Kevin Feige Finally Opens Up About “Marvel Formula”, Humor

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Nick Fury talking to Iron in Iron Man 2

Credit: Marvel Studios

Feige is finally talking about that infamous “Marvel humor”.

Avengers Characters fight in New York
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: Fans Praise ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ For Being “Anti-Woke”

Led by Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, and presently owned by The Walt Disney Company, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has significantly transformed the superhero film genre and left an enduring influence on the entire film industry. The conclusion of Phase Three in the MCU, as depicted in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019), served as a remarkable milestone, highlighting the extraordinary growth of the MCU and solidifying its supremacy in the realm of entertainment. Additionally, this event marked the culmination of the initial three phases of the MCU, commonly referred to as the Infinity Saga.

Kevin Feige talking to Tom Holland
Credit: Marvel/Sony

The Avengers franchise, which began with Joss Whedon’s 2012 film, The Avengers, featuring an all-star cast including Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man/Tony Stark), Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Chris Hemsworth (Thor Odinson), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/the Incredible Hulk), Tom Hiddleston (Loki Laufeyson/Loki Odinson), and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), marked the start of a new era. This movie essentially transformed the film industry by establishing a new standard for integrating multiple films, into the same “cinematic universe.”

But before all of that, one little film that no one expected to get all that big absolutely changed the game — and became massive — alongside its star.

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: ‘Iron Man’ Star Apologizes to Trans Community After Backlash

2008’s Iron Man directed by Jon Favreau received such an overwhelmingly positive response that the creation of an entire superhero franchise built upon the success of this unexpected hit was almost inevitable. But despite the success of the Avengers franchise as a whole, it’s been known that of late, Marvel Studios has not been having as hot a run as before.

It’s not just recent scandals such as Jonathan Majors’ allegations of domestic violence and assault putting the MCU into turmoil, possibly without Avengers: The Kang Dynasty (2025) and Avengers: Secret Wars’ (2026) main, Thanos-equivalent Big Bad villain. On top of that, the reception for the Phase Four films in the MCU, such as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023), which signaled the beginning of Phase Five, has not been as overwhelmingly positive as earlier Marvel releases.

Paul Rudd as many Ant-Men in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania marvel
Credit: Marvel Studios

Now, 15 years since that fateful moment, a whole new age of the MCU is about to begin in the Multiverse Saga. It’s here that the Marvel head Kevin Feige is finally ready to talk about the “Marvel sense of humor”.

How Iron Man created Marvel’s humor

Kevin Feige talking with RDJ and Mark Ruffalo
Credit: D23

In a recent 15 year retrospective for Marvel Studios’ first ever film under the Marvel Entertainment umbrella, Iron Man (2008) starring Robert Downey Jr. as the eponymous Iron Man/Tony Stark, Jon Favreau and Kevin Feige sat down to reminisce.

Speaking candidly, Feige admits that it was the “tone” established in that very first MCU movie that set the blueprint for the Marvel Cinematic Universe for over a decade:

That tone that you and Robert discovered on that movie I would say became the template in a way for much of what the MCU became.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in 'Iron Man' (2008)
Credit: Marvel Studios
Favreau replies in agreement, stating that it was overall meant to be — being consistent with the Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee (and creator of the Iron Man character). He cites it as referencing a “little bit of fun” alongside a little “subversiveness”, all while expressing a ton of “heart and earnestness”:
It was very consistent with Stan Lee’s tone, right, but that tone of “a little bit of a fun, a little bit of a subversiveness”, but then also a heart and earnestness to it too.
Tom Holland (Spider-Man) and Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark) in 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' (2017)
Credit: Marvel Studios

Feige addresses Marvel’s “formula”

The two continue, with Feige highlighting specifically that there is absolutely a trick to making these Marvel Studios movies work. He doesn’t shy away from the frequent criticisms that Marvel movies rely “too much” on their formula of humor, and instead openly talks about embracing it, while explaining why it works. He says that the key is about getting the audience to “open up” — once they do so with laughter, that’s when you can “sneak them in with the emotion” — which is exactly what makes up that “Marvel formula”:

When the audience open themselves up to laughter, you can also sneak them in with the emotion. And I think that is why people talk about a “Marvel formula”.

Feige then states that “humor is a big part of it” — because “that’s what we want to go see in theaters”.

Character Lylla and 'Guardians of the Galaxy'. Lylla before 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Vol.3
Credit: Inside the Magic

Interestingly, the most recent Marvel Studios film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a near perfect example of this. Irreverently funny while being gut-punchingly emotional, the latest MCU project took that Iron Man formula and dialed it up to the max — except it was created by their soon-to-be rival, James Gunn. The (now ex) Marvel director is jumping ship to Warner Bros. Discovery’s DC Studios, and will head the superhero studio for the next 10 years. With a DC Studios and DC Universe (DCU) newly reformed under Gunn and Peter Safran as co-CEOs, Marvel Studios will face their biggest competitors ever, potentially expanding and improving on their tried-and-true formula. Now more than ever, the time is ripe for something truly innovative to occur in the superhero film genre.

The entire Iron Man and Marvel Studios retrospective can be viewed here in full:

What do you think about Marvel’s formula and sense of humor? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics have definitely come a long way. Ever since Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) parted from the original six Avengers team, a lot has happened in Marvel Entertainment. Marvel Studios’ recent theatrical release, the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 directed by James Gunn and starring Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord tales his space-roving pals on a final adventure across the galaxy. Upcoming Ironheart Disney+ series stars Marvel Studios newcomer Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams, while Secret Invasion (2023), follows Samuel L. Jackson as Director Nick Fury and tells of his spacetime and Krull-centric exploits. Right now, you can watch Moon Knight (2022), She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (2022), and Netflix Marvel favorites like Daredevil (2016) and Marvel’s Jessica Jones (2015). Don’t want to watch a full series? Check out Marvel Studios Special Presentation short films — from the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022) to Werewolf by Night (2022), there’s something for everyone.

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