Marvel Studios reveals greater diversity in its Phase 4 films at its 2019 Comic-Con presentation.
Despite the increase in cast diversity, most of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) featured white and male actors in the title roles. The post-“Endgame” Marvel will be very different. Some of the planned films include “Black Widow,” starring Scarlett Johansson for May 2020 release; “The Eternals,” starring Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff and Salma Hayek for November 2020; and “Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings,” starring Simu Liu, Awkwafina and Tony Leung for February 2021.
For the 2021 Thor sequel titled “Thor: Goddess of Thunder,” Natalie Portman will play the role of the Goddess of Thunder. This film will also reveal that the Valkyrie character played by Tessa Thompson in previous Marvel films is queer. Marvel also has plans for a “Blade” reboot starring Mahershala Ali.
There is also an increased diversity behind the camera of Marvel superhero films. Japanese-Hawaiian Destin Daniel Cretton will direct “Shang-Chi”, Cate Shortland will handle “Black Widow” with Chinese-American Chloe Zhao and Ridloff will direct “The Eternals.”
The diversity efforts of Marvel reflects the reality that nontraditional casting and diverse storytelling are good for business.
A 2018 study found that female-led films outperformed male-led films in the box office from 2014 to 2017. Another study by UCLA found that films with at least 51% people of color in its cast had the highest box office returns.
Examples of these films are “Black Panther,” which earned $1.34 billion and “Captain Marvel,” which grossed $1.2 billion. Both of these films outperformed all MCU Phase 3 films that did not include all the Avengers. These include “Ant-Man,” starring Paul Russ, “Doctor Strange,” with Benedict Cumberbatch and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” starring Tom Holland.
The top 10 highest grossing films for 2020 could see an even split between male and female directors for the first time. Aside from Marvel’s “Black Widow” and “The Eternals,” Disney will release a remake of “Mulan,” directed by Niki Caro. In addition, Warner Bros. will have two DC Comics adaptations “Wonder Woman 1984,” directed by Patty Jenkins and “Birds of Prey,” directed by Cathy Yan.