With “Avengers: Endgame” currently sitting as the second highest-grossing movie ever released worldwide (dethroning “Avatar” for the number one spot is a likely possibility), one of the questions now facing Disney is just how long the Marvel Cinematic Universe can sustain itself as a box office force. Sequels featuring already beloved heroes should have no problem being enormous hits (these titles include “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” the Black Widow movie, and “Black Panther 2”), but will phase four of the MCU be able match the heights of this last decade without Iron Man or Captain America to sell tickets?
Marvel Studios present Kevin Feige is already taking preemptive measures to ensure the answer to this question is yes. The producer has already gone on record saying more inclusivity is coming to the MCU in phase four, which will include the MCU’s first leading Asian superhero (“Shang-Chi,” directed by Daniel Destin Cretton) and its first openly gay superhero (rumored to be in “The Eternals”). MCU titles “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel” have already proved inclusivity pays off big time as both films cracked $1 billion worldwide. Feige also appears to be going the more classic Hollywood route by cranking up the star power in the MCU. The latest casting news of Richard Madden in “The Eternals” is proof.
Per Variety, Madden is nearing a deal to star as the superhero Ikaris in “The Eternals.” Madden will join Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani in the film. Those three names alone make “Eternals” one of the hottest tentpoles in development, MCU or not. Jolie is a global superstar who has become extra-selective with her roles, which only makes her popping up in the MCU more of a major event. Madden gained popularity on “Game of Thrones” but exploded with the international success of “Bodyguard,” which has made him a favorite to land an Emmy nomination this year. Nanjiani, meanwhile, is one of the most beloved comedians in the business. These three actors speak to a wide-ranging demographic of moviegoers and make a lesser known comic book property like “The Eternals” become all the more of a must-see event for moviegoers. Marvel is ensuring niche superheroes have the buzz of Iron Man or Captain America by casting these kinds of red hot stars.
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Marvel’s first films were hardly star-powered affairs, but the superheroes themselves were big enough to attract early interest. Robert Downey Jr. was way off Hollywood and the mainstream’s radar when he took on the role of Iron Man, and Chris Hemsworth was a newcomer when he was hired to play Thor. Brand recognition helped sell the initial appeal of Marvel’s early films, but as Marvel heads into phase four and takes on more outlier material like “The Eternals” it is wisely betting on fan favorite actors to ensure continued financial success. Richard Madden and Angelina Jolie as members of a superhero team will be enough to sell millions on “The Eternals” without pre-existing knowledge of the source material.
“The Eternals” is similar to “Guardians of the Galaxy” in the sense that most moviegoers probably haven’t heard of them prior to the MCU. While Zoe Saldana and Chris Pratt were known when they were cast in “Guardians,” the film hardly had the kind of star power that Jolie is set to bring to “The Eternals.” Regardless, “Guardians” was a massive hit and made household names out of its superheroes. With Jolie, Madden, and Nanjiani in front of the camera, “The Eternals” should have no issue following suit.
Marvel has yet to announce the release date for “The Eternals,” which is being directed by “The Rider” favorite Chloe Zhao. Expect an annoucenment regarding phase four of the MCU to come in around the July release of “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”