In the ever-evolving landscape of blockbuster cinema, sequels to billion-dollar movies are bound to face scrutiny and expectations. However, the glaring difference in the discourse surrounding Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and The Marvels is hard to ignore.
Despite both films being sequels to immensely successful predecessors, the divergent treatment they’ve received in terms of critical reception and media coverage speaks volumes about the prevailing double standards in the film industry.
“Aquaman 2,” starring Jason Momoa as a titular superhero, has found itself in the shadows of its predecessor, Aquaman, both critically and at the box office. On the flip side, The Marvels, the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), is the least-performing MCU film to date. The question then arises, why hasn’t the underperformance of “Aquaman 2” garnered the same level of attention and discourse as The Marvels?
The Marvels, as part of the MCU, stands as the epitome of a cinematic juggernaut. Even as the worst-performing MCU movie, it commands a significant fan base and is associated with the most successful franchise in cinematic history. On the other hand, “Aquaman 2” is part of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), a franchise that has struggled to achieve the same level of cohesion and success as the MCU.
Entertainment magazine Variety’s coverage of the two films exemplifies this stark contrast. The media outlet published over 20 articles about The Marvels, dissecting its every nuance and perceived shortcomings. However, in the case of “Aquaman 2,” there seems to be a resounding disparity in coverage. The muted headlines surrounding “Aquaman 2‘s” underperformance speak volumes about the inherent biases within the industry.
One must ponder why the underwhelming performance of a film tied to the colossal MCU receives an avalanche of media attention, while a comparable setback in the DCEU is met with relative indifference. The answer may lie in the sensationalism and click-driven nature of contemporary media.
Sexism, racism, and the decision by Marvel to release The Marvels immediately after the strike undeniably influenced the film’s critical reception and box office performance. Despite being an enjoyable and well-crafted movie, a significant portion of the criticism directed at The Marvels comes from individuals who haven’t even seen it.
It’s astonishing to witness backlash against The Marvels, a film that is fun and innocuous, especially when compared to The Flash, which controversially brought back deceased actors, featured subpar computer-generated imagery, and casted Ezra Miller who has a history of abuse in the lead role. “Aquaman 2’s” lackluster performance, met with relative silence from those who disparaged The Marvels, highlights the sexist motivations behind such attacks.
I enjoyed The Marvels, and appreciate its strengths, but I also acknowledge it could have explored certain aspects more deeply. Negative reviews seem influenced by discontent among some men who struggle to identify with female superheroes.
Critics also argue the film’s perceived failure is linked to the MCU’s shift towards female-driven projects, with the introduction of three new female avengers. The portrayal of these superheroes, departing from past sexualized depictions in comics, appears challenging for some men to accept.
Media coverage, often biased by a film’s franchise rather than its quality, perpetuates a toxic atmosphere that obstructs meaningful discussions.
Brie Larson consistently emphasizes the need for diverse perspectives in the evaluation of creative works. She has previously suggested that as long as individuals from a particular demographic, in this case, white men, dominate decision-making roles in judging artistic merit, there might be a tendency to dismiss anything outside the preferences of that group.
As discerning consumers of media, it is crucial for audiences to question presented narratives and advocate for a more fair and impartial representation of cinematic achievements and setbacks.