Marvel boss, Kevin Feige, is changing up a major MCU business practice. In the early days, Marvel would make splashes by signing cast members to monster contracts. These multi-picture deals locked in Chris Evans to 6-films and Samuel L. Jackson to 9-films. These were common practices in Hollywood’s adolescence, but not seen in decades. But, Kevin Feige has said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, they are done with the big contracts.
“That got a lot of attention way back when, with I think Scarlett, and Hemsworth and Evans and Sam Jackson. It varies now. It varies, project to project, cast to cast. Really, what we want are people that come in, are excited to be in the universe, are excited at the opportunity to do more things, as opposed to being locked into contractual obligations.”Kevin Feige
When Marvel was first launching their empire, they had a plan. Small solo films that weaved together into a climaxing Avengers. Multi-pictures (and a ton of cash) were needed to prove this crazy project would work. After phase 1, the machine was built. Marvel then needed the staples to stick around as they built out the cosmic and magic sides of Marvel. Over phases 2 and 3 they created a massive MCU featuring over 29 “main” heroes and the doorways to everything in Marvel’s backlog. Finally, the staples could retire.
A side effect of this new empire was its weight on the industry. Instead of convincing a slumping Robert Downy Jr or little-known Chris Evans to join, then build them up. They have the likes of Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldbloom popping in to shine for a film, then leave. They combine star power with up-and-comers to create their new cast. They even started pulling in new directors, as long as the play by MCU rules. Stars have started to see Marvel as a fun and quick job. Many have stated they joined because their kids “forced” them too. Marvel is so big, they don’t need to lock anyone down.
Kevin Feige is also looking to the future, beyond the blockbusters. Disney+ is performing well, and it is the golden age for episodic content. How do you sign Tom Hiddleston to 5 movies and a multi-season deal as Loki? What if he says no to the film but approves of the series? Marvel wants to ensure they stay on top of the pop culture conversation. And are adapting, and possibly inventing, the new version of franchise entertainment.
I worry about changing characters midstream. It’s the first concern of many fans when they hear this statement. The change in Hulk was jarring for the well-informed and lost on the average movie-goer. We have a cool-looking Shang-Chi releasing this year. But Simu Liu could decide he doesn’t care for the character before the next Avengers. The selfish part of myself feels like it’s a waste of my investment. Of course, I don’t want actors to feel enslaved to a studio. I just grew up enjoying the called shots of the MCU. I trust Kevin Feige, I mean look at what he’s done so far, but this is a risky move. Feige may have just made it harder to make phases 4 and 5 a coherent continuation of the grand Marvel story.