How Worried is Marvel Anyway?

How Worried is Marvel Anyway?

To tell you the truth, I didn’t think they were capable of worry.  I was comfortably certain that Marvel Studios had convinced itself that it was way too big and successful to fail.

And then I saw this trailer for Marvel Phase IV.

In no way, is a trailer that spends two-thirds of its runtime concentrating on nostalgia, a ringing declaration of confidence in its future. Marvel is worried and this trailer shows it.

Why?

Well, let’s take a look at where this situation came from.  

In 1967, Isaac Perlmutter emigrated from Israel to New York City.  He showed up with $250 in his pocket.  This Israeli made a living as a Street Arab (heh) selling toys and beauty products on the streets.  If you are familiar with these guys, then you will know that they are getting their hands on remaindered merchandise that was returned to companies as defective and were supposed to be sent to the dump. 

Ike turned this into a lateral move of selling surplus stock and end-of-the-line items.  Basically, Perlmutter was a middleman for merchandise that cost him pretty close to nothing.  And this also helped him develop an eye for undervalued businesses. 

Skipping ahead. In 1996 the Marvel Group went bankrupt.  Ike Perlmutter and fellow Israeli Avi Arad pushed out Carl Icahn and Ronald Perelman took over Marvel and created Marvel Entertainment.  Of the two, Arad was the real comic book fan.  He grew up in Israel reading Superman and (the real) Captain Marvel comics.

As is well known, in order to get Marvel Entertainment out of hock, the movie rights to a huge number of their A-List superheroes were licensed out.  And as luck would have it, Avi Arad was in a position to be the producer or executive producer of all of the properties that Marvel Entertainment had licensed out.  

In fairness to Arad, this was a pretty good deal for Marvel as well.  Up until this deal was in place, Marvel Comics only ever got a few points here and there from media tie-ins.   From X-Men on out, Marvel was getting real money.

In 2007, Ike Perlmutter decided that Marvel studios had enough movie-making lessons learned under its belt to start making films all on their own.  Keven Feige, Avi Arad’s right-hand man during the X-Men days, got his boss’s job and Avi Arad left Marvel Studios.

By 2009 Marvel Studios had already had a big win with Iron Man and had a strong pipeline of productions ongoing with Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man 2.  Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion, and it was a bargain.  Disney has grossed better than 18 billion and that is just box office receipts. That doesn’t include everything else Marvel brings to the party in terms of merchandise.

However, there was trouble in paradise.  Perlmutter and Arad were both immigrants with the typical love of America that immigrants used to bring to that party.  Kevin Feige on the other hand is a Jewish kid from California, which to say he’s a hard-core America hating Leftie.  Gratitude towards Perlmutter turned into chaffing at his pro-American restrictions as the years rolled on.  

The Hollywood cocktail party circuit Feige was on, kept wondering when Marvel was going to become more progressive and lean into social justice.  Feige could do nothing but shrug and say, it’s out of my hands. Although, he repeatedly tried to sell Black Panther to Ike Perlmutter, who didn’t give a damn about Black Panther.  Perlmutter thought it was off mission.

Then in 2014, Sony’s Amazing Spider-man 2 severely underperformed against expectations.  It was supposed to break a billion dollars and it ended up in the mid-seven hundred millions. Both critical and fan responses were hostile and most worrying of all, the domestic box office fell off a cliff in the second week. It was down 71% from opening night.  This hit the theaters especially hard.  

Quick recap of how theater revenue currently works.  In the first week, the studio gets 90% of the box office take. Then in the second week, the theaters get a bigger percentage, and by the end of the theatrical run, a film’s revenue is supposed to be about a fifty/fifty split between theaters and studios.  But if a film has no legs, then the theaters get taken to the freaking cleaners, which is what happened with Amazing Spiderman 2. They weren’t going to be putting Amazing Spiderman 3 on half their house screens for those numbers.

At that point Sony went to Bob Iger and said, look Spiderman is your property too. In the long term, you are getting hurt just as bad as we are because of brand damage to your property. We need your help. So, Iger went to Feige.

Bob Iger (toothy grin he perfected as a weatherman): I need you to repair Spider-man.

Kevin Feige (sensing opportunity):  I’d love to Bob but there is just s-o-o-o much on my plate right now.

Bob Iger (toothy grin, even brighter): I know but surely you can find the time.  Wouldn’t you love to work on Spider-man you fat comic book nerd.

Kevin Feige (shrugs): Sorry.  No. Can. Do.

Bob Iger (toothy grin vanishing like a light turned off): What do you want?

Kevin Feige: I want to make Black Panther and Ike is planted in the way like a roadblock. 

Bob Iger: And you want your boss’s job. Fine.  

The fact was, Iger was not all that comfortable with the opinions of a man who would go on to join President Trump’s kitchen cabinet.  Especially as Bob was beginning to harbor ambitions of being president himself. So, a reorganization was announced, and Ike Perlmutter was given a “window seat.”  

Black Panther was unquestionably a box-office success.  It raked in $1.35 billion and even pulled down $100 million in China. Panther was the first Marvel movie that Feige made without Ike Perlmutter.  

