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Reshoots, delays and ‘dislike-bombing’: What to know about The Marvels’ tumultuous back story

NEW YORK – The long-awaited superhero sequel The Marvels is finally at multiplexes, but the tumultuous back story behind the film makes this release something different.

The movie, now showing in Singapore cinemas and starring Brie Larson as Carol Danvers (aka Captain Marvel), is facing projections of lower-than-usual ticket sales for Marvel Studios along with chatter about the uncertainty of the Oscar-winning American actress’ future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Box-office analysts have predicted a North American opening weekend haul of US$75 million (S$102 million) to US$80 million, which would be a disappointment for a studio that historically has seen its superhero films regularly debut above the US$100 million mark.

The release comes in the same year as another shaky Marvel Studios entry, Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, which, with a US$476 million worldwide gross after its February premiere, recorded one of the MCU’s worst performances at the box office.

The Marvels continues the story of Captain Marvel (2019), one of the studio’s best-performing titles (US$1.1 billion worldwide). That film’s release, though, was positioned favourably between Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019), the gold standards of the superhero era and two of the highest-grossing films of all time (not adjusted for inflation).

Directed by Nia DaCosta, The Marvels, in particular, appears to be a tough project to break through the fog of so-called superhero fatigue. Promotion around the film has been affected by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists strike.

Even so, it is billed as an ensemble movie in which two of its central trio of stars – Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau and Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan (or Ms Marvel, the MCU’s first Muslim superhero) – are, to the wider world, relative unknowns.

The film’s release may also be affected by the biases of some fans who are uninterested in a project featuring female superheroes. Earlier this year, when the first trailer for The Marvels was released, news reports noted that many fans had appeared to “dislike-bomb” the video.

Within hours of its posting on YouTube, the trailer received hundreds of thousands of dislikes along with negative comments about the cast. (The site removed the dislike counter in 2021, though online tools make the number viewable to users.)

As for Larson, speculation has swirled over her possible disillusionment with the MCU as a result of the intense and often sexist backlash she has received from audiences.

In October, Joanna Robinson, co-author of MCU: The Reign Of Marvel Studios, claimed that Larson “doesn’t want to play Carol Danvers anymore”. Larson herself addressed the online hate that led to fans review-bombing the original film on RottenTomatoes.com. Many of the negative reviews, which were removed by the site, referred to Larson’s pre-release comments about wanting to ensure greater diversity among journalists covering the movie. When Variety asked in 2022 in a red carpet interview how long she planned to play Danvers, she responded pointedly: “I don’t know. Does anyone want me to do it again?”

Additionally, getting The Marvels to the finish line required four weeks of reshoots and a premiere date that was pushed back multiple times. Those delays prompted DaCosta to complete post-production remotely in London while she began work on her next film, a move that has fuelled gossip about trouble behind the scenes.

DaCosta, though, dismissed the speculation in a recent interview with YouTuber Jake Hamilton. “Actually, at the time that I left to go to London to start prep on my next film, everyone was so clear about what the film was, what we wanted, everyone knew what I wanted,” she said. “So it really wasn’t the dramatic sort of thing that I think people are feeling like it is.”

So how is Marvel feeling about its future? Earlier this year, in an interview with the Movie Business Podcast, the studio’s long-time head Kevin Feige appeared unfazed about the idea of superhero fatigue, saying that people have been asking about that since his second year on the job.

Instead, he emphasised the importance of narrative, saying that if their film-makers were able to tell the story right, they could make “any type of movies that share two things: the Marvel Studios logo above the title and a seed of an idea from our publishing history”. NYTIMES

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