Kevin Feige Talks Thor: The Dark World and The Future of Marvel Studios
(From contributing writer Bo Bory)
Like a mighty crash of lightning from the God of Thunder's hammer, Marvel Studios is set to release its highly anticipated, big-budget feature, Thor: The Dark World on November 8 all across America. This eagerly awaited epic is not only a sequel to the extremely successful 2011 origin film, Thor, but it also serves as a follow-up to 2012's super-mega-block-buster film, Marvel's The Avengers, which grossed over 1.6 billion dollars world-wide.
Thor: The Dark World marks the eighth feature film solely produced by Marvel Studios in just 10 years, and with Captain America: The Winter Soldier set to be released in April of 2014, and Guardians of the Galaxy opening in August of 2014, not to mention a whole slew of other comic-book inspired full-lengths either on the docket or in pre-production, this mighty studio shows no signs of slowing down. And right there, smack-dab in the center of the fervent commotion of explosions and chaos, dastardly villains and mystical worlds, is Kevin Feige ... the President of Production for Marvel Studios.
Arguably one of the most successful film producers in recent times, Feige, a 40 year-old Boston native, is said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Marvel. His films have grossed over 8 billion worldwide and his fingerprints can be seen in every detail of every Marvel project, from feature films to animated TV series. Cutting his teeth as an Associate Producer in the 2000 film, X-Men...Feige quickly went on to co-produce or executive produce an impressive string of big-budget hits, including the wildly successful Spider-Man trilogy. In 2007, Kevin Feige was named President of Production for Marvel Studios, and the following year he launched the first Iron Man movie...Which grossed over $500 million worldwide and held the #1 slot for two weeks straight. Then year after year, hit after hit...The blockbusters kept coming: The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel's The Avengers, Iron Man 3...And now finally, Thor: The Dark World. Each massive is scale, each larger than life, each with Kevin Feige's blood, sweat, and blessing.
In the Marvel Universe, Kevin Feige is God.
So as I sat down in a posh hotel room in London to talk about the latest Marvel masterpiece, Thor: The Dark World, with the man, himself...I couldn't help but be in awe of the pure power this one mortal possesses. Not only does he have the ability to pick and choose which projects see the light of day, but his uncanny knack for choosing unconventional directors, riveting storylines, and perfectly flawed superheroes, seem to be connecting with audiences in a way that goes beyond your typical sci-fi / fantasy films. There is a human element in each movie that is undeniable, and so I wanted to find out firsthand what it was about these films that have kept people engaged and coming back, year after year.
The superhero genre just doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon, and these films really seem to be resonating with moviegoers...What do you think it is about this genre, and more importantly, the Marvel films and characters, that audiences find so appealing?
Kevin Feige: I don't know, I think it seems to be a combination of factors...But I never underestimate an audience's desire to see justice prevail, or to see a hero overcome adversity...And the best thing about the Marvel movies is that it is never easy. Right? Nothing in life is easy...Even if you have a magic hammer and a red cape. I think people like seeing our heroes put through the ringer and still hopefully emerge triumphant. And...The spectacle that comes along with it makes it worth leaving your big screen TV in your house and go into a theater with a crowd and watching it. You know...We are all used to our phones, we all sit at home and watch...You know on the plane flights for this junket I binged watch the last season of Walking Dead and you know, I enjoyed that sitting with my headphones and iPad...But it's a lot more fun to be in a theater with people who are also going through the same experience. And so hopefully Marvel Studios can provide movies that give a hell of a two-hours for people.
Yes, I went to the screening last night and there was quite a bit of laughter and funny, human moments in this one...Was that important for you guys to find that balance?
Kevin Feige: Yes, well...I think it's something we try to do for all of them, but it hit particularly well for this one because...The way we make this other-worldly, 9-realms, Norse mythology, spaceships, and people fighting with swords and shields work and relate to an audience, we hope, is because it's about families. It's about fathers and mothers, siblings and sibling rivalries, and the fact that the audience is connecting with that through these larger than life characters on such an emotional level and familial level is really cool. I mean the stuff that is going on in terms of the audience between Thor and Loki is really beyond my wildest dreams.
Right, another thing I really enjoyed about this movie was watching the development of each of these characters and where they had been the last two years...How difficult was that balancing all of the different characters, and plot lines, and screen time, and still be able to tell a brand new, coherent story with even more new characters?
