Marvel has done it again. And they only have themselves to blame for the controversy. For some reason, we expect successful people and industries to right the wrongs of our society. So when they behave like a successful company instead of social trailblazers, we scald them for their insensitivity.
What I am referring to is the recent decision by Marvel to delay “Captain Marvel,” the first female led Marvel movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for the sequel to Ant-Man (“Ant-Man and the Wasp”).
The decision makes perfect financial sense. Ant-Man was another very successful movie for the MCU. And smart movie production companies follow up successful films with more, similarly themed successful films. Captain Marvel, on the other hand, carries with it a financial risk. And it’s not because Captain Marvel is based on a female character that it is a riskier proposition. The risk comes from Captain Marvel being an obscure superhero whose earning potential is unknown.
All the cost of a movie happen upfront. Movies studios pay anywhere from $100-200 million to make and advertise a new film before a single dime in revenue comes in. That is why when a movie is successful, dozens of movies just like it come out. Movies studios must limit the risks they take because losing money multiple pictures will put that studio out of business.
So the issue here is not Marvel making the smart financial decision to release the likely to be successful Ant-Man sequel before the more risky Captain Marvel. The issue is why is it taking 11 years from the release of the first Iron Man for the MCU to put out its first female driven movie? Are misogynistic men in suits sitting around a table in an office somewhere vowing to delay the presence of a lead female as long as they can? Or do they delay these movies because audiences still won’t flock to a female driven superhero movie?
I cannot answer those last two questions with any certainty. I doubt movie studios would hold back on films with strong female leads if they thought it would bring a strong profit. But how can they know for certain until they try it? Focus group data can only go so far.
And is the superhero audience really that hesitant to pay money to see such a film? As pointed out by fellow 4LNer, Stephen, the previous attempts at superhero films with a female lead (“Elektra,” “Catwoman”) may be making the studios hesitant to try one again.
But those were horribly made films. A female lead was not what made those movies unwatchable. Let’s hope “Captain Marvel,” delay and all, will be done properly and be successful so studios will no longer have any reason to be so hesitant.