With the re-release of Avengers Endgame now in cinemas just over two months after its general release, is it time we question Disney’s intentions and Marvel’s for-the-fans ethos?
News came in recently that Avengers: Endgame was releasing an extended cut of the finale to the much loved franchise. Apparently the 3 hour 2 minutes run time wasn’t long enough and the public simply couldn’t wait for more than a quarter of a year to see what the cutting room floor had to offer.
Thankfully, the impatient masses get to pay ten plus pounds (generous of me) to see a tribute to Marvel legend Stan Lee and a Hulk-focused post credits scene. That is supposedly it. This unashamed attempt at prising more money away from innocent people and grabbing the spot of highest grossing film of all time (congrats) has seemingly not even bothered to hide the fact that all it really wants to do is take over the world.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have tweeted urging fans to go see the film multiple times, four times if you can spare it. Don’t bother going to spend that precious money on other films, independent movies struggling to break even, foreign films looking for a global audience or even your next meal. How about going to see the extended edition another four times? After all, it’s a whole other experience. It’s that or you won’t be able to watch the Hulk crack wise for two minutes when the set runners’ names finally fuck off the screen until the DVD comes out on August 13th. A WHOLE MONTH AWAY!
All of this is but a symptom of Disney’s antipathy towards originality, though. The studio, who now own Star Wars, Marvel and Fox are repeatedly and maybe endlessly diving into their own back catalogue for inspiration in how best to make delicious cash. They have a couple of original titles from Fox lined up but their schedule is largely jammed with remakes, sequels, prequels, spin offs and draggings-through-the-dirt.
After already having Dumbo and Aladdin released this year we’re getting the much anticipated live action The Lion King remake. It has only recently been screened to critics, but the trailer suggests it’s the same story and songs as the 1994 original, only the animals look real. I’m not sure how necessary a venture any of these remakes are. After all, who needs to see a meerkat that looks nearly like a meerkat, that we know isn’t a meerkat, sing ‘Hakuna Matata’? The answer to that is nobody. It doesn’t serve the original, it doesn’t serve cinema and it doesn’t serve art.
Now I know I might be getting ahead of myself here. Disney probably won’t claim too heavily that these films are meant to serve art. They’re there to entertain and provide relief, not to be as thematically challenging as a Bergman, but these stories have already entertained and can still provide relief without being remade. The notion that they are serving an audience’s wants and needs by giving them something they already have is ludicrous. It is a way of treating audiences as if they’re stupid. It is an unreliable barometer to suggest that because these films make money it is because people want them, when really it is because it’s the only option they have.
You can practically feel the extra value for money from here
During Endgame’s opening weekend some cinemas would screen nothing but Endgame, literally leaving audiences without a choice. 15 of the top 25 highest grossing films in the UK so far this year have been franchise, sequels or remakes. Is this a suggestion that these films are working? Not necessarily. With streaming services taking more and more of a cut there is a suggestion that people are going to the cinema a lot less than they used to.
Now, after having being forced to pick from new Men In Black (not Disney) and X-men films, audiences are facing The Lion King remake, a Lady and the Tramp remake, a Maleficent sequel (seriously who on Earth asked for that?), Frozen II, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker and a new Fast and Furious (not Disney) all before the year is out. Mulan is planned for release next year, there are two Star Wars spin-off trilogies in the works and a Black Widow movie, along with sequels to every other Marvel character and their dog. Disney have even gone back to that profitable well of their own theme park rides for Jungle Cruise.
Have we forgotten to tell stories that are born of something more organic, or have we decided that sticking to a formula is the best way to ensure you’ll profit? At the heart of this strategy is a capitalist tale of greed with no end in sight. I could simply come up with a title and a release date to any potential Disney film in the future and I could water the lips of their executives.
Aristocats 2024. Watto 2025. Hawkeye 2 2028.
All that’s left to do is to pay people to write a coherent story (you can only hope), pay actors to dance in front of a green screen and pay marketing geniuses to do what they do best. There may be a disingenuous tone to what I’m saying, but it cannot be good for cinema, art or the preservation of characters and stories to not be able to see their end for the mountains of money sitting in front of them.
The hardest thing to bare is that I cannot see this ending. You only have to look at the Wikipedia list of future releases to know that we’re a long way off finding solution to this lack of originality. Though original stories have no certainty of being the answer financially, you would hope that the potential fall of cinema to the rise of streaming would occur with a sense of dignity and good old fashioned intellectual effort, not with one company sweeping up every last penny they can see. It seems unthinkable that a company I once considered to be so vibrant and imaginative has eventually found its place in cinema as the death of creativity.
It’s a tiring and relentless bombardment of the same. The amnesia of not even realising there had been a fourth installment in a series when you see an advert for a fifth or the sense of sorrow you get from seeing “Donald Glover IS Simba” above a picture of a CGI lion is all too regular. If not outright stopping then Disney simply need to slow down. Imagine if classics such as the original versions of Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King and Lady and the Tramp had all come out in one year. It isn’t possible to create that many high quality films in that short a space of time.
Ultimately I have to view this as a disaster. I don’t think it helps anyone for me to play down just how much of a catastrophe I think this is for cinema. Not only do I see it as a disaster but as an unconscionable attempt at profiting at the expensive of audiences and art. It’s shameful greed that Disney are currently practicing and hopefully Simba, Thor, Chewbacca and the rest all face extinction in the coming years.
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Long and incompetent man who is being allowed to write about films you can watch from your bed.