So, here’s the important question.  How good was it, really? By now most of you know me well enough to know that if I think a movie is good, I’m not going to care about its politics.  Quality is rare enough in this world without political qualifiers attached.

There plenty of people whose opinions I respect or at least willingly tolerate who say that it’s a great movie.  I’m not one of them.  I don’t think it was terrible, but it wasn’t in Captain America or Iron Man’s league.  For that matter, I don’t think it was as good as Thor.  Loud, blowy-uppy middle-of-the-road action movie.  Even its biggest fans admit the CG is terrible.  A lot of the major plot points were just silly. T’Challa was already Black Panther in Civil War.  Which means T’Chaka had given up the power of the Panther to his son before his death.  Okay, makes sense in terms of regime protection.  BUT T’Challa then has to give up the power of the Panther and win the throne through trial by combat.  Then he has to do it again later in the movie.  Does he have to do the same thing every time, anybody challenges him?  Frankly, most African bush tribes have a more stable system of government than that.

Most important, I was never given an answer to the question; why should I like T’Challa?

Tony Stark had a roguish charm and redemption arc. Steve Rogers was a weak and sickly kid who wouldn’t stay on the ground when bullies put him there, and he still tried to do the right every time. Thor was initially quite dislikable. A spoiled wastrel Prince but one who earned the audience’s affection on his road to atonement. 

But the only reason I was ever given for liking T’Challa is that I’m not allowed not to.  He is entitled to it.

Carol Danvers has the same issue.  Captain Marvel is really the first of the Phase IV film, the M-She-U.  And the audience was supposed to like her because she was entitled to that affection for being the first female superhero. Ever, (even if I can recall a few others, she’s actually the first).  There was no other reason given to like her.

While you could sympathize with the Scarlett Witch’s grief.  Again, entitlement came crashing over her, when Monica Rambeau said to her, “they will never know what you sacrificed.”  That one line broke the series. Monica was providing validation for Wanda’s horrifying crimes in the town of West View.  The Scarlett Witch had enslaved an entire population and kept everyone’s children locked in their rooms for weeks because she felt sad.  But apparently, Wanda was the one making the heroic sacrifice in letting them go free.

Although, that wasn’t WandaVision’s biggest problem.  It’s biggest problem was that people stopped streaming the show after Gina Carano was fired.

Disney has been EARNING a lot of ill-will in recent years. It’s become ever more rapacious in the past fifteen.  It has become far too big for anyone’s comfort. It gets laws changed that it finds inconvenient. The parks primarily cater to the rich at this point.  And everyone lives in terror of a Disney lawsuit.  

Disney now enjoys a reputation for being a corporate bully.  This is something the Right and Left agree on for once.

Carano’s firing was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  People had had enough of Disney’s shit.  Social media engagement with WandVision cratered.  Falcon and the Winter Soldier didn’t do much better.  The rumor is that a huge number of people stopped streaming the show cold at the exact moment when the cops started hassling Sam.  I know that solipsism isn’t scientific data, but I also know that that was the scene where I had had enough of the show too.

Feige appears to be a very committed SJW.  The Marvel Comics titles of the mid-twenty-teens were the worst-selling in the company’s history.  There are fifty years of better stories than those godawful Woke bombs from five years ago. And Kevin Feige has drastically over-committed the company to bringing the worst, most fan-rejected stories in the history of Marvel Comics to the big screen. After Guardians of Galaxy came out of nowhere for a major win and the box-office success of such mediocre fare as Black Panther and Captain Marvel, Feige must have gone into a delusion bubble where he thought he could be Woke AF and still be the biggest producer in history.  

I’m not sure I can blame him.  For a long time it looked like Marvel fans would watch anything with the Marvel name on it.

But how much its success in 2019 was inertia?

People were used to a high level of storytelling quality with Marvel but the last movie that met that benchmark was Avenger’s Infinity War which was greenlit in 2014 by Ike Perlmutter.  There has been a definite downhill slide in narrative quality since then.

Why did Marvel release that trailer?  It felt for all the world like damage control.  

Look guys! Remember Stan Lee? It’s Stan remember?  Oh, and here’s a scene you liked from a movie you saw years ago, remember?!  And here’s another scene and another, all from Marvel films! Do you remember? Sure, you remember!  We’ve always delivered for you in the past, which means we will always deliver for you in the future! 

But then came the final third part of the trailer.

 Here’s Black Widow, we know you like her. And this is Shang-Chi, we really think the Chinese will warm to him no matter what they are saying now. Here’s a couple of brief seconds from The Eternals and yeah, we know it’s gonna bomb.  Kevin didn’t greenlight that one it was Fox project we inherited.

Marvel’s 2021 theatrical slate, after a yearlong absence is one film that is testing well, one certain bomb and one probable.

What the future brings will be worth the wait.

Once more, that tone of shaken confidence. Will it indeed?  Of all the films on their future slate, the only one I’m interested in seeing is Guardians of the Galaxy III and that won’t be in the theaters until 2023.

And what the hell is The Marvels? That was Captain Marvel 2, back in December.

Okay, I’m done here.

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