It's practically impossible these days to discuss big movies without mentioning Marvel Studios. A risky move several years ago to finance its own big-screen version of Iron Man has since turned the studio into one of the most powerful moviemakers in Hollywood. Its Iron Man 3 is currently the top grossing movie of 2013, and last year's The Avengers is the third highest grossing movie of all time. This weekend sees the release of Thor: The Dark World, Marvel's first sequel since Iron Man 2 (not counting the Marvel characters owned by other studios) and one that promises to expand upon the Thor universe well beyond what we originally saw in the first Thor movie.
In anticipation of this weekend's big release, Fandango sat down with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and picked his brain about Thor: The Dark World, as well as how Marvel's clever moves have since inspired all of Hollywood to rethink the way it launches a franchise. Of course we also slipped in a few silly questions, too, because like you we need to know who's job it is to make sure Chris Hemsworth is shirtless in at least one scene in every Thor movie. The answer may hit closer to home than you think.
Fandango: Thor: The Dark World is your second "part two" since Iron Man began this current run. Did anything you learned on Iron Man 2 inform your approach for Thor 2?
Kevin Feige: Not consciously, necessarily, any more than all the films that came before Dark World. Every movie we make, we learn things and try to grow and evolve as filmmakers. So I don't think anything in particular stood out from Iron Man 2.
Fandango: Who gives the note that says Chris Hemsworth must be shirtless in at least one scene? Is that you?
Feige: The audience.
Fandango: Tom Hiddleston's Loki has such a great arc in this movie. Can this guy have his own solo movie or does this character really only work when Thor is involved?
Feige: I don't know. I think there are some characters that are better off in an ensemble or as they relate to other characters, but I think Loki has surprised us and will continue to surprise us in his ability to win fans over despite the fact that he isn't the most stable individual.
Fandango: It felt like there were some nods to Empire Strikes Back in this movie. Was that intentional?
Feige: Well, The Empire Strikes Back flows through my veins, so it would not be a surprise. I don't know how intentional it was -- what specific scenes?
Fandango: Two scenes, mainly. The "arm scene" and the one where they're escaping Asgard felt straight out of the beginning of Empire when the heroes are trying to escape their base while it's under attack.
Feige: Well, I would say that's the greatest sequel of all time, so if there are elements of the greatest sequel of all time in our sequel, I'll take it. [Laughs]
Fandango: Ever since The Avengers, you can feel this shift in the way studios view their big franchises. What do you think the industry and your competitors now do differently as a direct result of what Marvel has attempted and accomplished.
Feige: Well, I don't have enough insight to know what's going on at the other studios, but from reading the same things you're probably reading, I'd say it's planning ahead. It's having the confidence and foresight to plan a bigger story, should you be so lucky to get there. That's a fine line, of course, because you can make mistakes that franchises have made before. You know, you have five really good ideas and you save three of them for the next movie, so you only put two of them in whatever the current movie is. Then the current movie isn't very good and you never get to make the next movie. That is something that's a cardinal sin as far as Marvel Studios is concerned. Any good idea we have, we put into the movie we're making now. Because we know if the movie we're making now isn't great, then we'll never make another movie. But we do know where we want to take things should we be so lucky to make another movie, and it would appear that other studios are beginning to do the same thing inspired by The Avengers.
Fandango: We're on "Phase Two" now -- how many phases have you mapped out in terms of your dream scenario where everything is successful enough for you to keep moving forward?
Feige: Realistically, [we've planned] just into the beginnings of [Phase] Three, in terms of practicality. In terms of pipe dreams, we've talked about [Phases] Four and Five, but that's just sort of wishful thinking.
Fandango: Okay, here's the big fanboy question: What's more likely -- Marvel teaming with Pixar on a movie or Lucasfilm on a movie?
Feige: Well, Disney Animation is working on Big Hero 6, which is based in part on a Marvel property. One of the things that's so genius about Disney is that they have such distinct stand-alone brands in Pixar, Marvel and LucasFilm that I don't know if they need to team up anytime soon because all three of them keep doing their own thing very well.
Fandango: What's the latest on The Avengers: Age of Ultron?
Feige: It's still early days, but I will say that like the first Avengers, [The Avengers: Age of Ultron] is the culmination of the films before it while at the same time being structured in a way that it could stand on its own. That's one of the big challenges with all our films. And the script that's coming together for Age of Ultron is absolutely influenced by all the movies post-Avengers that lead up to it, but at the same time structurally it'll be able to stand on its own. It's exciting to see exactly how different the world of the Avengers is at the beginning of Avengers 2 than it was at the end of The Avengers, in large part because of the stories in between.
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