Hopes that Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness would break the curse of Marvel movies not being released in China may now be dashed. The Benedict Cumberbatch-starrer has made waves on local social media over a scene in the opening bit of the sequel where a newspaper kiosk bears the Chinese characters for The Epoch Times, an international multi-language newspaper and media company which opposes the Chinese Communist Party.
We understand that Doctor Strange 2 has been submitted to the Chinese authorities for review, and that a release has not yet been nixed or approved. It appears the current brouhaha has been fueled by netizens doing a frame-by-frame analysis of the scene in question.
To wit: Doctor Strange battles Gargantos on the streets of New York, with the kiosk in the background. It’s off to the left of the screen and appears briefly. Having seen the footage for the first time at CinemaCon this past week, we didn’t notice it; we were focused on the action and the story. But, that’s evidently not so for some who are digging into every detail. (Blink and you’ll miss it in the video below.)
Disney is not commenting, but it would be difficult for the studio to not be aware of the situation.
There have indeed been a lot of hopes riding on Doctor Strange 2, whose predecessor grossed $109M in the PRC and where no movie featuring a Marvel character has been released since Avengers: Endgame. And that’s not only from a Hollywood perspective — on the recent anniversary of Endgame’s 2019 release, Chinese social media lit up with mentions of “I love you 3000.” That movie did $629M in China.
What followed amid the pandemic was the apparent blackballing of Marvel. Black Widow, Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Spider-Man: No Way Home were not granted dates. There are varying theories as to why this happened, perhaps going back to Black Widow’s depiction of communism, while the slate of films may have been a no-go as soon as years-old comments allegedly made by Eternals helmer Chloé Zhao surfaced back in the early part of 2021. Similarly, 2017 comments by Shang-Chi star Simu Liu also came to light, evidently further complicating matters in the mind of the government, and the propaganda department which oversees film.