Note: If you haven’t yet seen Captain America: Civil War, this post contains spoilers.

As the executive producer of every Marvel film project, Marvel president Kevin Feige presides over every creative move, every casting choice, every storytelling twist and every character’s fate in the expansive, shared cinematic landscape that today is every bit as groundbreaking as the comics company’s early efforts.

As Captain America: Civil War sets the stage for Marvel’s wildly ambitious Phase 3 – which encompasses no less than 11 announced films to date – Fandango convened with the MCU’s behind-the-scenes leader to get a glimpse at what promises to be the most epic franchise effort in the history of filmmaking.

Fandango: With this movie being the big Phase Three kickoff, what was the tone you wanted to set?

Kevin Feige: I think what the Russos do so well, and we always try to do, is that balance of tone. You’ve heard them talk about that. [Writers] Chris [Markus] and Steve [McFeely] are masters of it. You need a lot of humor in any of our films – I think that’s what bonds an audience to your characters and to the film itself.

But the story we’re telling, you didn't want to pull all your punches, and you want it to get pretty serious and pretty emotional. Certainly not just because the characters are hitting each other, but because — spoiler before the movie comes out — the revelations that Tony learns about what his good friend’s best friend has done, which gets pretty emotional. You want them both. You want those peaks and valleys.

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It was always the plan to leave them fractured, to leave the team at odds… for all intents and purposes, when we meet them in the future, they are all over the place.

Fandango: How do you handle what you reveal about important characters like Black Panther and Spider-Man at this stage, when they still have solo films coming?

Feige: Well, the perfect balance of that is having their presence inform the story that you’re telling in the movie that you’re watching. And certainly with Panther, that was about having somebody that wasn’t just Team Iron Man or Team Cap, who had a very personal stake in it for obvious reasons, and who had a chance to learn the truth and evolve as a character over the course of the movie.

 

Then with Spidey, having somebody come into the mix who isn’t aware of any of the politics or any of the various factions, and just has the joy of being a superhero still very fresh in his mind, and allowing Tony to see that, and even Cap to see that, to remind him of their journeys and maybe to try to get back in touch with that, is what we wanted to do.

Fandango: What genres or categories will Black Panther and Spider-Man fall into?

Feige: Well, it’s not always a hard-and-fast rule and a single thing. You’ve heard us talk about the John Hughes movies and the high school life in the Spidey film. What Ryan Coogler is working on right now in the early days of putting that Black Panther film together is a very sweeping sort of geopolitical movie, set within the wonder of Wakanda and the action of the Panther.

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Fandango: We got a really fresh, nontraditional interpretation of Aunt May in Civil War via Marisa Tomei. Are we going to see reconceived familiar Spider-Man characters or new characters?

Feige: I think it’ll be a combination. The great thing about the Spidey characters is that there are a lot of them. A lot of them have been in other films. A lot of them from the comics haven’t been in other films yet. We’ll do a combination of both.

Fandango: Will the two Infinity War films cap off The Avengers? Or even work as the big finale for all three phases thus far?

Feige: The way Civil War is a very important and great piece of the overall MCU, it’s also a great trilogy capper for the story that started with The First Avenger. I think that the fourth Avengers stand-alone film is very much a culmination of the first three phases, and then seeing where we go beyond that.

Fandango: How will Guardians 2 be different? Will it still have all the connections to the earthbound MCU?

Feige: Well, like the first Guardians, it is almost entirely self-contained. I mean, the movie is about the Guardians and about Peter learning about his parentage and really focusing on those characters.

And you’ve seen James [Gunn] has been vocal online talking about some aspects of the story. I think it’s fair to say that like the first film, humor, music, but the most important thing – and the thing that James is masterful at – is the camaraderie and the friendship and the notion of family and getting much more poignant and emotional than one would expect, based on the fact that there’s a talking raccoon and a tree flying a spaceship.

Fandango: As you know very well, there’s an increasing interest in female superheroes. Can you tell us anything about the Captain Marvel story?

Feige: We’re honing in on it. I think we’ll be announcing a filmmaker in the next month or two, and probably some cast members later in the summer, at the end of the summer. So I think it’s too early to specifically say this. But very much it’s about Carol Danvers and that journey to being Captain Marvel.

Fandango: Based on the success of the R-rated Deadpool, do you think that we will see edgier, grittier, darker material in a future Disney/Marvel movie than what we’ve seen to this point?

Feige: I think there’s some pretty dark, edgy moments in Civil War. But I certainly don’t think there’s any need or any internal pressure on our part to make things any grittier or any darker than, again, those peaks and valleys naturally take us in our storytelling.

Fandango: How frequently do you look at or reevaluate the status of your established characters like the Hulk or Black Widow or Hawkeye or Vision?

Feige: Usually as we start to need to firm up plans, years and years in advance, is when that happens… Hulk’s presence in Thor: Ragnarok came up naturally as that movie was coming together and being developed. I think it’s going to blow people away when they see that.

Fandango: Can you speak to how big his presence is in the movie?

Feige: No, but it will be a satisfying presence. I certainly hope.

Captain America: Civil War is in theaters now.