At the moment, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the model to which all franchises wish to aspire to. After all, after eleven years and 23 movies, the MCU has grossed more than $22 billion worldwide.
Marvel is so successful, in fact, that Disney has now entrusted the architect of the MCU, Kevin Feige, with developing a new Star Wars movie for them. And by the looks of what’s happening with The Rise of Skywalker, they could certainly use some guidance.
But how did Feige do it? How did he manage to weave together multiple individual franchises almost seamlessly? He’s said previously that Star Wars had an influence on him, but how did he stick the landing with Avengers: Endgame when other mega franchises from 2019 couldn’t (Game of Thrones, The Rise of Skywalker)?
Well, ironically, some of the help came from Warner Bros., the studio that produces Marvel’s rival: the DCEU franchise. While speaking at the New York Film Academy, Feige revealed that Harry Potter was actually a huge influence on how he manages everything inside of the MCU, explaining:
“I always default to my experience watching Harry Potter movies,” Feige said. “I never read the Harry Potter books, my kids aren’t old enough and aren’t into it yet, and I didn’t read them when they first came out, but I went to see every Harry Potter movie opening weekend. I saw it and I enjoyed it and then I forgot all about it and didn’t think about it again until the next Harry Potter movie came out. And those movies were so well made because I could follow it all. I could follow it, I could track it, occasionally I have to go ‘Who was that?’ but for the most part I could totally track it.
Now if I had watched every movie ten times, if I had read every book, I bet there are dozens of other things in there that I would see and appreciate, but they never got in the way of me just experiencing it as a pure story. So that’s kind of what we try to navigate is if an Easter egg or a reference or something is so prevalent that it gets in the way of the story you’re telling so that people who aren’t aware of it go ‘What is this? What’s happening?’ then we usually pull back on it.”
That’s it. Entertaining the diehards and casual moviegoers at the same time is what every studio hopes to do. And as Feige says, it starts with the story. If the story isn’t working, no amount of fan service and references are going to make up for that. Begin with that, and then the characters will come to life which then leads to an investment in an experience that more than one demographic can enjoy. That sure sounds like Harry Potter.
And Feige did it with Marvel. Now, we’ll see if he and the likes of Jon Favreau and hopefully Rian Johnson can do the same and create new stories in the Star Wars universe to entertain and inspire a whole new generation of fans.