Joanna Robinson is a podcaster and cultural critic for The Ringer and has also been published in Vanity Fair. She is the co-host of two podcasts, A Storm of Spoilers and A Cast of Kings.
Dave Gonzales is the founder of the FitWR Podcast and a podcaster for The Ringer. He is a member of the Denver’s Regional Film Critics Group and an author.
Gavin Edwards is an American journalist and non-fiction writer. He graduated from Yale University with a BA in English and worked as a contributing editor and associate editor at Detail and wrote for Rolling Stone.
Below, co-authors Joanna, Dave, and Gavin share 5 key insights from their new book, MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios. Listen to the audio version—read by co-author Joanna—in the Next Big Idea App.
1. Sometimes you have to look to the past to innovate for the future.
Marvel Studios enjoyed a decade-long, unprecedented run of success in the filmmaking industry. What they received a lot of credit for was an almost Silicon Valley-esque disruption or innovation in franchise building and empire building. However, if you speak to Marvel Studio’s chief Kevin Feige, he’ll tell you that they actually drew major inspiration from the old Hollywood studio system of the 1930s and 1940s. Looking back at old systems and seeing how they might be adaptable for a current project can be worth it.
2. Put your ego aside, the best idea should always win.
There are brilliant and talented people working at all levels of Marvel Studios. However, some of the most famous moments from Marvel films came from a janitor down the hallway or a kid visiting the set that day. Keep your ears open at all times for those who might have a big idea, and don’t let your ego get in the way of chasing it.
3. Past mistakes can be future opportunities in disguise.
Several years into building their massive, interconnected cinematic universe, Marvel Studios did have one or two blemishes on their record, one or two films that people did not consider to be instant classics.
“By going back in time, and conferring importance and respect on installments that had previously been kicked aside, they created success.”
Instead of ignoring those past mistakes, hoping that nobody remembered them, the storytellers at Marvel instead took elements from those misbegotten films and wove them into the fabric of some of their most successful films. By going back in time, and conferring importance and respect on installments that had previously been kicked aside, they created success. Sometimes it’s important to wrap your arms around your mistakes.
4. The quantity over quality conundrum.
As producers struggle to keep up in the seemingly never-ending streaming wars, this is something impacting all of Hollywood. A big misstep Marvel Studios and their parent company Disney made in trying to keep up with their competitors was losing sight of what made their brand, their product, and their creation special in the first place. Instead of creating just a few lovingly crafted gemstones, the mass production of film and television over the last few years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) wound up backfiring, and ultimately tarnishing the brand.
5. Not being an expert can be a hidden advantage.
Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios, and the engineer behind the big comic book and superhero boom of the last couple decades, did not grow up as a comic book guy. He did not start studying comics in earnest until he was working as a lower-level employee at Marvel Studios.
Over and over again, he has emphasized that this perceived weakness has actually been a massive advantage. He had that outsider perspective that someone who was too far into that world couldn’t possibly bring to the table. It’s never too late to catch up. Sometimes lagging behind the pack is the only way you can get a clear view of the finish line.
To listen to the audio version read by co-author Joanna Robinson, download the Next Big Idea App today: