Is Avengers: Infinity War an allegory for Disney’s worldconquering master plan?

In buying Fox, Lucasfilm and Pixar, the film studio is on the way to controlling the movie universe - drawing parallels to Avengers’ evil overlord Thanos

Unless you’ve been living in a communications black hole for the past decade, you’ll know that the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of Marvel’s strategic 10-year comic-book movie masterplan, bringing together the whole stable of superheroes for a blockbuster to bust all blocks. The movie itself is about another masterplan: bad guy Thanos is trying to acquire the all-powerful “Infinity Stones”. If he gets them all, and puts them in his shiny fancy-dress glove – sorry, “Infinity Gauntlet” – he can “wipe out half the universe” with a snap of his fingers.

But we can’t ignore the fact that there’s a third masterplan behind all of this. Thanos’s quest mirrors another, less fanciful mission to acquire powerful assets – that of Marvel’s parent company, Disney. For “infinity stones” read “entertainment brands”. Disney bought Marvel in 2009 for $4bn. In 2006 it also bought its animation rival Pixar, for $7.4bn. In 2013, Disney acquired Lucasfilm, owners of Star Wars, for another $4bn. Now it is in the latter stages of a $52bn takeover of rival studio 21st Century Fox, whose properties include most of the Marvel superheroes it didn’t have the rights to already, such as the X-Men, Deadpool and Fantastic Four, plus assorted brands from Alien to Avatar to The Simpsons.

So basically, Disney is Thanos, and well on the way to controlling half the movie universe. And while we cheer the Avengers’ noble stand against galactic hegemony on the screen, they’re really on the side of Disney’s corporate hegemony in real life. In 2016, it controlled about a quarter of it: it was behind the year’s five highest grossing movies worldwide, and made a record-breaking $7bn (it only managed the top two movies last year, and four out of the top 10). In recent history, the big six Hollywood studios have held roughly equal sway but if the Fox takeover goes ahead, it will have an estimated 39% market share. And it’s not just the movies. Frozen made $1bn at the box office, but Frozen merchandising made even more. The theme park business, which earns twice as much as the movies do, is expanding hugely – they’re even building a Star Wars-themed hotel. Disney is reportedly planning its own Netflix-style streaming service, which could mean you won’t be able to see its content anywhere else.

As a result, looking at Disney’s schedule, we can practically predict the top movies for the rest of the decade: Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers sequel, Han Solo movie, The Incredibles 2, Star Wars Episode IX, Frozen 2, reboots of Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Mulan, Aladdin, Dumbo, more Marvel movies, and so on. You could call it the Infinity Slate. Where does it end? When the entire entertainment universe is in Disney’s gauntlet? Do the other studios now have to band together to form a rebel alliance? Will franchise fatigue bring the whole magic kingdom crashing down? Unless you boycott movies, your weapons are useless against it.

Then again, a Star Wars-themed hotel … pretty cool, huh?

Avengers: Infinity War is in cinemas on 26 April

Contributor

Steve Rose

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Solo: A Star Wars Story – why prequels are killing the art of storytelling
They have become Hollywood’s favourite franchise-saver, but are they any substitute for a story well told?

Steve Rose

14, May, 2018 @9:59 AM

Article image
How The Predator remake is ushering in a new golden age of gore
Before family-friendly PG-13 became the norm, action hits relied on blood and guts. Post-Deadpool, we’re in the midst of a sea change

Steve Rose

03, Sep, 2018 @9:00 AM

Article image
Avengers: Infinity War blasts Star Wars: The Force Awakens' first-weekend record at US box office
Marvel’s superhero film earns $250m in the US, $2m ahead of The Force Awakens in 2015, while also smashing opening-weekend records across the world

Andrew Pulver

30, Apr, 2018 @11:41 AM

Article image
JJ Abrams’ Hollywood takeover: will he save or kill cinema?
The film-maker’s deal with Warner suggests further dominance – but he’s hardly an innovator

Steve Rose

30, Sep, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Is X-Men vs The Avengers a superhero smackdown too far?
20th Century Fox should exploit its rights by lending Marvel’s Wolverine, Deadpool or the Fantastic Four instead

Ben Child

27, Jun, 2016 @5:14 PM

Article image
The Incredibles 2’s Screenslaver: the most controversial film villain ever?
The evils of screens and high-tech mind control are fought off in Pixar’s latest. But the rest of cinema doesn’t want to know

Steve Rose

02, Jul, 2018 @8:59 AM

Article image
Justice League: why the only thing dying in blockbusters is our sense of excitement
How the lucrative superhero franchise has killed off the concept of killing off

Steve Rose

06, Nov, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
Why there’s no happy ending for Halloween’s Laurie Strode and horror’s ‘final girls’
Jamie Lee Curtis’s character is still being hunted by Michael Myers, 40 years later. She may have survived the slasher, but isn’t her life still torture?

Steve Rose

08, Oct, 2018 @9:00 AM

Article image
Avengers: Infinity War – which superheroes are about to meet their doom?
The latest episode in the Marvel Cinematic Universe saga will feature a vast array of costumed crime fighters. It’s time to edge some of them out of the picture

Ben Child

05, Dec, 2017 @1:00 PM

Article image
Are promising female auteurs getting trapped in the franchise machine?
With Oscar nominees Emerald Fennell and Chloé Zhao moving on to superhero films, there’s a danger that the mainstream’s gain will be indie cinema’s loss

Steve Rose

05, Apr, 2021 @8:00 AM