Chloe Zhao created history by becoming the first woman of color to win the Academy Award for Best Director. Luckily for Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, she happens to have directed a movie for them that is expected to come out this year – and you may have heard of it. The Eternals, originally slated to arrive on Nov 2020, got pushed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic which in turn came as a blessing in disguise for Marvel.
Feige joked about how the timing aligned well and The Eternals being delayed allowed Zhao to finish up her other project Nomadlands which she was originally planning on completing after her MCU debut. Had things played out normally, Marvel wouldn’t have been able to capitalize on Zhao’s Oscar win but they now have an Oscar winning director in their midst.
Well, I’m going to make a joke. And I’m sure you know this part: She initially was going to put “Nomadland” on the shelf until after “Eternals” was finished and released, and then come back to it. Because of our COVID shutdown, she decided to get her laptop out and, you know, finish up this little movie she was doing! And so yes, my joke is, let the filmmaker finish their passion projects when you have some downtime from your giant Marvel project, and suddenly they can make history at the Academy Awards. Knock on wood.
Feige talked about a lot of things but he offered his own interesting take on why the studio ropes in smaller, lesser known filmmakers and pulls them into these bigger projects. The folks online have long speculated that this could be to ensure Marvel gets to control the grander vision and there’s been talk of how much a filmmaker is able to retain their own voice in an MCU movie. At one brief point in the interview (which also covered Zhao’s side), Zhao even suggested that the vision isn’t entirely her. Feige’s narrative however should help quell at least some of those concerns.
The real answer is, frankly, continuing what we’ve learned with all of the different types of filmmakers that we have used. When you get people with unique points of views, regardless of the size of film they’ve done in the past, and empower them and surround them with the great artists and technicians that can bring spectacle, that can bring the visuals that a Marvel movie requires, they can take you to places you’ve never gone before. And I think you’ve seen that with all of the filmmakers that we’ve worked with, and particularly the filmmakers who have done smaller, more personal things before agreeing to come on board the MCU.
I’m in my 20-plus years at Marvel. We only want to keep doing this so that we can keep evolving it and changing it and growing it, and doing things we hadn’t done before. And that’s what many filmmakers like Chloé for. Not just for Marvel, by the way, but for the business — and for the theatrical business, and for the quote unquote blockbuster business.
That’s a neat way of looking at it although it won’t quell criticism of Marvel movies feeling the same entirely. Yet, amid the crowd, some unique voices have indeed stemmed out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. James Gunn with his Guardians of the Galaxy films and Ryan Coogler with Black Panther are probably the best examples of this point, of how a big studio working with independent filmmakers is not a bad thing for either party.
The Eternals is set for release later this year on Nov 5, 2021