Disney Head Bob Iger Blames Pandemic for ‘The Marvels’ Failure, Wants More Executives

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Brie Larson as Captain Marvel with her fist upraised in The Marvels

Credit: Marvel Studios

With the recent string of disappointing performances from Marvel Studios across their theatrical and streaming releases, including Secret Invasion and The Marvels, speculation has grown about various reasons the once-great studio seems to be so lackluster now.

Claims have ranged from “superhero fatigue” to the sheer quantity of releases in the last few years to working conditions behind the scenes at Marvel. However, Disney CEO Bob Iger has his own opinions on Marvel’s issues. Earlier this year, Iger slammed the studio for the focus it put on releasing Disney+ series, saying that it had no business in television. He’s also decried the studio’s focus on quantity over quality, and things seem to be pretty tense between the Disney head and his super-studio.

Kamala Khan, Captain Marvel, and Monica Rambeau standing together on a spaceship
Credit: Marvel Studios

In a recent discussion at the New York Times DealBook Summit 2023, Iger offered new insights into what he believes led to the underwhelming performance of the recently released The Marvels at the box office. Iger steered away from blaming the actors’ strike, which caused a lack of interviews and guest spots that stars typically do in the lead-up to a major release. Instead, he pointed a finger at the challenges posed by the sheer volume of content being produced in the industry in the wake of the streaming wars and the effects of producing movies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Iger, the movie faced hurdles during initial production, having been shot amidst the challenges of the pandemic. During and after 2020, many productions had to spend their budgets on new departments centered around health and safety, as well as deal with scheduling issues when cast or crew tested positive with COVID.

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) stands next to Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani)
Credit: Marvel Studios

Another notable factor he highlighted was “The Marvels was shot during Covid, and there wasn’t enough supervision on set” from executives (per The Verge).  This acknowledgment raises questions about the delicate balance between creative freedom and executive oversight, especially in the context of a major franchise like Marvel. It’s noteworthy that Iger did not attribute the film’s struggles to the peculiar backlash fueled by a minority of Marvel fans expressing dissatisfaction over a movie led by three women directed by a woman. Instead, he honed in on the practical challenges that arose during filming, emphasizing the impact of the pandemic on the movie-making process. 

However, commenters online pointed out the irony of an executive wanting more executive control in a creative project. Over on X/Twitter, @joedevon responded, saying, “Hahahaha everyone in Hollywood knows the recipe to quality content is executive notes to the creatives.” “‘If there was more studio interference it would be better,'” @TheUnaButters summed up.

Bob Iger in the middle, flanked by Star Wars cast on left and Marvel Studios' Avengers on right
Credit: Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, Inside the Magic

Others were confused on where Iger pointed blame, like @catwantsin, who said, “? THE MARVELS was a great film and a lot of fun. The issue is with Disney’s reckoning with everyone from artists, actors, parents and geeks. Literally all sides hate them and there simply aren’t enough people who have been able to set aside the drama, still going to these movies.”

Marvel has recently decided to overhaul much of its behind-the-scenes operations, which may help the studio claw its way back to the top of the film industry. However, it’s clear from the online responses that the studio may have to do some deep introspection if it wants to really understand why it’s struggling so much, and it doesn’t seem as though allowing more executives to oversee productions is the right answer.

What do you think about Bob Iger’s response to The Marvels’ failure? Is he right? Does the studio need more executives overseeing projects? Or is there a deeper problem? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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