Kevin Feige: Well, you know... we've been rewarded for taking the time with the characters. Whether it's the first act of Iron Man, which I remember at the time reviewers and audiences sort of couldn't believe that we took that long of a time before we even saw the hero, but to us...That was the only way to do it. To us, Tony Stark was just as important as Iron Man; and I think it's the same way for all of the heroes. So when you have a movie that is essentially a sequel to two other movies... Thor and Marvel's The Avengers, right... we wanted to take the time for the audience, even if they hadn't seen the other movies, to be able to settle in with who all these characters are and where they are coming from, so that hopefully the emotional points could connect more. Because if you don't know who they are...If you're not invested in them, when the things that happen to them over the course of the movie takes place, they wouldn't land as much.
Now Maleketh is the new nemesis in this film and he is a prideful, complex villain with an ancient back-story...Was he the first choice as far as the next major villain for Thor and co.?
Kevin Feige: Yeah, we loved Walt Simonson's run of the comics that featured Malekith, and so we adapted him slightly...But we are always interested in villains where you can understand a little bit about where they are coming from. I mean, that is what is so great about Loki, because you can understand completely where he is coming from and why he is doing what he is doing... but we didn't want anybody to compete with Loki necessarily, at that level... we wanted someone who was driven and who was sort of all about this eradicating of the universe. And that even though we are understanding of where he is coming from and why he is doing that, we wanted him to still be scary in his drive.
Chris Eccelston did an excellent job as Malekith, tell me a little bit about why he was so right for the part.
Kevin Feige: Well, I had been a fan of his since Shallow Grave; back in the day... he was a great villain in that movie. And of course, we are all geeks so there was the Doctor Who element of it all. But what was exciting for me was how he dove into the character. He read and early draft and worked with Alan Taylor, the director, about being a comic book bad guy, but adding layers to the character... that was very important to Chris. And even the dynamic between him and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's character, Algrim, you know the sort of the General and his trusted lieutenant that have been through the ringer together, was extremely important to him. And you know, Chris could pull it off extremely well and his pathos was able to come through even with all of that make-up.
You mentioned Loki earlier... he has really become a fan favorite of these movies, and in this one he is neither a villain nor a hero... did that free you up to be more playful with the character and show even more dimensions to Loki?
Kevin Feige: Yeah, I think we have always been more playful with Loki... especially the end of Thor going into Marvel's The Avengers, and that is part of what Tom Hiddleston relishes about the role... but this time we meet him and he is sort of at his lowest and he is sort of a man with nothing to lose. And one of my favorite scenes in the movie is where Thor comes to meet Loki in the cell and Loki is standing there proudly saying, "What are you doing here, what do you want?" and Thor tells him to knock it off and the illusion goes away and you see Loki as just this shattered shell. And Tom Hiddleston pulls that off so well, because then we go into another scene where Loki is being playful. But Loki always keeps his guard up and part of his guard is sarcasm, it is humor and it's trying to get under Thor's skin. And Thor, while perhaps previously would have fallen for that, is now, as you have seen in all of the trailers, says, "If you betray me, I will kill you." Which I guess frees Loki up to have even more fun with him.
So you guys are really on a roll and seem to be hitting your stride... what is next for Marvel? What can we expect from phase 3... Maybe Dr. Strange, Planet Hulk, Black Panther?
Kevin Feige: Well, Doctor Strange is definitely on there...We are developing it now and some of those other titles. I'd love to see an equal number of new story lines with existing characters, and brand new ones. Obviously we have Captain America: The Winter Soldier coming out... and then we have Guardians of the Galaxy, which is a whole new one.
I know you did Iron Man 3, and now you have part two of Thor, and then soon Avengers 2 and Captain America 2... is it sort of the aim to do trilogies for each of the characters?
Kevin Feige: Well, we plan on doing movies that people enjoy enough that they want to see another one, right... that's the goal. And like I was saying, we have The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but then we have Ant-Man. So I like that becoming sort of the balance... with existing characters, and then new characters. And then as we go into phase 3, certainly as you know from the comics, there are plenty of story lines for all of these characters that we can choose from. But I think someone, like a Doctor Strange...Would be great to see, I just want to make sure we have a good story first. But it won't be until middle of next year until we announce officially what the next stories will be.