers: Infinity War and the highest grossing film of all time, Avengers: Endgame. The brothers have made all of their Marvel films with writing partners Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
Joe and Anthony Russo are moving on from Marvel films for now, but they are keeping some of the Marvel actors with them. They'll be directing and producing the opioid addiction drama, Cherry, with Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Far From Home) and producing the thrillers 21 Bridges starring Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) and Dhaka starring Chris Hemsworth (Thor).
"[Trust], That's the most important part of it. These are very risky choices that they're making. You don't know that they would make them with someone else who didn't have this level of trust with."
The brothers aren't shying away from the genre. Their upcoming projects Battle of the Planets and Grimjack are remnants of their own childhood. Joe remembered racing home after school to watch the 70's era Japanese anima series on which Planets is based on, saying this.
"Anything that has an emotional resonance with you as a child tends to stay with you throughout your life. We love this concept of orphan characters trying to save the universe, the team had to work together."
Grimjack, which follows a sword for hire in a city of doors that open to multiple realities, is still in Joe's comic book collection at home. He had this to say about the property.
"I thought that was a very clever conceit for narrative and mixing genre and tone. If there's anything that we love, it's mixing genre and tone in a way that is unexpected. I think Grimjack offers that potential in spades."
Their passion for comic books and imaginative storytelling has shaped them into a force to be reckoned with in the current culture. A fandom they say is in their "creative sweet spot". By knowing what has been done and what is possible, they were able to send the Marvel Cinematic Universe on a trajectory no one could have expected. As Joe said.
"We don't try to predict what it is that people want. We try to create the movie that would excite us in the theater and then we hope that other people are going to respond to it the way that we do."
The brothers admit that they don't have plans to leave the genre they love anytime soon, but they are excited for what can come next.
"We love filmmaking in all its forms, so we'll move forward sort of finding new ways to challenge and surprise ourselves as filmmakers."
As the Russos move to different projects, the precedent of uniqueness in the genre continues with Marvel's Phase 4 announcements. The interview was conducted by CNN.