By Anne Huang
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not just a blockbuster franchise that makes cash rain cats-and-dogs into Disney’s wallets. The MCU is also a living representation of how passion and hard work combining with an ideology can make anything and everything happen. Nobody believed in the first Iron Man movie in 2008, and they were even more ambivalent of what Robert Downey Jr. would bring to this jeopardized project dirty past. But today, the MCU is the highest grossing film franchise of all time, with a total worldwide box office gross of almost 17 billion, and became the first successful example of the “cinematic universe between individual movies” idea.
Marvel is known to hire lesser-known directors for their projects, and they only truly ask the directors back for the sequel depending on the previous movie. It’s even rarer for them to allow the directors to make anything other than their sequel. But the Russo brothers not only directed two out of three of the Captain America movies, but they were also assigned to direct Avengers Infinity War and its sequel.
The Russo brothers were fairly unknown and under the radar until their project with Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The movie to this day holds the top spot for the highest audience score on rotten tomatoes (surpassing even the original 2008 iron man the first Avengers movie in 2012), officially marking it as the most popular Marvel film among its audiences and fandom.
But there is right now a vague and empty spot within the MCU power hierarchy. The originals have retired. Joss Whedon has confirmed that he is done with Marvel. Despite the fact that Jon Favreau will forever be credited and appreciated for his contribution with the first Iron Man film, he most likely would not be returning to direct any upcoming Marvel films anytime soon. So that leaves an empty space to fill in the MCU hierarchy, and who is going to fill that up? Only true Marvel fans are aware of this rising power aside from Kevin Feige himself, and that is the Russo Brothers.
The Russo brothers are (and rightfully so) credited with transforming the character image and reputation of Captain America with the fans through their portrayal of him in the Winter Soldier. The Winter Soldier, however, everyone how Steve Rogers was more than just a shield, and it showed how a good movie and a good direction can “cool-life” even the cheesiest characters (if you don’t agree, go watch the 1990s version of Captain America).
Just from the three Marvel films, the Russo Brothers have gifted us, they have demonstrated an excellent skill in evoking emotion, depth, and well-written story-lines in their movies. What makes them truly shine is how they are able to combine Marvel’s iconic humor with their own series plots.
Always working in duos, the brothers are also clever enough to be each other’s two brains. Their acting, writing and producing experiences also heavily aid in their ability as director and the skill in pleasing their audiences. The brothers were raised in Cleveland, Ohia, and began directing, writing and producing their first film, Pieces soon after graduating their universities. They only made about 3 movies, each receiving more attention from the Hollywood one after the other before being picked as one the 10 directors Marvel executives (including Kevin Feige) were choosing from to direct the upcoming Captain America: Winter Soldier. The rest is history.
It was not an easy process. According to the brothers themselves, the process of choosing took around 2 months, with Marvel getting more specific every single time on what their visions are for the project they are chosen. They had to make countless reference videos, storyboards, scripts, and even a 30-page book that included everything they would do to the character and the movie in general.
Those hard work looking back was obviously worth it. Thanks to their work with Marvel is now the 10th-highest grossing director by worldwide boxy office of all time, with a consecutive total of $3.968 billion. So right now, the closest thing to filing that missing spot in MCU’s power hierarchy is these two brothers. They have already made a significant impact within and outside of the MCU, most recently breaking records after records with Avengers: Infinity War. They are the next big thing in the directing world, and it would be very interesting to observe their growth and evolvement in this industry in the coming future.