For years, a Marvel-labeled film hasn't always meant Marvel Studios or Kevin Feige had full control of what played out on screen.
This is because, in the 1990s, Marvel Entertainment licensed character film rights to various film studios, leading to a string of Marvel movies featuring Marvel heroes like the Hulk and Daredevil but which stand separate from the MCU.
What Kevin Feige Hates About Pre-MCU Movies
In the new tell-all book, MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige was quoted saying he hated Marvel Studios' lack of "control" of movies preceding the MCU.
For reference, Marvel movies released prior to the MCU's Iron Man include 2003's Hulk, Ben Affleck's Daredevil, 2005's Fantastic Four, Elektra, Ghost Rider, and more.
In explaining the problem with other studios owning the rights to Marvel characters, producer David Maisel referenced New Line Cinema's former ownership of Iron Man, saying, "You're handing over your babies to somebody:"
"Your character is in limbo and somebody else controls it. When you make a movie deal for a license, you’re freezing animation, you’re freezing a lot of other things. You’re handing over your babies to somebody, and nothing happens.”
Even so, both Avi Arad and Kevin Feige still tried to influence those productions, but not all were open to suggestions.
This is what led Feige to admit, "We suggested but they didn't listen. We didn't have the control. I hated that."
As further evidence of Feige's frustration, Marvel writer Craig Kyle relayed the current studio president's early efforts to "Get the rights back" in order to guarantee "great movies:"
“From the moment I touched down in Marvel, Kevin had been telling Avi [Arad] we have to get the rights back. Avi was in a situation where he represented all of Marvel. He was the face of Marvel Studios. Kevin was in there to make great movies. That could never be a guarantee until we could actually control the process.”
More Control, More Characters, More Problems
Learning how strongly Kevin Feige felt about Marvel Studios' lack of control over non-MCU movies is revealing but not necessarily surprising.
During the 2000s, Feige and Marvel Studios were essentially watching their best players bat for the other teams and fail. Of course, he would want to change that.
Fortunately, the situation has improved in recent years.
Even though legal issues surrounding the Hulk are foggy, and Sony Pictures, not Marvel Studios, owns the rights to Spider-Man, Disney's acquisition of 20th Century Fox - and thus the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool - was a huge step in Feige gaining that sought-after control.
However, there's a new problem facing Feige and the red brand, and that's the question of whether they can even execute their vision.
In the years following the conclusion of the Infinity Saga, the MCU struggled to maintain its record of success with audiences and critics alike.
In fact, the studio's attempts to tell more stories with more characters both on the big screen and Disney+ have been pegged as the franchise's problem.
So even though Marvel Studios has what it always wanted, there are real doubts about whether it can deliver a quality story with the characters it wanted control of.
With Fantastic Four, Daredevil: Born Again, upcoming Hulk projects, and more on the way, that remains to be seen but is likely an uncertainty Kevin Feige also hates.