Wakanda ever? Why Bob Iger Is Wrong About No More MCU Sequels

Everyone knows that Marvel is going through a tough time right now. While the studio’s latest feature, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, grossed over $120 million in its opening weekend, received some pretty brutal reviews from critics and audiences, and subsequent weekends saw a sharp decline in attendance. The Paul Rudd/Jonathan Majors threequel is the rare Marvel film to have less shooting than its predecessors, and many outlets, including Variety and Digital Trends, have openly questioned the brand’s value. Is the once-mighty Marvel Studios finally experiencing audience fatigue?

That question was surprisingly answered, in a way, by The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger, who gave a talk at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference this week that covered all sorts of topics: Marvel , Star Wars, the future of Disney. Parks, say it. As for Marvel, Iger said that “sequels have usually worked well for us. Do you need a third and a quarter, for example? Or is it time to switch to other characters?” It’s a rhetorical question, of course, as the most powerful man in Hollywood openly questions Marvel’s largely profitable strategy of churning out three-quels (since 2013 Iron Man 3 for the past month Quantum mania) and the odd fourquel (the awful 2022 Thor: Love and Thunder). But is he right? And if it isn’t, what should Marvel’s approach be after a rare, and very public, failure?

Is Iron Man 4 off the table now?

Taking Iger’s comments at face value, it’s clear that he’s referring to the disappointing performance of the third Ant-Man film. Many people questioned the need for a third Ant-Man movie even before Quantum mania opened, and the tepid reception seemed to confirm those early fears.

Does this mean there are no more sequels for other popular Marvel characters? Iron Man is dead, sure, but the multiverse can bring anyone back. just look at Loki and his amazing Disney+ sci-fi show. Is Iron Man 4 starring an alternate Tony Stark now impossible? Since its disastrous big-budget fall in 2020 DolittleDowney was low-key, preferring to produce such high-profile TV shows as Perry Mason (now returning for a second season on HBO Max) and Sweet tooth, which is the rare success of a comic book adaptation to get a second season on the canceling streamer. It’s not hard to imagine the actor returning to a role he a.) clearly enjoyed playing and b.) audiences loved watching.

Actually, let’s imagine it. Like almost every Marvel comic book character, the Tony Stark version of Iron Man has had many iterations over the years. There are too many to list without this turning into a comic book nerd wormhole, but it’s not too hard to imagine Downey Jr. playing Iron Man Noir (in an alternate universe with Iron Man living in the 1940s) or an Iron Man who becomes the Sorcerer Supreme.

Iron Man 2020 poses in a marvel comic.

Hell, it’s plausible that the actor might play Arno Stark, a future relative of Tony commonly known to fans as Iron Man 2020. Imagine what a feature film of this with Downey as Arno could look like with a visionary director as Denis Villeneuve takes on a cyberpunk version of the character. Through the intertwining wonders of the Marvel multiverse, CGI that can outlast decades of age, and a star whose box office record has been abysmal since exiting the MCU, Anything it’s possible, so Downey’s return as Iron Man doesn’t seem too far-fetched. But if Iger has his way, Iron Man 4 would it be a non-starter; Tony is not a new character and Iron Man 3 it was not as embraced by critics and audiences as the first Iron Man.

Wakanda… ever?

Danai Gurira and Angela Bassett stare at each other in a scene from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

And what about a much more likely sequel, like Black Panther 3, which star Letitia Wright has already teased? The first, and so far only, sequel Black panther, Wakanda Forever, earned over $850 million at the worldwide box office and gave Marvel its first acting Oscar nomination for Angela Bassett’s fierce performance as the sad and fiery Queen Ramonda. Less high-profile, but just as impressive, are the other nominations the film garnered for Best Costume Design, Best Song, Best Makeup and Best Visual Effects. It’s obvious, but I’ll point it out anyway: these nominations were all for a sequel. In his efforts to preserve the Marvel brand, is Iger killing his golden goose?

Technically, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever committed the same sins as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania: both films made less money than their predecessors. Fans were less pleased with these follow-ups than the originals. and critics were less enthusiastic about these installments than the previous one.

