June 25, 2024

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The Marvels’ box office flop marks the end of an era for the studio’s winning formula–and the beginning of a new one for Hollywood’s workers

2 min read

The Marvels opened this month with the lowest box-office numbers of any of the 33 movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While that obviously isn’t good news for Marvel Studios, it’s not as if its producers suddenly forgot how to make entertaining movies: audiences will likely show up again, especially when an MCU movie has “Avengers” or “X-Men” in the title.

It does mark the end of an era of unquestioned dominance–and because Marvel has set the pace for Hollywood for the past 15 years, its current situation helps illuminate Hollywood’s future trajectory.

While some fans might say that the history of Marvel Studios is bookended by Fantastic Four movies or Blade movies, the studio’s history isn’t delineated by cosmic rays or vampire hunters, but by writers’ strikes.

The Writers Guild of America went on strike in 2007-8 and again this year. In between those two labor disputes, Marvel Studios built itself into one of the dominant players in Hollywood, transforming from a scrappy independent studio owned by a struggling toy company into the Disney division responsible for the most successful movie franchise of all time, 32 movies grossing $29.5 billion and counting.

Each of those strikes forced Marvel to answer serious questions about how it was going to make entertainment about superheroes in flying armor and capes.

The solution for almost every problem

In 2007, the studio was scrambling to finish its first movie, Iron Man, before the WGA prohibited its members from contributing any further work. The movie had been shot and edited and was coming together in post-production–except that the final battle, between Tony Stark and his rival Obadiah Stane, was a boring slugfest between two men in metal suits, lacking the character and the wit that animated the rest of the movie.

Just before the WGA told its members “pencils down,” screenwriters Art Marcum and Matt Holloway concocted a new scene, where Stark would realize…

Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, Gavin Edwards

2023-11-24 06:24:15

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