Out of the 10 highest-grossing films in America this year, six were superhero movies. And four of those came from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, adding, in their own way, to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ranked the highest among Marvel releases this year, earning $411,331,607 at the domestic box office.
Ironically enough, “Everything Everywhere All At Once”, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, also resides in a world where humans have the ability to travel through time and across dimensions; though, the film starring Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh (who is most likely preparing her speech for Best Actress for the upcoming Academy Awards as you read this) raked in just less than $70 million, while only being shown in 2,220 theaters–a rare sight to see for any film that made this year’s top 50.
While on its surface, some may myopically consider “Everything Everywhere All At Once” a superhero movie, in a way, it is. The movie tells the story of a Chinese American woman who owns a laundromat but is tasked with saving the world through a journey of self-love, reclamation, and spirituality.
However, it is also a movie about family and the disconnects found within one: a mother who does not understand her queer daughter; a stringent wife and her jocose and doting husband who struggle to meet in the middle; a devoted daughter who firmly cares for her aging father, who she keeps unaware of the problems facing the family business in
fear of disgracing him.
The movie, which melted the lines of genre, form, and style through its split-second transitions and managed to move moviegoers to tears on Tik-Tok, was one of the first to come out of the independent film and television company A24 this year. Since being founded by Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, and John Hodges in 2012, the company has continued the tradition of independent filmmaking by giving writers and directors the reins to tell artful, experimental, and, at times, quirky movies. A24 gives them the money to make it happen, and the films routinely outperform.
If there is a throughline to be found throughout the company’s slate of releases, it may be that A24 does not appear to be afraid of exploration. Some of its most popular films to make it to screens this year include the horror flicks “X” and its prequel, “Pearl,” both directed by Ti West; “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” a heartfelt story about a documentary filmmaker who makes a short film about a tiny one-eyed shell who lost his community, and “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” a summer smash hit about a group of 20-year-olds who escape to a mansion to evade a hurricane and play a game to break the cabin fever, eventually finding out that a killer is among them.
“Bodies Bodies Bodies,” directed by Halina Reijn and executive produced by one of its stars, Amandla Stenberg, cleverly pokes fun at Generation-Z and this era where TikTok dances double as language and content serve as currency.
“Gen-Zers rely heavily on digital spaces for self-expression, community building, and news gathering,” said Stenberg in a New York Times interview. “But also face a sense of cognitive dissonance as they try to stay present in virtual life and reality.”
Now in its fourth phase and soon entering its fifth, Marvel has more shows, movies, and characters than ever. Yet, what has been now called “the Marvel formula,” is starting to wear thin with audiences.
What A24 films seem to do best that Marvel can’t quite get, or is too far gone to attempt, is that they offer this generation, marked by pings and instant gratification, something original and daring that they might be able to align with. Not to say that products of the Marvel machine cannot tell stories that moviegoers can identify with, Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” and its 2022 sequel, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” have inspired countless audiences of Black people across the diaspora, but contemporary independent films set a new standard for the new generation of moviegoers today, and A24 is at the forefront of this new standard.