Tom Jolliffe on the next few years of content for Star Wars, Marvel and Disney…
Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Ask my belly. He likes chocolate, but this sack of indulgence is such that my daughter used it as a bongo drum this morning and shouted ‘wobbly wobbly.’ True story. In a movie industry that has taken an undeniable kicking, Disney, which also has a hand on Marvel and Star Wars, unveiled a massive line-up of films for the next few years, and additionally a swath of TV shows. We’re getting a whole host more Star Wars adventures including Andor, Obi Wan Kenobi, The Bad Batch, Ahsoka and Lando. The huge success of The Mandalorian contributed to a home entertainment wave of positivity that erased the increasingly sour taste of the recent movies.
Marvel likewise has an enormous catalogue of film and TV on the horizon. We have new adventures for Thor, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and Ant-Man and the Wasp, the long awaited Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, She-Hulk, Ms Marvel, What If, Blade and more. I grant you this is a couple of mediums and over two years to unleash the content, but it’s still an enormous catalogue of content. Disney meanwhile have a whole array more films (some which will be direct to their streaming service) and shows to come too. There’s everything from more live action reboots (and sequels) of pre-established cartoons, sequels and reboots of films like Three Men and A Baby and even Pirates of The Caribbean (minus Johnny Depp).
Granted a lot of these will undoubtedly prove immensely popular, but at the same time, there’s a real sense of barrel scraping with some of the concepts. It’s difficult to properly judge the success of a streaming series or movie premiere. We never get given much idea on viewing numbers and just how these may correlate to proving financially viable. None of these will be cheap to make, that’s for certain. When you take a Netflix premiere for example, like The Irishman. Just how does the company consider the huge budget spent on making it, financially viable? How many more subscriptions do you need (indeed, how many people are left on the planet to hook into Netflix?). Box office, or rentals are more simple to analyse. If you need $200 million to break even and your film grosses $201 million, you’ve turned a profit (in as gauche a way as I can put it).
There are certainly films and shows in the line-ups that pique a little interest in me. Perhaps none enough that I’d get a Disney+ subscription (because having subscribed to Netflix and Amazon, I’ve enough content to enjoy and enough direct debits). I’d be interested in Obi-Wan. That to me seems like a top tier character, getting his own show. If you look at Marvel, Thor proved popular and another sequel seems a worthwhile exercises. There are a lot of gambles on lesser known properties though, or secondary characters. Groot is flying solo, we’ve got a Black Widow film that also may finally come out at some point, as well as film gambles like Eternals and Shang-Chi. Guardians of the Galaxy was a comic very few moviegoers had heard of, and the gamble to turn that into a film certainly paid off, but how many times will the gamble pay off? Particularly with a post-COVIDcinema industry. Granted, the increase in Disney+ subscribers and the possibility of new release models for cinema films (as we’ve seen from Mulan and WarnerMedia’s recent HBO Max decision) means there’s still a way to attract an audience.
Marvel has long been deemed fool-proof. A guaranteed success. Even films not projected to do brilliantly, did so (Venom from Sony, for example). It hasn’t always been plain sailing though. Netflix’s Marvel series properties fell to the axe, more surprisingly with Daredevil, and perhaps less surprising with Iron Fist and Luke Cage (possibly pre-empting Disney+ of course). Again, how does Netflix calculate the worthiness? How would Disney make this calculation for their properties? Number of views comes into it but what other elements? There’s certainly a big push for content needed on the horizon and there will undoubtedly be an even big move to home entertainment (sadly for cinema). You look at some of the titles in these line-ups and can’t help but think they’re making up the numbers. Some of these are like the maligned candy bars in the selection tub. Some will pick at them but they’re always the last in the tub.
In terms of the movies though, the distinct production line feel, in films that often feel interchangeable (certainly the MCU and indeed their influence on the recent Star Wars films is undeniable too) is a little uninspiring for someone my age. Disney are spreading their wings over most of these in some way or another, and indeed all these movies will have pretty hefty budgets. It’s a calculated risk in the current climate to plump for quantity (potentially) over quality. Increasingly I find myself eying more independent productions for interesting films. The new Robert Eggers film The Northman is infinitely more interesting to me than seeing Black Widow for example (much as I love Scarlett Johansson in most of her films). A24 seems focused on more varied and interesting material, whilst as far as TV shows Netflix, Amazon and terrestrial channels are offering me enough. There will be big successes for certain, and shows which rake in millions of views (and potentially a lot of tempted new subscribers) but with all that money spent, the less successful movies and shows might just be eating into the profits of the successful ones. The choice on the horizon might be tantalising to some, but is it just a little bit ridiculous? Is it overkill? Some of these ideas seem like they’ve come straight from Alan Partridge. Star Wars: Monkey Tennis in 2023?
What are your thoughts on the upcoming slates for Disney, Marvel and Star Wars? Is there a risk of overkill? Let us know on our social channels @flickeringmyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due out in 2021, including, Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Ian Ogilvy and Billy Murray), Crackdown, When Darkness Falls and War of The Worlds: The Attack (Vincent Regan). Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/