However, what separates the sequel Black panther from Quantum mania is that it opens up the MCU to more interesting narrative possibilities while also honoring what audiences loved about these characters in the first place. It was always going to be impossible for Marvel and director Ryan Coogler to match the impact of the original due to the unfortunate death of Chadwick Boseman and its first nature. Black panther owned when it launched in February 2018.

Namor descends to his throne in the underwater city of Talokan in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

So instead of trying to emulate the original, they decided to expand Wakanda’s reach by presenting Namor and his underwater kingdom as compelling and sympathetic antagonists, giving Ironheart a spotlight to shine, and emphasizing the strength and intelligence of the female leads. and warriors of Wakanda. Wakanda Forever it did what all sequels should do: expand on what the original was based on and introduce enough new elements to make things interesting. When the credits rolled after the movie, I wanted more, a feeling I didn’t have at all afterwards Quantum mania it’s mercifully over.

All that progress and thoughtful world-building would be for naught if Black Panther 3 it’s canned due to Iger’s new “no sequel” edict. Shuri’s continued evolution as the new Black Panther, Nakia’s newly discovered role as the mother of T’Challa’s son, and a Wakanda without Ramonda and facing the ongoing threat of Namor will not be explored on a large canvas, and the small screen is also, well, small, to deliver these characters and stories in a six-episode Disney+ series. The Black Panther franchise should not pay the price Ant-Man 3his failures and should be allowed a theatrical platform to explore the narrative seeds he planted in the first two films.

The way forward for the MCU

Kang walks across a battlefield in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

In his efforts to defend one of Disney’s most valuable assets, Iger emphasized that all is well with the MCU. “There’s nothing intrinsic about the Marvel brand,” Iger said. “I think we just have to see what characters and stories we mine, and if you look at Marvel’s trajectory over the next five years, you’re going to see a lot of new ones. We’re going back to the Avengers franchise, but with a completely different set of Avengers.”

Iger isn’t entirely wrong here. It’s always valuable to add new characters to the mix to keep things fresh. However, new characters are not the antidote to what ails Marvel. After all, no one wants to see a D-Man movie or a Great Lakes Avengers miniseries. [Editor’s note: I’d actually love to see a Great Lakes Avengers series, but I fully realize this is a niche interest that few, if any, share.] It would be in Marvel’s best interest to look at what has worked in the past and make movies, whether original or fourth and fifth installments, that stay true to what made these characters so appealing in the first place.

And no, that doesn’t just mean more Avengers movies. It’s not inherently wrong that Ant-Man got a second sequel. it’s exactly what Marvel decided to do with him that turned out to be a disaster. Marvel forgot that Ant-Man works best when the stakes are small rather than huge. The first two Ant-Man movies had a charm to them because the world, let alone the multiverse, wasn’t at stake. Instead, it focused on Scott’s desire to be a better man and father to his young daughter. In their zeal to expand the multiverse and promote Kang as a Thanos-level bad guy, Marvel sacrificed a character and IP that didn’t really need to change.

Scott Lang and his daughter Cassie in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

So who will decide which movie gets a sequel and which hero is worthy enough to warrant a feature film? Well, Iger, of course, and Kevin Feige and all of Marvel’s top musicians, but fans, if they’re vocal enough, can have their say, too. Personally, I want one Iron Man 4one Black Panther 3and one Shang-Chi 2. And although I’ve been lukewarm on their previous installments, I might be down with one Eternals 2 or even a Thor 5 as long as Marvel stays true to their characters and doesn’t make them into something they’re not.

I know I’m repeating myself here, but it bears constant repetition as I think Marvel is learning the wrong lesson here. B-grade character sequels aren’t the problem. it is what it is act with them that is. Don’t make an Ant-Man threequel that’s really a low-rent Fantastic Four movie in disguise, and don’t make a Thor four-quel that shows contempt for the characters. The MCU worked, and worked for a long time, because there was enthusiasm and respect for the source material. ThatIt’s what’s been lost, and that’s what Iger needs to fix if the MCU has any chance of a stable future.

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