Disney and the MCU has fallen foul of Gulf censors once more.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel’s long-awaited follow-up to the hit 2016 superhero film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, has been banned in Saudi Arabia. Rumors began emerging online early on Friday, with The Hollywood Reporter now officially confirming the decision.
Although the film is yet to be released and also hasn’t yet been reviewed, the decision is once again said to be related to LGBTQ issues, according to Middle East sources, with the new sequel character America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez) being gay, as per her portrayal in the comics. With homosexuality officially illegal across the Gulf, films that feature any LGBTQ references or issues often fall foul of the censors.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was due to be released across the Gulf on May 5 as part of its global rollout. While advanced tickets are no longer available on the websites of cinemas in Saudi, Kuwait and Qatar, they are in the United Arab Emirates, suggesting it will be released there.
The film follows on the heels of Chloe Zhao’s Eternals, which was banned across much of the Gulf in November following the inclusion of a same-gender couple in the film and the MCU’s first gay superhero. At the time, THR understood that censors had requested a series of edits to be made that Disney was not willing to make. An edited version did screen in the U.A.E.
In January, West Side Story was also stopped from hitting cinemas in Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. This time, regional sources told THR the decision was due to the character Anybodys, written as transgender in the new adaptation and played by nonbinary actress Iris Menas.