Why Victoria Alonso is leaving Marvel at the most inopportune moment
The departure of the production chief comes at a turbulent time for the company, which is facing massive layoffs and new cost constraints, and for the forex industry as a whole.
In the summer of 2019 at the home video bottom for Captain Marvel, Victoria Alonso, then head of production at Marvel Studios, had a question. In an innocuous request, Kevin Feige, the studio’s president, referred to the studio as its “boss”.
“He’s not my boss,” Alonso said before answering a question. She was right: she was technically reporting to co-president Louis D’Esposito, not Feige. And yet it was the moment when her cold-blooded shell cracked, if only for a moment, and the uncompromising performer within was exposed.
Her tenacity was a tool. She began as a film visual effects supervisor for DreamWorks Animation and Ridley Scott before joining Marvel Studios as co-producer and visual effects producer on the company’s first in-house production, 2008’s Iron Man. Since then, she has been a key part of every Marvel Studios film and streaming series, and in 2021 she was named president of physics, post-production, visual effects and animation at Marvel Studios.
Her rise was even more impressive given that she is a woman of color and a member of the LGBTQ community (she is married to Australian actress Imelda Corcoran, who appeared in Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier). Although her departure is still shrouded in mystery, it comes at a particularly difficult time for the company and for Alonso himself.
Destroyed by effects?
In February, Marvel Studios released Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantum Mania, a thrilling adventure in inner space that marks the official start of the fifth phase of the company that leads to two more stellar Avengers films. . But the film was underperforming at the box office (internally, Disney is concerned the film won’t gross $300 million domestically) and in terms of critics.
Most—if not all—of the reviews highlighted the film’s visuals, which felt rushed and messy. (“If you told me that the actors were shot before the filmmakers had decided what they were going to look at or interact with, I would believe you,” Bilge Ebiri quipped in his review for The Vulture.) This criticism fell right into Alonso’s sphere of influence. .
Quantum Mania is a rare dent in the armor of Marvel Studios’ seemingly unstoppable box office (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever After grossed almost $860 million in November), and its underperformance and reaction to visuals are deeply intertwined.
Marvel Studios has been criticized before for its “pixel f-king” approach to visual effects, a micromanaging process in which Alonso and Feige personally controlled every frame, piling up work and demanding changes to the last. possibly the second. After Alonso was fired, Chris Lee, the Vulture reporter who covered Marvel Studios’ post-production woes extensively (and introduced the phrase “pixel-f-king” to the general public), said a source. described her as “solely responsible for Marvel’s toxic work environment: a kingmaker that rewards unquestioning loyalty with an avalanche of work, but also maintains a blacklist that makes FX professionals wild-eyed with fear.”
As soon as this explanation surfaced, he was immediately shot down. Joanna Robinson, a Ringer writer who has been working on a Marvel history book for the past few years, was quick to debunk Lee’s claims. “This is the exact opposite of what I have heard from every person who has ever worked with her. I would call it a blunder in characterization.” Robinson tweeted.
One thing is certain, the state of the visual effects industry is at a tipping point and Marvel Studios, as a place that requires a truly insane amount of work for both its movies and streaming series, is in on it.
Since film and television filming resumed in the fall of 2020, Hollywood studios have faced a backlog of post-production projects that were launched both before and after the COVID shutdown. This has led to a huge demand for visual effects work, with some major blockbuster releases being delayed as studios cannot find houses to work on visual effects.
Due to this increased demand, there have been many complaints from visual effects artists about excessive hours and workloads, as well as increased disorganization, leading to a new campaign called VFX-IATSE, which seeks to merge this key blockbuster post-production sector with downstream ones. workers union.
Earlier this month, VFX-IATSE released a survey of visual effects artists that painted a picture of an industry with low wages and poor working conditions: have health insurance that rolls over from job to job, and only 15% report any employer contributions to a pension fund,” writes VFX-IATSE. “On average, 70% of visual effects workers report working overtime without compensation to their employer. Overall, 75% of visual effects workers reported being forced to work through legal lunch and rest breaks without compensation.”
Whether or not Alonso’s departure is due to her role as visual effects supervisor at the company, it signals the biggest shift behind the scenes at the studio since 2017, when producer Jeremy Latcham, who has also worked at the studio since Iron Man Man” went on a production contract with 20th Century Fox. Feige is known for building a core team of loyal producers, many of them promoted from within (Trinh Tran, head of production and development, started out as an assistant to Marvel executive Louis D’Esposito). Alonso’s departure marks a huge shift for the company.
For the first time, perhaps ever, the bulletproof shell of Marvel Studios is starting to fade. Between the underwhelming performance of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantum Mania, rumors of a visual effects riot, and Alonso’s departure, the studio is far from the world-conquering atmosphere of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, the studio’s satisfying climax. storytelling so far and a box office giant that was, for a time, the most successful film ever.
Now, Marvel Studios is facing dwindling profits (due in part to the seeming aimlessness of Phase 4), a crowded market, and a promise from Disney CEO Bob Iger to cut costs. A tougher environment could push several Marvel Studios projects (including a number of popular streaming games) into 2024.
These days, Marvel Studios is entering territory more terrifying than any Quantum Realm or alternate dimension. And this is one of the first executive Avengers.
Jeremy Fuster contributed to this article.
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