Marvel’s Phase One changed the landscape of popular filmmaking with their Marvel Cinematic Universe, which saw them build a string of individual character-driven franchises and slowly interweave them through name drops and crossovers before finally teaming them all up in one massive event film with Avengers. As we all know now, that gamble paid off big time, and the “shared universe” has become the filmmaking model du jour. But while other studios are still in development or just getting their universes off the ground, the grand narrative of Marvel’s universe has been ever-careening towards yet another epic culmination, Avengers: Infinity War, which will see elements introduced in all the MCU films to date smashed together in an epic battle of cosmic proportions. Or, as Josh Brolin describes it, “Thanos against everyone.”
But will “everyone” include Marvel’s other corner of that shared universe, the Hell’s Kitchen residents stomping around on Netflix? We’ve already met Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, and the latter’s solo series debuts next year. Iron Fist is still on the horizon, but eventually, the band of heroes will team up for at least one season of The Defenders.
The world of The Defenders decidedly exists within the same universe of The Avengers, and there are frequent enough references to the events of the films to keep the audience constantly aware of that fact. But will we ever get to see the two sides of the universe share the screen? Maybe. Possibly. But don’t get your hopes to high yet.
While at CCXP, a Brazilian Comic-Con, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War co-director Anthony Russo said the following.
It’s complicated. When we start to serialize the telling of stories it’s difficult. You have to have a lot of control and focus on the course of history. The films are controlled by a group led by Kevin Feige, so they function as a unit. Other products, even if they are from Marvel, are controlled by others. Then there is the possibility of a crossover, but it’s more complicated. It is a smaller scale version of the problem that exists when remembering that Fox holds the rights to some of Marvel’s most popular characters, as does Sony and others. As storytellers, we only have control over what happens in Marvel movies, but everything is possible, Spider-Man became possible!
That’s definitely not a no, but it doesn’t inspire a lot of optimism either. And if you look at recent events in Marvel studios, it seems likely that the two sides of the universe will remain pretty separate…at least for a while. In case you missed it, Marvel Studios underwent a pretty significant shakeup in the power structure earlier this year, which saw MCU mastermind Kevin Feige, who had previously reported to Marvel head Ike Pulmutter, report directly to Disney — a move that was essentially believed to give Feige more freedom financially and creatively. As a result, there’s a divorce of power between the cinematic and television sides of Marvel Studios. Perlmutter still maintains oversight of Marvel’s TV group, publishing, animation, and other New York-based operations, and most importantly for this story, Jeph Loeb, head of Marvel TV, continues to report to Perlmutter as well. As a result the divide between Marvel Film and Marvel TV continues to widen.
It’s pretty interesting that Russo likened the idea of working with Marvel TV to a “smaller scale” version of working with one of the other Studios (Fox and Sony) that own Marvel rights. That in itself is an indication of how distinct that divide has become. However, Infinity War is a long ways off, and as we’ve seen by the power structure revision and release date switcheroos, things can and do change. And, as Russo says himself, they actually were able to work with a competitor studio to make the Spider-Man deal work, and hell, if that’s possible, anything’s possible. It might take some negotiating and rejiggering, but it can be done.
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