With Captain Marvel opening over the weekend to a $455 million weekend box office -- the sixth-highest debut ever -- the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe latest film stands as a strong reminder: Targeted campaigns by online trolls against big-budget features simply don't matter.
In the weeks leading up to the March 8 premiere, trolls "review-bombed" Captain Marvel on such prominent websites as Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and IMDb.com, in an effort to drive down its audience score. It was apparent retaliation for star Brie Larson calling for greater diversity among entertainment journalists and critics who cover the film, which led to detractors to label her as "sexist" and "racist," and erroneously asserting she didn't want white men to watch Captain Marvel. Soon thereafter, Rotten Tomatoes overhauled its site, preventing users from posting reviews ahead of a film's wide release. However, the review aggregator website maintained the policy change wasn't a direct response to the campaign against Captain Marvel.
The thing such targeted online campaigns, particularly in advance of the films' release dates, is that they're so blatantly transparent that increasingly savvy audiences simply don't take them into consideration when purchasing tickets. If anything, they appear to backfire, raising awareness about films and encouraging audiences to support those subjected to such concentrated vitriol.
A similar campaign in 2017 targeted Star Wars: The Last Jedi for a variety of reasons, including the prominence of female characters. While the online trolls succeeded in driving stars Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran from their social media accounts, the film was an unmitigated commercial success, earning more than $1.3 billion worldwide, and becoming the top-grossing film of the year. Additionally, there were reports that the online hate toward The Last Jedi may have been amplified by Russian bots in an effort to divide Americans by targeting such cultural hallmarks as Star Wars.
The only film that may have been derailed by online trolls is 2016's Ghostbusters reboot, directed by Paul Feig. Earning $229.1 million worldwide on a reported production budget of $144 million, the film was targeted for criticism from the moment it was announced. Despite that, the actual impact of online vitriol is debatable, especially as Ghostbusters was received much more poorly by professional critics than either The Last Jedi or Captain Marvel.
Female-led films, like 2017's Wonder Woman, and more diverse movies, like last year's Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, have smashed box-office records and earned praise from critics, despite incessant complaining by the vocal fractions of the "fanbase." With Marvel's Black Widow preparing to begin principal photography this year, and Wonder Woman 1984 poised to open in theaters everywhere next year, the push for increased diversity and representation in major Hollywood films shows no signs of slowing. Of course, despite negative reactions to The Last Jedi, Star Wars: Episode IX is virtually guaranteed to have Rey and Rose return to prominence in that galaxy far, far away.
Just days into its wide release,Captain Marvel has already continued Marvel Studios' winning streak, swatting aside weeks of targeted negativity. Following its record-breaking opening weekend as the highest-earning debut for a female-led film, Disney CEO Bob Iger has expressed his congratulations and pride in its success. With advance "review-bombing" campaigns clearly ineffective against such eagerly anticipated films, it's a wonder that online trolls continue their efforts at all.
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Jude Law as the commander of Starforce, Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser, Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer, Gemma Chan as Minn-Erva, Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau, Algenis Perez Soto as Att-Lass, McKenna Grace as a young Carol Danvers and Annette Bening as the Supreme Intelligence.