Although Kevin Feige and Robert Downey Jr. received the lion’s share of the credit for engineering the Marvel cinematic universe, many fans forget how instrumental Jon Favreau was to the creation of the most profitable movie studio in history. Favreau, who directed the first two Iron Man films, helped create a grounded superhero universe that cleverly retained what worked about the comics- while jettisoning the inessential- through his contribution to the fledgling MCU. Even though Kevin Feige held the broader vision of what the MCU would eventually become, prior to 2014, he relied heavily on his directors to inject each film with a unique tone and visual identity.
In the early days of the MCU, Fiege would strategically place directors on projects that would best suit their cinematic approach. For Captain America: The First Avenger, Fiege enlisted Joe Johnston- the director of The Rocketeer– to create a film that harkened back to WW2 propaganda posters. Looking to lend a Shakespearan edge to the MCU’s version of Asgard in Thor, Fiege summoned Kenneth Branagh, who helped bring various Shakespeare classics to the screen. And when it was time to assemble all of the disparate plot threads he’d been weaving since the beginning of the MCU for 2012’s Avengers, Fiege recruited Joss Whedon, who practically specialized in crafting sci-fi scripts that centered on a rag-tag crew of bickering heroes.
However, once the MCU became too big to fail, and maintenance became more important than ingenuity and creativity, Marvel’s films became more formulaic in structure and uniform in appearance. Scott Derickson, the director of 2016’s Doctor Strange, might have been hired for his horror credentials, but you’d never know it by watching the film.
In a franchise defined by interconnectivity, post-2014 Marvel films became virtually indistinguishable on a visual level. Flash forward to modern Marvel, where Kevin Fiege will hire a director with a pedigree that matches the ethos of the character the MCU is adapting (hoping to entice cinephiles into attending) while simultaneously restricting said director’s artistry to enforce the brand’s uniformity.
Several respected auteurs have levied similar claims at MCU films, including Martin Scorsese and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Well, now you can add Tarantino to the list. Despite being a fan of the comic medium–and Marvel in particular–Tarantino recently claimed that Marvel directors are no more than hired hands.
Quentin Tarantino flirted for a period of time with directing a “Star Trek” movie, but that doesn’t mean he’d ever take the leap into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The filmmaker, who’s currently making the press rounds in support of his new book, “Cinema Speculation,” told the Los Angeles Times that directors in the MCU are simply “hired hands,” and he has no time to assume such a role.
“You have to be a hired hand to do those things,” Tarantino said of Marvel movies. “I’m not a hired hand. I’m not looking for a job.”
Well, when the man is right, he’s right.