Variety has released an extensive cover story alleging a series of crises for the one-time seemingly unstoppable star of Hollywood: Disney’s Marvel Studios, which, facing behind-the-scenes challenges and a scattered plan for its post-Avengers: Endgame movie slate, could consider some very drastic measures to win back fatigued fans.
The trade’s story tackles a series of on- and off-camera issues that have plagued Marvel since 2019’s Avengers: Endgame brought an end to the first decade of Marvel films, an era that had seen Kevin Feige’s studio change the blockbuster movie landscape seemingly forever. From ongoing concerns around building the next “Thanos-level” universe villain around Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror (while the actor is set to go to trial over a series of domestic violence allegations), to overworked VFX houses leading to criticisms of shoddy visuals as well as sparking an unprecedented move to begin unionising the special effects industry, the report goes into an extensive series of issues that has already seen Marvel move to recalibrate some of its plans, not just on the big screen, but in its ambitious streaming push—as recently seen with the refocusing of Disney+’s Daredevil: Born Again.
The Marvels is not seen as being likely to change what some have come to perceive from Marvel’s contemporary output on streaming and on the big screen as a decline in the face of superhero content burnout, as high output across film and TV pressures fans to keep up with projects that are increasingly largely about setting up the Next Big Thing. The Marvels is currently tracking to open to around $US75-80 million in its opening weekend, soft for a film that faced multiple weeks of reshooting as it purportedly struggled to cohere a storyline that didn’t just follow up on the first Captain Marvel movie, but incorporate characters from WandaVision and Ms. Marvel in Teyonah Parris’ Monica Rambeau and Iman Vellani’s Ms. Marvel, respectively.
So what could help soothe Marvel’s pains? Variety reports that at a recent company retreat plans were floated to pivot away from Majors’ Kang as a predominant threat—not just in potential recast, but by pivoting to another character entirely, like the legendary Fantastic Four villain Doctor Doom. That’s a challenge considering Marvel has already announced Kang as a major aspect of its next set of Avengers films, Secret Wars and Kang Dynasty, but even moreso as movement on the Fantastic Four film, now helmed by Matt Shakman after Spider-Man director Jon Watts departed the project, is still in its early days. Fantastic Four, Shawn Levy’s Deadpool 3, as well as plans for the X-Men, are seen as potential bright spots for the studio to focus on now that rights to those characters have reverted in the wake of Disney’s acquisition of Fox.
Another alternative is far wilder, and speaks to Marvel’s desire to re-capitalize on the successes that made it an industry titan in the first place: an Avengers movie that reunites the original cast from the 2012 film. Most of the contracts with those original stars have now expired, and some of the characters themselves have either passed on their mantles—such as Chris Evans’ Captain America, who handed the shield to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s Anthony Mackie and retired as an old man in Endgame—or perished in the climax of the Infinity Saga, like Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow (although that didn’t stop the latter from appearing in a post-Endgame prequel film).
Considering the high cost it would take to bring these stars back after a decade of filmmaking they’ve all largely expressed a desire to move on from in the years since, such an endeavour would be a huge undertaking for Marvel to pull off, one that realigns a lot of its currently announced plans. But things might just end up getting messy enough for the studio to risk it.
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