There’s a lot to raise an eyebrow about in Variety’s new report on the internal turmoil of Marvel Studios in 2023. There are the worries about Kang, battles over special effects work, and, oh yeah, reports from anonymous sources that studio execs have considered just making a new Avengers movie — but with all of the old Avengers.
Variety paints a picture of Marvel Studios struggling to maintain the quality of the work and the energy of audiences after a blitz of Disney Plus programming and lacklustre box office hauls (not to mention critical response). Solutions on the table reportedly include reducing output, slashing budgets and expectations, and, at least for a moment or two, resurrecting Iron Man and Black Widow.
“There have been talks to bring back the original gang for an ‘Avengers’ movie,” according to Variety’s sources. “This would include reviving Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, both of whom were killed off in ‘Endgame.’ [...] But the studio hasn’t yet committed to the idea.”
There are good logistical reasons for that. Downey Jr. and Johansson are some of the highest paid actors in Hollywood today, and they’re just two of six actors whose stars have risen considerably since they were originally brought under a Marvel contract — and they could be plenty skeptical of such a move.
There are also good story reasons for that. Death and resurrection might go hand in hand in the land of comic book superheroes, but anyone who actually reads the books will let you know that it might be the genre’s biggest double-edged sword. For every The Death of Superman or Dark Phoenix Saga — considered among of the medium’s great classics — there are a dozen forgotten (at best) or reviled (at worst) stories that failed the fan sniff test.
Even live-action cinematic universes are bound by the same challenges as their print counterparts (maybe more, when contracts are finite and actors age in real time). With the first Iron Man having come out in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has now reached the tricky teenage age of 15. That’s exactly how long the MCU’s biggest inspiration, Marvel Comics’ freshly rebooted Ultimate Marvel setting, lasted before buckling under its own alternate continuity and getting the axe. Over at DC Comics, which is much more accustomed to reboots than Marvel, a single connected continuity has still rarely lasted more than a quarter of a century.
Does Marvel Studios need a reboot, a relaunch, or a redo? That remains to be seen. But you can safely bet that it won’t do it exactly like the comics would, did, or ever have.