In a move that surprised many industry heavyweights and netizens worldwide, Marvel Studios recently launched Phase 2.5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Alternatively known as Operation Diversity, the seemingly “comics-based” move is a chance for the legendary superhero movie studio to flex its global logistics and casting muscle to spread the power of Hollywood diversity and acceptance of new talent while saying “Ka-ching” and “Ka-pow” to tax cuts and inherent racists, respectively.
Long rumored to be launched in the post-credits scene of the hotly anticipated Captain America: Civil War, Operation Diversity comes as a huge surprise for comic book fans and critics alike who have observed that the studio has been utilizing comic book heroes who are predominantly white and male. The move helps Marvel Studios launch a massive “attack” on other movie studios that have not been paying attention to the recent calls for diversity from minorities clamoring for representation on the big screen.
Marvel’s attempts to diversify their universe started with their comics. It was out with the old white, male characters that seemed to represent the old guard, and in with black Captain America and female Thor. One case in point is Doctor Strange, whose magic-related powers are unique, but whom many pundits call “Doctor WHO?!” for being so white and vanilla. Now, Marvel’s taking the risky move with their movies where their new characters won’t even be from America.
Marvel Studios wants their audiences to be able to connect on a more personal level with their characters. Gone are the days of big egos and the search for liberty and justice. Now, the Disney-run company seems eager to start anew, breathing new life into new stories. Within the big gears, though, lies Marvel’s innate desire to have each and every one of their characters reflect who we are as a race, metaphorically and literally.
The first movie revealed as part of the line-up is about a Filipino superhero based in Mississippi with the power to spread cultural awareness and racial sensitivity to those he defeats in hand-to-hand combat. The studio hits the jackpot as it both displays the life of a Filipino-American teen in the States while starting a dialogue for Filipino roles. His main villain, coincidentally, was confirmed to be Adolf Hitler, resurrected through a Nazi ritual.
An unnamed actor has reportedly been cast as the titular character. The 15-year-old boy was discovered in the slums of Manila when he and his friends were seen practicing for a role in a makeshift school’s annual play. As for the film’s villain, he will reportedly be entirely CGI, as Marvel executives believe that having an actual person portray Hitler would be offensive and would imply that they see the historical figure as an actual human being.
While the film hasn’t started production yet, Marvel has already planned far ahead for Operation Diversity. There are rumors that a sequel is already planned, which would involve another Civil War type of conflict. According to various sources, the new hero’s attempts to encourage diversity among heroes will bring him into conflict with Spider-Man, who believes a hero should be as white as possible, and under no circumstances be a person of mixed descent.
There are also talks of cameos involving not only heroes from the Marvel Universe but popular superheroes from other countries as well. Some superheroes that are being considered for cameos are India’s Super Commando Dhruva, Mexico’s El Bulbo, and our very own Captain Barbell.
Darna v. Black Widow: Dawn of third-wave feminism?
Aside from diversifying race, Marvel also intends to add a larger female presence in their universe. After numerous complaints from many sectors of the industry regarding the presence of the female voices in the multi-billion-dollar company, diversification seems like the next logical step towards progress and equality. The studio’s seemingly dodgy merchandising problem with Pepper Potts and Darcy Lewis inspired a series of picketing ceremonies and rallies from both feminists and meninists alike, confusing the studio as to which direction to take.
In the end, however, the battle for feminine power (and more eyeballs on IMAX screens) won out, inspiring the brain trust of the company to include feminism in its push for diversity on the big screen. This time out, Black Widow, who’s long held her own in the machismo-tinged Cinematic Universe, will star in a long-awaited prequel that will involve the Russian spy “interrogating” and “nagging” top politicians from around the world. According to a few “insider sources” (nerds with lots of connections), Darna will enter the arena when Natasha Romanoff offends some politicians from the ASEAN region. Though the film passes the Bechdel Test with flying rainbow colors, it inspires a chorus of naysayers who feel that the film pits women against each other, unjustly so.
Due to the rising popularity of pop star feuds, the motion picture event will be touted as bad blood, instead of a full-blown civil war, to easily market a lady-led picture. Several rough cuts of the film surfaced online with Darna and Romanoff in a staring contest then looking into the camera, saying “We can do it,” while holding up their arms in solidarity. Reports have also cited a deleted scene that involves various men and women shouting profanities and calling them “teases” and “trollops” for wearing “skimpy” clothing on the battlefield. On the subject of the pay wage gap, both Johansson and the unnamed Darna actress will be paid more than RDJ himself in Age of Ultron, eerily replicating Jennifer Lawrence’s pay situation for Joy.
As a whole, Operation Diversity proves to be a mighty dilemma for Marvel Studios. With the influx of superhero movies over the last decade, the diversity push will likely have moviegoers giving their hard-earned money for movie tickets while contemplating if they should still go to every new superhero “event”. However, the quickest way to book viewers inside multiplexes proved to be the tried and tested superhero format, flashing a big fat middle to indie filmmakers and original ideas that still can’t seem to get off the ground without big stars or easily marketable themes.
If Operation Diversity proves to be a successful endeavor for the studio, who knows how the whole industry will react? With the rising need for representation on the big screen, the utilization of different voices and backgrounds will be a breath of fresh air for most. If the way to find real “change” onscreen is through the reel world, Marvel wants YOU to know that they’re offering this change in all formats including IMAX 3D and 4DX.