A concerning trend is beginning to develop for The Walt Disney Company. Just as Lucasfilm was consumed by a particular penchant for controversy and lackluster output, so to Marvel (and even Pixar) are starting to trend in that direction. While Kevin Feige was perhaps the most successful producer in the history of cinema by developing a decade-long plot for established superheroes in the Americana mythos, the shift to a new strategy for Marvel moving forward has been abrupt and jarring — so much so, that a certain blue hedgehog may be outpacing a major Marvel movie for the first time.
Consider the trajectories of the two studios over the past decade. For Lucasfilm, the development of a Star Wars sequel trilogy and spinoff movies was completed with essentially no preplanned roadmap. Each entry was written and directed by new teams (other than a single return from JJ Abrams), often with those teams being replaced mid-production by Lucasfilm studio head, Kathleen Kennedy. Star Wars movies tried unsuccessfully to cater to Chinese markets, usually at the expense of the overall narrative, while simultaneously promoting Hollywood’s version of feminism. Trying to get those two contradictory worlds into the same box was a juxtaposition that created bizarro, substandard Star Wars films.
I don’t mean to beat a very dead horse, but take The Last Jedi as an example. The film had every reason in the world to do a billion and a half to two billion dollars in revenue. But Lucasfilm unwisely tried to placate two opposing worldviews. On the one hand, the movie was about a young woman who was supposed to be a pupil of the greatest hero in the galaxy. The subverted expectation here was that it turned out the young woman was already better than the greatest hero, who in fact was a pathetic hermit. But there was another half to the movie. In the B Story, a person of African descent and a person of Asian descent discover that capitalism is evil, slavery (of animals in this case) gives them a common enemy to rail against, and the two discover romantic love for one another. Again, the subverted expectation was that the ethnically Asian character and the ethnically African character have so much in common that they share a love for one another.
Except that neither story worked. Western audiences rejected The Last Jedi – other than the grovel-for-access media – because the story disrespected Luke Skywalker, perhaps the greatest hero in science fiction. Asian audiences likewise rejected the movie because they had no interest in Star Wars… little alone a movie that tried to preach the evils of capitalism to them from one of the largest corporations in the world.
And so Lucasfilm has limped along ever since, each attempt they make receiving less and less interest from the fans that they have left. They more or less now function as a punching bag online, a joke generator for YouTubers and fan forums. Remember the High Republic?
The trajectory for Marvel Studios was much different. Up until Captain Marvel, each film that Marvel Studios put out was generating increasing interest, and a trend of revenue growth. Sure, there were some stinkers like Ironman 2, but the overall movement was up, up, and away. I say “up until Captain Marvel” because that was the first movie that indicated Kevin Feige was losing his Midas touch.
After the immense success of Guardians of the Galaxy, a film buoyed by the comedic genius of Chris Pratt and the exemplar directing of James Gunn (a person of degenerate morality but incredible filmmaking talent), it seems that Kevin Feige believed Marvel could succeed apart from the mainline heroes everyone knew and loved. After all, if a CGI tree that said only one phrase could build rapport with audiences, surely Feige could make anything a blockbuster with the right formula! Captain Marvel would be his first attempt, shoehorning a hero into the grand finale of his Marvel Studios decade-long plan, and believing consumers would buy her up simply off of her gender and her immediate coronation within the narrative. And while the Captain Marvel movie was successful, the character was ultimately written almost completely out of Endgame, and removed from the title of the Captain Marvel sequel film.
“We have audiences that seem to be embracing whether they’ve heard of the characters or not.” — Kevin Feige
Now that we are years past the grand finale of the Infinity Stones Saga which started the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Feige seems intent on producing films from lesser known properties. Simultaneously, it is apparent that these films are following the Lucasfilm modus operandi for unsuccess: cater to Chinese (or Indian) audiences at the cost of narrative, while simultaneously marinating the film in the Hollywood worldview of postmodern neomarxism. For those who might not be familiar with the term, postmodernism is the worldview of skepticism or criticism of enlightened rationality (i.e. when someone tells you “their truth” instead of “the truth”), while neomarxism is the shifting of Marxism from history being about the economically oppressed and oppressors to history being all about the power/hierarchical oppressed and oppressors (i.e. the idea that women have been oppressed throughout history).
