Following a string of disappointments, the Marvel Studios brand is at an all-time low. All four of the lowest-rated Marvel projects have come out in the last three years, and all that goodwill the studio had been building since Iron Man is about exhausted. The pressure on Marvel’s next big theatrical release, The Marvels, couldn’t be higher. But in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, its director, Nia DaCosta, exhibited why she is the right person for the job.
Setting expectations is just as important for a director walking into a franchise factory like Marvel Studios as it is for a fan sitting down in a theater to watch the Ant-Man sequel. While Marvel has hired plenty of up-and-coming, exciting directors to helm its movies, from Ryan Coogler and Jon Watts to James Gunn and Chloé Zhao, those partnerships haven’t always worked out. Some of those directors ditched Marvel altogether, including Edgar Wright on Ant-Man, Scott Derrickson on the Doctor Strange sequel, and Patty Jenkins on Thor: The Dark World.
If you’re going to take a job like this, you need to understand that you are a cog in the machine. Whether or not that’s a sustainable or even effective way to make movies is up for debate, but Nia DaCosta seems to have set her expectations accordingly.
“It is a Kevin Feige production, it’s his movie,” DaCosta told Vanity Fair. “So I think you live in that reality, but I tried to go in with the knowledge that some of you is going to take a back seat.” But even if her job was to make a movie for Kevin Feige, she said: “I also have my name on it, so I want to be able to be proud of it too.”
DaCosta also reached out to other Marvel directors throughout the process, and their feedback seems to have been invaluable.
Black Panther director Ryan Coogler told her to be herself. She assumed “herself” wouldn’t be enough for a nine-figure comic book movie, but she tried anyway. “You can’t do anything but be yourself, so bring that to the table,” she noted. “They can choose to take some and leave some, but that’s what your job is.”
She also told Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton she was “stressed” and “overwhelmed,” adding: “Sometimes you’d be in a scene and you’d be like, ‘What the hell does any of this shit mean?’ Or an actor’s looking at some crazy thing happening in space, and they’re [actually] looking at a blue X. There were obviously hard days, and days where you’re like, ‘This just isn’t working.’”
The Marvels might not “save the MCU,” but DaCosta’s honesty and bluntness have given me some hope that her Captain Marvel sequel will be grounded and impactful in a way that most recent Marvel projects haven’t been.
The Marvels hits theaters on November 10, 2023.