If someone would have told you that a pair of brothers from Cleveland — Joe and Anthony Russo — whose producing and directing credits included TV’s Community and the less-than-memorable You Me And Dupree movie, were destined to be the lynchpins of the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU), you probably would have laughed out loud (maybe you did). However, it’s long been Marvel’s strategy to hire up-and-coming actors, writers, and directors to fill out their superhero films, partly to save money and partly to find diamonds in the rough — both strategies have worked better than anyone could have possibly imagined over the past 10 years and 17 films.
The Russo brothers not only made the leap from TV comedy and B-grade movies to AAA-blockbuster spectacles, but they did so almost overnight. Following their late 2000s work on TV’s Happy Endings, Community, and Animal Practice the Russos made the leap into Marvel films, and they’ve never looked back. Nor should they, their first two Captain America movies (The Winter Soldier, Civil War) are widely considered among the best-of-the-best this genre has produced to-date.
According to ScreenRant, after two incredible Captain America movies and two highly-anticipated Avengers films (Infinity War, and untitled-Avengers-4), they might be walking away from the MCU entirely. That’s kind of shocking. Why would anyone want to walk away from this gig, particularly after so much current and future success? Everyone knows the Avengers films are going to destroy the global box office, so perhaps they’re simply choosing to go out on top?
To solve this particular mystery, it might help to consider the case of their Avengers‘ predecessor, Joss Whedon, who was similarly plucked from genre-defining TV runs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhouse by Marvel to write and direct the first two Avengers films. Whedon enjoyed extraordinary success with both Avengers projects, and similarly chose to walk away, citing burnout, fatigue, etc. The scope, scale, and pressure inherent to making those films took a toll on Whedon, and it seems the same might be true for the Russos.
During a recent press event for Only the Brave, actor Josh Brolin (who plays Thanos in the upcoming Avengers films) shed some possible light on the topic:
I think that [the Russos are] in a position very openly and raw-ly where they’re like, ‘We would never do this again. This is a one-time deal. To put this many successful actors together is such a pain in the ass, but it’s been worth it. We’re doing two movies. One back to back, and this is it for us. Then we’ll go off in another direction,’ but this is a very, very, very ambitious project that I think is going to pay off in a big way.”
Brolin makes a great point. Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 are Marvel’s biggest films by a landslide, the cast includes more than a dozen top Hollywood stars, and the films have the burden of concluding the first decade of the MCU. It’s hard to imagine anyone not being exhausted and ready for a long hiatus.
The Russos also have several new TV and film projects in-development, including an adaptation of the classic Walter Hill, gang-crime thriller The Warriors (1979). Given the street credit they’ve earned from their Marvel work, it’s easy to imagine the Russos having their pick of projects going forward. However, if-and-when they do step away from the MCU, it will be a major loss for the brand… at least until Marvel discovers their next talented young creator from the ranks of TV, streaming, YouTube, indie, or whatever emerging media produces tomorrow’s MCU stars.
Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters on May 4, 2018.