This year’s Academy Awards ceremony made it clear that for Hollywood’s elite, there is no more pressing social issue than the plight of great artists forced to direct, write and act in superhero movies. Critics, too, have made it clear as of late that they believe “superhero fatigue” is a widespread and virulent malady, and a glance at the imposing, theater-dominating slate of comics-based films that Marvel and Warner Bros. have planned for the next half-decade helps explain their concern. Audiences don’t seem to agree, at least not yet: Marvel’s latest, Avengers: Age of Ultron, had a record-breaking debut over the weekend, bringing in a $187.7 million box office haul. Unsurprisingly, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige also doesn’t have much patience for the idea that costumed crusaders are somehow ruining Hollywood.
“Well, I will say we’re in good company,” Feige said in interviews for Rolling Stone‘s latest cover story, “if you look through the decades of people who’ve been accused of that. Star Wars ruined Hollywood, Steven Spielberg ruined Hollywood — I’ll be in that company any day of the week. But the truth is, we don’t spend a lot of time looking at that stuff because we’re too busy trying to make the movies. I haven’t been involved in a project that’s been nominated for an Independent Spirit award, but I imagine those people put all their blood, sweat, and tears into it to try to get it done. That’s exactly what we do over here every single day.”
“[Only] they don’t have the Hulk,” added Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon, who was sitting in a Disney studio lot editing bay next to Marvel’s president. “The Hulk wants to do more independent stuff. It’s just his agent…” More seriously, Whedon continued: “The Marvel paradigm is new and is being copied by a lot of people, because it worked. But they’re being blamed for something that happened long before comic books became the basis for a lot of these blockbusters. And that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a trend that might be damaging where all the studios are putting all the money on the end of one thing and the smaller movies are getting edged out. That is happening — but I believe that has been happening for a while now, and that’s not something that I’m thrilled about.”
“But I come at this from exactly one place,” Whedon continued. “Is it good? Is it worth it? Did we give the people what they need? Did I tell a story that meant something, [that’s] going to excite people and move them? That goes for the cheapest TV show I’ve ever worked on, too. And, you know, is it cynical that some studios are rolling out all these connected movies? When has Hollywood not been cynical? When was Hollywood run by a bunch of artists? Even United Artists wasn’t for a long time. As for whether the paradigm will sustain itself or whether or not people will get sick of superheroes, who knows? Sure, I could stand to make a movie where guys don’t have to be sewn into their outfits. That would be fun. But a lot of vitriol has come Kevin’s way and Marvel’s way. I think perhaps that is misguided.”
Feige pointed out that people have long predicted that the superhero bubble was about to burst. “As soon as there are a bunch of them that are terrible, that’s when it will end,” he said, adding that Marvel’s movies actually span a number of genres. “I don’t believe in the superhero-movie genre. With Guardians of the Galaxy, we wanted to do a big space movie; with Ant-Man, we wanted to do a heist movie; Winter Solider, we wanted to do a political thriller. I’m more entertained by all of those kind of movies when there’s superheroes in the middle of them, so that works out for me. But, I do believe and hope that that’s what we’ll continue to sustain, at least the ones we’re responsible for. The other ones we have nothing to do with – and we go see them when they come out on opening weekend.”