Joe Russo (one half of the Russo Brothers, who have directed many of the most critically-acclaimed and financially successful Marvel movies) has been speaking about the MCU’s planning, or lack of it. Marvel are known for announcing their “phases” with release dates years in advance, implying that major plot points are tied down way ahead of time. But Russo says it’s more flexible than it appears.
This flexibility has certainly been needed in recent years, as the pandemic (and other unexpected circumstances) have caused huge delays, and shuffling of release order. For example, Doctor Strange 2 was supposed to come out before Spider-Man: No Way Home, and as Doctor Strange is a major character in No Way Home, this has probably had a big knock-on effect (and we know that there has been lengthy reshoots on Doctor Strange 2). And now that multiverses are involved, pretty much anything can happen.
For Ryan Coogler, and the rest of the unfortunate team behind Black Panther 2, there have been significant changes. Firstly, there was the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman, then the main star Letitia Wright was injured on set, and that’s without even considering the effect of the pandemic.
Speaking at a film festival in St Andrew’s, Scotland, Russo said; “The way it works at Marvel, and I’m sure at some point somebody will talk in detail about this, but part of [Marvel Studios president] Kevin [Feige]’s brilliance is that there isn’t really a plan. There’s an idea, but you can’t have a plan if the movie you’re making tanks. There’s no plan after that. Right?”
“So, it’s really about, as the movie succeeded, there was sort of an enthusiasm about well, what else could we do? And then that’s when new ideas would come out, And there was hopes. Oh, we hope one day that we can get to the story, if we keep doing this right maybe we could all get there, you know, like Infinity War and Endgame. But a lot of the stuff was made up in between the movies. And some of the best call forwards or callbacks were thought of after the fact.”
One example Russo gives of something that changed is Bucky AKA The Winter Solider killing Tony Stark’s parents. According to Russo, it was mere “happenstance” that Captain America: The Winter Soldier implied Bucky was responsible for the deaths. Marvel revisited this idea after the film came out and chose to “retrofit” it into the narrative of the MCU. This ultimately became a central part of Captain America: Civil War, causing the rift between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers that tears the Avengers apart.
If you’re still trying to wrap your head around where Marvel is going, check out our guide to Phase 4.