One of the strange quirks in life is that failure often leads to success.
Hopefully, that statement will apply to Marvel television as well.
The Hollywood Reporter (THR) just posted a detailed evaluation of behind-the-scenes turmoil that fills in a lot of the blanks we’ve discussed in 2023.
Let’s talk about what has gone wrong with Marvel television and what Kevin Feige is doing to fix it.
Daredevil Reborn Again
Let’s start with the headline here. During the two Hollywood strikes, Marvel executives watched the footage and recognized the truth.
The attempted reboot of Daredevil: Born Again wasn’t working to anyone’s satisfaction.
When Disney+ declared an intent to reboot the Daredevil franchise, it faced an immediate uphill battle.
The Netflix version of the series proved excellent. Now that Disney had control of its own characters, it needed to create something even better.
In the aftermath of Secret Invasion’s failure, Disney faced much more pressure for the Daredevil project, which will be the longest to date.
Original plans called for 18 episodes of Daredevil: Born Again, several of which Marvel filmed before the strike shut down production.
Well, we will never see a few of those because Marvel just nuked several episodes from orbit.
Kevin Feige “reviewed the footage” and determined that “the show wasn’t working.”
Fans of the Netflix series aren’t surprised to learn this, as Disney intentionally chose not to bring back fan favorites Karen Page and Foggy Nelson.
While Daredevil II does return Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin, it’s still facing a stark tonal change.
In fact, THR’s article indicates that Matt Murdock didn’t even suit up during the first three episodes.
Instead, Daredevil wouldn’t appear until episode four. I’m using the past tense because the series is mostly starting from scratch with most footage cut.
Two weeks ago, Marvel removed head writers Chris Ord and Matt Corman as well as the directors scheduled to work on additional episodes.
In other words, Daredevil is fully rebooting on the fly.
The original plan called for a procedural drama, one that would have confused fans of the Netflix series known for non-stop action.
Marvel recognized that fans wouldn’t have liked that, so Daredevil starts over after the strike.
Marvel Ditches Its Television Playbook
By this point, we’re all used to Marvel drama in 2023. But this story should prove essential to the company’s television future.
Executives have used their downtime during the strikes to acknowledge the obvious. Marvel’s television division is struggling.
Many of these wounds are self-inflicted, too. From the start, Marvel planned its television stories to work differently from conventional programs.
WandaVision even riffed on the typical family stories audiences watched for generations.
Alas, Marvel quickly realized that this format has worked for decades for good reason. It’s the most efficient, effective way to relay stories in the medium.
Marvel tried to reinvent the wheel – and to some success – with WandaVision, Loki, and She-Hulk.
However, the constant attempts at bringing Marvel big-screen action to streaming television have proven inconsistent at best in terms of quality.
While the pandemic didn’t help any, Marvel also set itself up for struggle via its needlessly complicated structure.
Thus far, Marvel has eschewed conventional showrunners in favor of mini-rooms and hand-offs.
A writing team sets the baseline, the director establishes the tone during principal photography, and then Marvel cleans everything up via reshoots.
That structure exemplifies a movie-making studio trying to create television for the first time. It’s the wrong approach.
After three years of inconsistencies, Marvel has finally acknowledged this hard truth during the strike.
From now on, Marvel will create television in a more similar fashion to conventional productions.
Until now, Marvel had tried “to marry the Marvel culture with the traditional television culture.”
This practice has led to some chaotic productions. For example, Jessica Gao wrote She-Hulk.
Once the nine-episode series started production, director Kat Coiro took control of everything during a challenging pandemic shoot.
Afterward, Marvel brought back Gao for post-production. That sort of storytelling inconsistency often wrecks a series.
The New Marvel
Moon Knight similarly suffered turmoil when creator Jeremy Slater experienced creative differences.
Marvel quickly hired Mohamed Diab as a replacement, which has worked out well, all things considered.
Still, under the previous Marvel system, neither writers nor directors felt like they had control over their work.
Instead, the creators would lose authority once the directors started filming. Then, post-production changes would negate the directors’ work.
In short, none of the Marvel television storytellers felt empowered.
Even worse, Marvel spent 15 years training would-be showrunners on how their system worked.
Then, when Marvel hired for television productions, they inexplicably looked outside the company.
Those outsiders struggled to fit their ideas with the Marvel system, a problem that sank Secret Invasion.
According to THR, “actions became entrenched and leaders vied for supremacy during Secret Invasion’s preproduction in London.”
Yes, territorial behavior sank Marvel’s most ambitious television project to date. Not coincidentally, Marvel is ready to make a change.
Moving forward, Marvel will follow more conventional television production practices rather than do its own thing.
Because of Gao’s success with She-Hulk, Marvel wants “shows to have a creative throughline from start to finish.”
Almost as importantly, Marvel will staff full-time television producers. Until now, employees have flipped between television and film.
The people in charge of each production “will write pilots and show bibles.”
Finally, and most significantly, Marvel will ditch the limited series.
The studio has correctly deduced that six-episode shows come with a natural limitation. Just when fans get attached to the characters, the show ends.
I mean, you’re craving more Madisynn, right? Until we get season two of She-Hulk (or season one of Wongers?), that’s impossible.
From now on, Marvel will greenlight television shows with the expectation that each one will last several seasons.
Marvel television needed a change. We all know that.
Objectively, Secret Invasion was the kind of debacle we’d expect from DC or Fox’s Marvel division or a non-Spider-Man Sony/Marvel movie.
For Disney and Marvel, Secret Invasion signified rock bottom. For years, the company had hyped it as the small-screen answer to Avengers: Endgame.
In reality, the more apt comparison is Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Thankfully, the strike-related downtime provided Marvel executives with a rare opportunity to stop, look in the mirror, and honestly reflect on the status quo.
The current Marvel structure wasn’t working. Now that Marvel has accepted this truth, it will make changes that should benefit everyone.
Television shows need someone with a vision that lasts beyond a handful of episodes.
Meanwhile, viewers need a promise that characters will return. Otherwise, there’s no point in getting attached.
Rather than creating new stories about unknown characters, Marvel should be greenlighting second seasons of Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk instead.
While that hasn’t happened yet, the article references that Marvel views Wonder Man as that sort of program.
I’d mentioned this fact in MarvelBlog News a while ago, and it’s true.
One of the reasons why television series include so many episodes/seasons is about production costs.
In most instances, once you get everyone on set, it’s cheaper to just keep shooting.
The mind-boggling budget for Secret Invasion apparently highlighted this truth for Marvel.
From now on, once the studio announces a new show, we can safely expect it to be around for several years to come.
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