There's been a shift in power at Marvel studios, and Age of Ultron might have been the tipping point.
Though the film grossed just over a billion dollars (foreign and domestic), it seems that behind closed doors, Disney has been critical of the release. The reviews for the film were less positive than those for the first Avengers movie, and it seems that not enough people went back for a repeat viewing to satisfy the company. From out here, it looks like the film was ridiculously successful. But after watching the restructuring drama at Marvel studios, that might not be the case.
What does any of this have to do with the ousting of Ike Perlmutter?
After working with Perlmutter for years, Feige no longer has to answer to him.
And it sounds like Feige was able to leverage the "failure" of Age of Ultron to his advantage, convincing Disney Executives to give him control of the Marvel films (Perlmutter will still be in charge of the comics and TV series).
"People, basically, didn’t go back for seconds. And as a result, at Disney, it has been dubbed a failure. Which enabled Kevin Feige to use it leverage to push out Isaac Perlmutter, without whom there wouldn’t even be a Marvel Studios. And forced the disbanding of the Marvel Creative Committee a few months ago."
Money has always been an issue.
Perlmutter was famous for cutting corners wherever he could. And the extensive reshoots on Age of Ultron couldn't have been cheap. There are rumors spreading around that said reshoots would not have been necessary had Feige taken the suggestions of the Marvel Creative Committe, a group that has also been disbanded during the power shift.
Full disclosure, I heard rumours long before the release of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, that extensive and expensive re-shoots on the movie could have been avoided if Feige had been receptive to notes. I couldn’t get verification at the time, but, in retrospect, the tea leaves seem to have fallen into place. Could it be that Feige doesn’t want visible second guessing used by the powers that be at Disney – especially when it’s right? Could those notes have saved millions of dollars?
It's not secret that there were problems behind the scenes on Age of Ultron.
Director Joss Whedon blamed the studio for their heavy restrictions on his creative vision. It sounds like Feige is placing the blame on Perlmutter. While neither Perlmutter nor the members of the Creative Committee have commented yet, the pattern here indicates that they'll blame someone else entirely. Why doesn't anyone want to take credit for this movie? All right, maybe it didn't make quite the obscene amount of money projected. And I'll be the first to say that I didn't like it. But by any standard but Marvel's, the movie was ridiculously successful financially. It wasn't their best work, but was it really terrible enough to cause so much drama?
Could it be the fans?
We know Marvel is playing the long game. They have no intention of letting the superhero trend fall out of favor any time soon, and they probably have plans to counteract audience fatigue. Which means that even though the movie did well financially, their reputation might not have come out unscathed. It wasn't just a few well-established reviewers who weren't totally thrilled with the film. Some of the fans were downright pissed.
Your fans are always your harshest critics.
They know what you're capable of, they have the highest expectations, and they'll be the most disappointed if you don't live up to them because they have the most to lose. The financial investment is nothing in comparison to the extremely personal emotional investment fans have. Sure, lots of fans liked the movie. But we could all see where it was rough around the edges. We could all tell there was friction between Whedon and the Studio, long before either one came forward. We pointed out that Black Widow's characterization was completely wrong, long before the actress playing her voiced confusion about the script. We might have loved the fight scenes and the amazing CGI, but none of that was enough to distract us from the somewhat convoluted story or the lack of character development (not just within this movie, but within the cinematic universe as a whole).
So yes, Age of Ultron was a failure.
It failed to live up to the expectations fans had, and it failed to appeal to them in the ways that matter. The question now is: What are Feige and Disney planning on doing about it?