With The Marvels poised to become one of the MCU’s lowest grossing films ever, there’s a lot of finger-pointing and blame circulating through Marvel Studios and Disney. Unfortunately, it seems like someone has decided to center that blame on director Nia DaCosta. Since the films release earlier this month, she’s been the target of a rash of hit pieces in Hollywood trades and it needs to stop. There are plenty of reasons that the Captain Marvel sequel didn’t perform well at the box office, but one of those is definitely not the movie’s quality.
The Marvels follows Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel as they fight an old enemy of Carol’s who is now threatening the entire universe. It’s a really fun movie with an emotional and entertaining story, captivating characters and genuinely crowd pleasing moments. Plus, it does all this in an hour and 45 minutes, proving you don’t need to keep the audience hostage for over three hours to tell an interesting story. If you’re a fan of Carol, Monica and Kamala, it delivers everything you want from the next chapter of their character arcs. It was a reminder of why we became so invested in the franchise in the first place. The cast, crew and DaCosta hit it out of the park. Unfortunately, that’s not the narrative some Hollywood execs and trades want to tell you.
Ahead of the film’s release, when the opening numbers were projected to be low, we saw stories pop up about DaCosta leaving the set before post-production was complete, a rumor that the director had to clarify, stating that everyone knew scheduling delays meant she would have to eventually leave for her next project. Quick question: Have you ever heard anyone say something like that about white male MCU directors like the Russo brothers or Jon Favreau? Of course not, because they get plenty of room to do whatever they want.
On Monday, The Hollywood Reporter prominently featured an article with the headline, “Why ‘Marvels’ Director Nia DaCosta Bailed on the Cast-and-Crew Screening?” This obvious insult to the director sparked an outcry of criticism from Black women who thought the outlet was attacking DaCosta for something that is commonplace in the industry: Directors don’t regularly attend these screenings. And in this case, reports surfaced around social media that DaCosta wasn’t even invited. The only reason to try and make this a big deal is to hang an unwarranted “unprofessional” label on her.
From the moment it became clear The Marvels was going to underperform, there’s been a concerted effort to undermine Nia DaCosta. What’s rage-inducing is that this seems to only become the plan when a woman or woman of color is the director. Plus, it seems like no one wants to discuss the obvious elephant in the room when it comes to the movie’s poor box office.
Released amid the SAG-AFTRA strike, stars Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani and Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t make the talk show rounds promoting the film, and didn’t get to have the big star-studded world premiere at Hollywood’s El Capitan Theater. Without a doubt, this is the biggest contributor to the movie’s low opening numbers, as it was a pattern for other releases throughout the strike. Add in all the ongoing questions about the future of the MCU, and it becomes clear that The Marvels had a very big hill to climb.
If the studio wanted to give it the best chance at success, it could’ve moved it to a later release date, so the cast could promote it properly. They could’ve done more to combat the persistent online attacks from trolls who think women don’t belong in superhero movies.
The studio has pushed back other projects due to production delays and creative team changes, so we know Disney and Marvel Studios are willing to make tough decisions when necessary. This time around it feels like they just hung The Marvels out to dry without caring about the effect it would have on the characters, actors or fans. And now that they’re dealing with a serious financial hit, they’ve reverted to an age old solution: blame the Black woman.
Nia DaCosta delivered an exceptional film that’s one of the franchise’s best. She absolutely does not deserve to have her name disrespected and besmirched in this manner. It also sends a very loud message to other directors of color: that when the chips are down, Marvel Studios doesn’t have their back.