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The two big things wrong at Marvel Studios right now, according to Disney CEO Bob Iger

After Marvel Studios' 2023 disappointed on multiple fronts, the Disney leader has some thoughts

Marvel Studios 2023
Image credit: Marvel Studios

Marvel fans disappointed in the current state of the MCU, you’re not alone — and those agreeing with you includes someone who is in a position to do something about it. None other than Bob Iger, the CEO of Marvel’s parent The Walt Disney Company, agrees that the bloom has come off the rose for Marvel Studios, and he has some ideas about just why that might be.

Not enough executive supervision

The Marvels
Image credit: Marvel Studios

Speaking at the New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday, Iger was surprisingly candid when it came to talking about where he thinks things might have gone wrong — including one very unexpected suggestion. “The Marvels was shot during COVID,” Iger told the crowd about Marvel’s latest release, which is also Marvel’s worst performer at the box office. “There wasn’t as much supervision on the set, so to speak, where we have executives really looking over what’s being done day after day after day.”

That’s right; the CEO of Disney is apparently suggesting that the Marvel magic is more reliant on executives than filmmakers… something that has been at the center of much of the criticism directed at the studio over the past decade or so; a Marvel Studios retrospective from The New Yorker earlier this year featured a former Marvel executive saying, “The only times we’d run into problems is if we got a filmmaker who said, ‘This is what I want to do,’ and then showed up and wanted to do something completely different… So then you hear people saying, ‘Kevin Feige came in, and he took over the process!’ But, if you know what the game plan is, you end up having a ton of creative freedom at Marvel, because we’re working inside the box.” Apparently, if Iger is correct, the box hasn’t been strong enough to keep that Marvel magic alive.

Ironically, Marvel Studios had its own issues with executive oversight back in the day; the studio’s war with the so-called Marvel Creative Committee — a group made up of figures from the publishing arm of Marvel — reached such heights in 2015 that Disney officially dissolved the Committee and reorganized its entire corporate structure so that Marvel Studios came under the oversight of the Disney film division, instead of Marvel Entertainment.

Quantity diluted quality

Loki and the TVA
Image credit: Marvel Studios

A lack of executive interference isn’t Bob Iger’s only reason for Marvel’s recent run, however. He also said at the DealBook Summit, “Quality needs attention to deliver quality, it doesn’t happen by accident. And quantity, in our case, diluted quality, and Marvel has suffered greatly from that.”

In other words, there’s too much Marvel to allow for good Marvel. This, fascinatingly, is different from the argument that too much Marvel has diluted the demand for Marvel stories, which others have made in the past; he’s literally saying that more Marvel has made Marvel’s quality drop.

To be fair, he’s made this argument before; in July, he said that Marvel “had not been in the TV business at any significant level. Not only did they increase their movie output, but they ended up making a number of television series, and frankly, it diluted focus and attention.” Again, Iger is not arguing that audiences have been overwhelmed by this increase in Marvel’s output, as others have, but that Marvel’s movies and shows are suffering from trying to do too much at once.

(Let’s remember that last year saw Marvel’s VFX artists complain about being overworked, while thinking about all of this.)

Perhaps things will change when it’s the Disney CEO making these comments; certainly, events outside of Iger’s direct control have meant that production has had to slow down, giving executives more time for oversight and slowing the overall flow of Marvel’s output. Thanks to the actors’ and writers’ strikes from this year, Marvel has pushed out all but one movie from 2024 release, with Disney+ shows also being impacted — and, if Daredevil: Born Again is anything to go by, there’s a significant level of rethinking going on behind the scenes with executives stepping in and releasing filmmakers if they’re not meeting expectations. It’s worth noting that both Thunderbolts and Avengers: The Kang Dynasty have switched writers midstream in the last few months, too.

Does all of this mean that we’re going to get, as USA Agent Wyatt Russell might put it, “a good Marvel movie” again anytime soon? We can but hope — and be sure that Bob Iger is going to be watching, as well.

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