MarvelBlog News for August 8th, 2022
Marvel has suffered through one of its worst media cycles in recent memory. Somehow, the story has nothing to do with box office or movie reviews, though. I’ll explain this unfortunate series of events in the latest MarvelBlog News update.
VFX Industry Rebels Against Marvel
Okay, this topic does not paint Marvel in a kind light. Also, it requires some backstory, which is where MarvelBlog News will start this week. When The Avengers shattered box office records in 2012, Marvel demonstrated that the MCU was here to stay. It became a pop culture touchstone for a generation.
In 2014, Marvel performed a flex with Guardians of the Galaxy, a property that appeared absurd on paper. I was one of many analysts who mocked the idea. Marvel got the last laugh when Guardians of the Galaxy became the most successful project of the year. It was also a merchandising giant.
However, the behind-the-scenes intrigue surrounding that film has recently come to light. And it paints an unflattering picture regarding Marvel. A visual effects (VFX) worker on this project has spilled the beans. While what the individual has to say proves problematic on its own, it’s worse coming from Joe Pavlo.
You likely aren’t familiar with the name, but Pavlo is an award-winning VFX expert. Specifically, he has won two Emmys for his work on Rome and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. The digital artist has also worked on projects like Star Wars, Band of Brothers, X-Men: First Class, and The Chronicles of Narnia.
Pavlo has nearly a quarter-century of experience in the industry, which means he knows good from bad.
What’s the Problem with Marvel VFX?
Apparently, working for Marvel falls into the latter bucket. Here’s a quote about the problems: “Disney-Marvel is very famous for wanting multiple versions running parallel so that they can decide what they want.
If you imagine you get the art department to design a set, you wouldn’t get them to tear down the set and rebuild a completely different set 35 times. Because it’s digital, people don’t see it as the same thing, but it is: it involves work and creativity and long hours. It doesn’t create itself.”
Pavlo describes the problem as bullying. However, he’s quick to stress that nobody from Marvel or Disney bullies workers. Instead, it’s the nature of the beast. The client asks the company to perform a task. Then, word filters down from the top levels to subordinates multiple times.
These bureaucratic layers delay the process, leading to even more of a time crunch. Also, with this much communication involved, it’s like the telephone game from childhood. The message degrades over time, leading to additional errors.
Part of the problem stems from a lack of experience as well. Marvel has committed to finding unique voices to tell stories. Several of the company’s most daring hires, like Sean Gunn and Chloe Zhao, hadn’t worked with CGI much in their careers.
The production budgets for their movies were far too small for that. For this reason, they’re unfamiliar with the process. Meanwhile, VFX companies compete for Marvel projects and almost view them as prestigious enough to work as loss leaders.
When a company’s profit margin narrows, it often shrinks staff in tandem. Fewer people in the VFX business work on Marvel films, which leads to more overhead and worker dissatisfaction. Finally, test audience scores often cause Disney to perform reshoots requiring late-stage CGI changes.
Summarizing Marvel’s Problem and Evaluating Solutions
Much of what we’re discussing is understandable. It’s the nature of demanding jobs. Nobody acts unreasonably, but the totality of demands works against the worker’s satisfaction.
This reality brings us back to Guardians of the Galaxy. A VFX expert on that project recently tweeted the following:
Working on #Marvel shows is what pushed me to leave the VFX industry. They're a horrible client, and I've seen way too many colleagues break down after being overworked, while Marvel tightens the purse strings. https://t.co/FacGBfnYmG
— Dhruv Govil (@DhruvGovil) July 10, 2022
That’s a terrible look for Marvel. Former employees are switching to different computer fields to avoid film and TV VFX gigs. We recently caught the tip of this subject with the She-Hulk story I’ve previously covered.
That film’s first trailer absorbed an online drubbing because the lead character didn’t meet expectations. This problem isn’t exclusive to Marvel, either. Paramount Pictures suffered a similar fiasco with Sonic the Hedgehog.
Currently, Marvel is facing unprecedented blowback due to recent film performances/quality and a decline in the box office. This showing of weakness may have empowered VFX workers to speak up for their rights. It absolutely caused news sites to pay more attention to potential negative stories.
Critics have oddly absolved Disney of blame. Instead, people have indicated that Disney’s live-action process doesn’t include the same struggles as Marvel’s. That fascinating tidbit could impact what happens next. Some Marvel folks have already spoken on the topic.
In fact, the star and showrunners of She-Hulk stressed that they sympathized with the VFX artists and wanted to hear more from them. Marvel’s leadership should go on offense right now…and I do NOT mean they should attack their critics.
Instead, they should offer to go on a listening tour. Simultaneously, Marvel should promise to train inexperienced directors/showrunners in CGI.
Finally, Marvel should perform a series of make-goods with the VFX houses that are currently angry. It wouldn’t cost much money, while the potential benefits are massive. Disney just announced new projects and needs the support of the VFX community.
One Other Story
MarvelBlog News will catch you up next week, but let’s not miss the biggest casting news of the week. It comes from Sony, not Marvel. Sony has hired Zosia Mamet to play an unknown role in Madame Web. Is there any other kind in this film?
Still, this news should have The Flight Attendant fans singing and dancing joyfully. Mamet has stolen all her scenes as the supportive but equally messed up lead character’s best friend.
As David Mamet and Lindsay Crouse’s daughter, she has grown up in this business and possesses an intuitive knowledge of storytelling. Zosia Mamet joins a cast that already includes Dakota Johnson, Isabel Merced, Sydney Sweeney, Mike Epps, and Emma Roberts.
At this point, nobody knows anything about Madame Web’s story, but the cast is a 10 out of 10.
And that’s your latest MarvelBlog News; have an amazing week everyone!