‘Avengers: Infinity War’ will cap a Marvel decade


By LINDSEY BAHR

AP Film Writer

LOS ANGELES

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige talks about his job like a fan who’s just lucky to be there.

To hear his genuine enthusiasm about the movies, the actors, the audience and the stories almost belies the fact that he is essentially the architect of and driving force behind Hollywood’s most valuable brand that has in just over 10 years netted over $14.8 billion in worldwide grosses (according to comScore) and become the envy of every studio executive in town.

He’s a mogul with a fanboy’s verve who has helped to change the very fabric of the entertainment industry.

Ten years ago, many moviegoers didn’t know who Iron Man was, and those who did thought of him as a minor comic book character. On Thursday, Marvel Studios’ 19th film, “Avengers: Infinity War,” an epic mashup of characters once considered to be part of the “superhero B-list,” from Iron Man to Star Lord, opens in theaters worldwide. It is cruising for a record-breaking debut that could surpass “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” as the biggest opening ever.

The scope of the Marvel effect is somewhat difficult to pin down, especially with a force as formidable as The Walt Disney Co. behind it.

It’s revitalized careers (Robert Downey Jr.), minted movie stars (Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and Chris Pratt, to name a few), and become an outpost for Oscar-winners too.

And beyond that, every few months the studio seems to be breaking new ground, whether it’s as small as a change in tone, like “Thor: Ragnarok,” or as big as producing a downright cultural phenomenon, such as “Black Panther,” now the third highest-grossing domestic film of all time.

“We dream big at Marvel Studios. We have very lofty aspirations at Marvel Studios. For those dreams to be surpassed is saying something,” Feige, 44, said of “Black Panther’s” success.

And it shows no sign of slowing down, or running out of story. They have 70 years of comic book source material to draw on, after all.

“There are still things that are key elements to a lot of our characters in their comic incarnations that we haven’t even done yet for characters who have had three or four movies,” Feige said. “It is an amazing wealth of creative material to pull from.”

Feige is amused when reporters try to predict Marvel’s next move, or make big conclusions based on what’s just happened. Under Feige, Marvel is not looking in the rear-view mirror.

When “Thor: Ragnarok” came out, he remembers reading articles declaring that, “Marvel is committing to a surrealist, silly tone” and just laughed.

“I thought, ‘We have ‘Black Panther’ coming out in three months! They don’t even know what’s coming,”’ Feige said. “We’re always thinking ahead. Just when people think they can pin us down, we go somewhere else and that’s going to happen again after ‘Infinity War’ in the build-up to the next Avengers film.”

Misunderstanding Feige’s vision is almost a tradition at this point, going back to Comic-Con in 2006 where he revealed his plans for the first few films – Iron Man, Ant-Man and The Incredible Hulk – and all anyone wrote about is how Marvel Studios didn’t have the rights to Spider-Man (Sony does), the X-Men or the Fantastic Four (those reside at 20th Century Fox).

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