Did the phrase “two-part Avengers threequel” really need to be part of our consciousness?
UPDATE FEB. 10: Marvel is bumping back to the release dates the Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Inhumans films as part of a deal to release a Marvel Spiderman movie. The Mary Sue has the details, but here are the basics of the deal: “Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago.”
Yesterday, Marvel unveiled the timeline for the new crop of superhero films it will release over the next five years. In addition to Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Ant-Man (2015), Captain America: Civil War (2016), and Dr. Strange (2016), fans can now look forward to Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Inhumans, and two new Avengers films. I really, really wish I could love this lineup more. Although it’s amazing and bittersweet to see how the nerdy interest that made me an outsider as a kid is now part of our mainstream culture, it’s tough to be excited about Marvel’s impending releases when the company continues to prioritize almost exclusively stories of straight white men.
Back in August, Comics Alliance writer Andrew Wheeler made an interesting and hilarious point about the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s lack of diversity: “If Marvel makes Thor 3 before it makes Black Panther, it will have made ten movies headlined by blond white men named Chris before it makes one movie headlined by someone who isn’t even white.”
Marvel's white canon. Image via Comics Alliance.
Black Panther (to be played by 42’s Chadwick Boseman) will be Marvel’s first non-white male lead and Captain Marvel will feature the character Carol Danvers, making her the cinematic universe’s first female lead. As Wheeler predicted, both films will not see movie screens until 2017 and 2018, respectively. Both will be released after Thor: Ragnarok. I can’t help but ask, “Why?”
The sexist conjecture that female-led films don’t put butts in seats has been disproven time and time again. Furthermore, the exit polls for Guardians of the Galaxy’s opening weekend show that women comprised 44 percent of its audience—a statistic in line with a recent study that claims female moviegoers currently outnumber males. The same study notes that last year Hispanics purchased 25 percent of movie tickets sold despite making up 17 percent of the population, and more African Americans went to the movies in 2013 than they have since 2009. Meanwhile, Marvel-rival DC Comics has its own movie timeline which includes plans for (finally!) a Wonder Woman movie in 2017—one year before Carol Danvers debuts as Captain Marvel. Marvel clearly has a grand plan in mind with its stories, but at this point any reasons offered for the Marvel’s overwhelming whiteness stretching all the way into 2019 are simply out of touch with their audience.
Criticism aside, I don’t intend to knock the strides Marvel as a whole has made. This year alone, Marvel comics introduced a Muslim-American Ms. Marvel (as of July, issue #1 is in its sixth printing), a female Thor, and a black Captain America. I only wish for Marvel Studios to catch up with the comics. Luckily, Marvel has plenty of time to plan the next phase of films—if they wish for their cinematic universe to reflect the increasingly representative comics canon and the growing diversity of Marvel’s audience, they should consider giving these characters the big screen treatment:
Black Widow. Marvel fans have been clamoring for a Black Widow film for years, and Scarlett Johnansson proved her box office power earlier this year when her film Lucy opened against Hercules—starring international favorite Dwayne Johnson—and crushed it by $15 million. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige claims there are no plans for a Black Widow film, citing the hugely important role she plays in the upcoming Avengers-verse films as a reason. Perhaps by the time the (presumably) final Avengers film rolls out in 2019, demand will grow so intense that Feige will have no choice but to give in.
Blade. Entertainment Weekly declared the vampire trend over when Vampire Academy bombed earlier this year, so perhaps it’s for the best that Marvel has no current plans to reboot their superhero/vampire hunter series Blade, the rights to which they recently reacquired from New Line Cinema. But vampires, true to their nature, can’t die, so maybe 4+ years of slumber will give Marvel’s African-American daywalker a chance to regroup and resurface.
The Runaways. If Marvel wants to add a new ensemble-driven franchise to its universe, they should look no further than Runaways. Centered on a group of teens who try to atone for the crimes of their supervillain parents, Runaways boasts a proportionate cast of male and female characters, and the characters themselves could not be more wonderfully different (A Japanese goth girl! A lesbian space alien! An African-American child prodigy! A chubby girl with a pet raptor!). Although a Runaways film has been in multiple stages of development over the years, Marvel shelved the project indefinitely in 2013 following the success of The Avengers. But a script exists, and with Inhumans yet to prove itself, Marvel should start thinking about ensemble-led projects beyond 2018.
People often go to movies to escape reality, but a growing (and vocal) number of moviegoers also wish to see their own reality mirrored back, and it’s high time Marvel pays attention.
Related Reading: A Brief History of Batgirl.
Ariana Vives is the new media intern at Bitch, a graduate student at Portland State University, and still surprised that a Birds of Prey issue she bought on a whim at cover price is now worth $50 on eBay.