Fresh off of a career-high over at Marvel with their work on Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, as well as their more recent efforts through their independent production company AGBO, directors Joe and Anthony Russo occupy a high position within the industry. From this vantage point, the two have a unique perspective on industry-wide developments, especially those at their alma mater - Marvel Studios.
Even with the duo seemingly being done with Marvel, they still have more to say about the company. Recently, the directing pair opened up about the circumstances in which Marvel wrests control from creators, as well as Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige's unique talents and reaction cues.
They have also helped to explain certain decisions made by Marvel, citing their time with the company to shed light on certain behind-the-scenes strategies, like the delayed pace with which Marvel has embraced the X-Men brand.
The Russos also clearly remain fans of the Marvel brand, sharing their hopes for the future and also revealing which Phase 4 project has been their personal favorite. Looking out at the current state of things, the brothers have more to say about the industry, including Disney's recent handling of the Marvel brand that some have criticized in this post-Endgame era.
The Russos on Disney's Push on Marvel & IP
During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo answered questions about their thoughts on developments in the industry, including Disney's recent approach with Marvel.
Speaking more specifically about their thoughts on the myriad of distribution options available to filmmakers, the duo opened up about their experiences and current approach to distribution, with Anthony sharing that they "have no investment in any of those models."
Joe: "When we worked with Marvel, we traveled the world for a decade. What that allows you is an understanding that goes beyond a Hollywood-centric point of view of how to create content. We’re agnostic about delivery. You know what might make everybody happy is Netflix starts doing 45-day windows and they have their giant digital distribution platform. Everybody wins. That feels like where it’s going."
Anthony: "We designed ABGO to be completely independent so that as things evolve and change, we can take any project anywhere, at any time. We have no investment in any of those models."
Asked if there were larger ramifications of current financial issues hitting Netflix, the directing pair responded with doubt, pointing out that "they still make billions of dollars" while also suggesting that "at some point, they have to start moving into what we’re doing — larger IP."
Joe: "I don’t think so. They still make billions of dollars. By the way, it’s OK for a company that was flush with cash during the tech spec boom to now be challenged to reconsider its model. And at some point, they have to start moving into what we’re doing — larger IP that can be turned into games and merchandising to build ancillary revenue and build legacy wealth. That’s taking a page out of Disney’s book."
The brothers then addressed the "reinforced conservative approach" that companies like Disney have pivoted to when it comes to managing intellectual properties. Joe Russo pointed out that Disney's low-risk creative strategy will further increase its Marvel output over the next decade, a plan that many fans believe to be the biggest reason why the MCU's Phase 4 has seen a dip in quality:
Joe: "But I also think, too, that Disney’s gone very conservative. Post-[Bob] Iger, they seem to be in IP management mode. You’re going to get all the Star Wars and all the Marvel you can handle for the next decade. They’re all changing. It’s either a reinforced conservative approach from your traditional studios or it’s forcing a tech company like Netflix to rethink its entire model."
Anthony: "There’s so much content spread over so many creators and providers that it almost doesn’t matter. If part of the model weakens, there are other parts of the model. [Top Gun: Maverick] is ready and waiting to benefit."
Is Disney Hurting Marvel's Phase 4?
These comments made by the Russo brothers are quite illuminating, helping to sketch out the fluid and malleable state of the industry. When it comes to distribution, it seems that the Russo's are among the few high-profile creatives to embrace the shift towards streaming. Even if they may still be engaged in creating experiences for the big screen, they are at least open to smaller theatrical windows.
This is a departure from the strategies being executed over at Disney. While Disney+ is an ever-growing platform, the House of Mouse seems set on maintaining the theatrical avenue as the main route for its larger, more financially viable projects, even releasing certain shows in theaters for limited-time runs.
But this hybrid strategy has come under fire from fans for diluting their favorite franchises. Because Disney is now focusing on both streaming and theatrical, Marvel Studios' Phase 4 has had an abundance of projects released within the past year (9, to be exact), causing some to question if it is cheapening the project.
Even as Disney's fixation on IP may mean a surplus of MCU content for the foreseeable future, many could see this as a lack of willingness to take risks, limiting the boldness that helped to bring the MCU to life in the first place.