And just as we watched Lucasfilm bring Star Wars from a golden goose to a near-guaranteed dud, Marvel is now moving into the same territory of releasing films with a thud. While they attempt to weave the Hollywood worldview into their films, they simultaneously attempt to placate the Chinese Communist Party… and to little avail. Both of Marvel’s upcoming films, focused on “diversity”, are facing uphill battles in entering Beijing.
But at least they’ll be popular in the west, right? Think again.
The Eternals when Thanos wiped out half of the life on planet: pic.twitter.com/5Y6ppLEcZo
— @WatchmenID (@WatchmenID) May 25, 2021
The Eternals watching thousands of years of slavery go by pic.twitter.com/RnjfE6b2tK
— Ricky Vaughn (@CamronSanto) May 25, 2021
Unless the Eternals sent that rat to rescue Scott or fiddled with Tony's research on time travel, they've got some splainin' to do before Earth accepts them as heroes. #Marvel pic.twitter.com/Lhf4vpm4dz
— Michelle (@Mommyneedsnap) May 25, 2021
While audiences seem to enjoy the potential cinematography of the trailer for The Eternals, the movie is also being mocked… which is odd for a trailer that is intentionally being presented in a very serious tone. As an example, one of the most upvoted comments on the trailer is:
“Thanos: I am… inevitable.
Tony Stark: And I… am… Iron Man.
Eternals: And we’re… on… the VACATION.”
But the marketing machine for Disney and Marvel has ramped up. It looks like it’s trending on Twitter and taking off all over the world! Except… it isn’t. Over the past months, we’ve used search engine results to figure out what’s really getting audiences excited and what isn’t. And despite some critics who claimed it was an amateurish means of data collection, it happened to be, over time, absolutely spot on without fail. It turns out that what people are trying to search for is much, much better for judging interest rather than what Twitter manipulates to trend. So, I did a quick comparison of search engine results for The Mandalorian versus The Eternals. Aaaaand, needless to say, this was the most eye-catching result we’ve seen yet:
The blue line is interest in The Mandalorian, the red line is interest in The Eternals:
I was so shocked by this result that I did a new cross-reference. Over the past few days, the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 script has partially leaked. It made a bit of news across the web, but nothing major. Audiences are excited for the Sonic sequel, but a partial leak of a script shouldn’t come close in interest to the massive reveal of a new Marvel movie…
… but look at this:
The blue line is Sonic the Hedgehog, the red line is Eternals, and this only covers the past two days:
So let me get this straight? With all the hooplah surrounding The Eternals, it got a quick blip of interest, and then was often eclipsed or running even with Sonic the Hedgehog? On the day that The Eternals’ trailer launched?
It’s time to start wondering if Kevin Feige has lost his touch. Without much in the wings to get excited for when it comes to Marvel, it’s beginning to look a lot like Lucasfilm. What is out there on the horizon for Star Wars? Maybe Gina Carano coming back for The Mandalorian? Maybe some of the Favreau Filoni series on Disney+ will be recapture the fun? And what is out there for Marvel? I suppose Guardians of the Galaxy 3 will be good in a few years; but that’s it for Gunn and Bautista, so there’s no growth there. Doctor Strange might be good. But honestly, it’s time to stop playing around with Z-tier stories and characters. Where are the X-Men?
For Marvel, for Lucasfilm, and for Disney, it’s about time they figure out that they purchased these properties for a reason. It wasn’t to take obscure characters nobody knows or cares about, retrofit them with Hollywood’s politics, and then try to make that palatable to China and India. International markets want Luke Skywalker and Spiderman for the same reasons the United States does. The quicker Disney figures this out, the quicker they can fix their abysmal growth in Disney+ subscribers over the past quarter. Otherwise, Sonic the Hedgehog is about to run laps around them.
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