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Movie Monday: Audiences Say ‘Meh’ to ‘The Marvels’

For the last 15 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has stood atop the moviegoing world like an Ant-Man-like colossus, batting away rivals and collecting more cash than many South American dictatorships. But eventually, we all knew the franchise would meet its ultimate foe: audience indifference. And it appears that time may be upon us.

Sure, The Marvels—the MCU’s latest big-screen release—won the weekend. But it earned “just” $47 million in North America, according to early estimates. That’s less than a third of what the original Captain Marvel made back in the pre-COVID days of 2019 (when it earned $153.4 million in its debut weekend), and a low-water mark for the MCU as a whole. Previously, Ant-Man had been (appropriately) the MCU’s tiniest opener with $57.2 million.

The Marvels didn’t fare that much better overseas, either—zapping up just $41.5 million for a global gross of $88.5 million. Keep in mind that Disney and Marvel reportedly spent $300 million to make and publicize the film.

The signs of an MCU slowdown have been with us for a while. While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 did just fine this year (earning $359 million during its early summer run), Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania also struggled, earning just $214.5 million this winter and spring.

Certainly, superheroes are known for their come-from-behind victories—sometimes going so far as to rise from the dead. But The Marvels’ performance thus far is not encouraging.

Holdovers dominated the rest of the box office’s top five.

Two-time box-office champ Five Nights at Freddy’s finished second with $9 million. That swells its total domestic tally to $127.2 million—enough to buy plenty of overpriced, cardboard-flavored pizzas.

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour continues to flaunt its own cinematic might, finishing the week third with $5.9 million. The biopic Priscilla notched $4.8 million for fourth place, and Killers of the Flower Moon pocketed nearly $4.7 million for fifth.

Journey to Bethlehem, a Christian musical and the weekend’s only other wide release, landed in seventh place (behind The Holdovers and its $3.2 million), banking $2.4 million.

Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

5 Responses

  1. I saw this coming. Eventually people will get tired of seeing the same characters over and over again. The best way to Marvel to become relevant again is to create one or more new characters.

  2. I’ve had it up to HERE with superhero movies. The last one I saw (only because a friend of mine wanted to go) was “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness,” and didn’t have a CLUE what was going on. Most people seemed to love “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but I didn’t. I like a good science fiction film, but that movie was what I would call “space fantasy.” Either you faithfully follow EVERY SINGLE MCU and DCU movie (and, increasingly, TV show), or you should just give the whole thing a wide berth. Eye-candy is nice, but I should also be able to comprehend the STORY.

    1. Yeah. I enjoy most of the movies, but they’re basically set up like courses in a college curriculum (complete with “Avengers” serving as end-of-term summations and we even got four of them), where very few of them would make sense on their own. I had a laundry list of issues with “Endgame,” but it did feel like a capstone to 20+ movies at least structurally, if not aesthetically (pacing was one of the big issues for me, alongside how Black Widow was treated but I think her movie did a great job of rectifying that). But most of the movies after that point feel like a graduate degree with an undeclared focus.

      I adored the first Doctor Strange movie, then watched the second one on television and used it as background noise along with Thor 4. I think one problem too many of these movies have – and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, despite being a fun film, also had this problem – is that they seem to be simultaneously built to draw on years or decades of lore, while also being designed to be watchable as background noise that’s meant to be aesthetically accessible even if you don’t want to have to think about what’s going on.

  3. You’re right. And neither of those objectives — corporate franchise extension or background noise — have anything to do with actually being a good movie.

  4. The MCU has become difficult to follow. I am someone who has read a good chunk of the comics, so that enabled me to still follow to an extent while skipping the movies that had too much sexual content.
    Now we also have to follow the TV shows and the fact that they’ve opened up the multiverse has made it harder to care about what’s happening.
    And in Spider-Man: No Way Home they did make the multiverse idea work, but the audience already had reasons to care about the characters from seven previous movies. Into the Spiderverse also succeeded, but it stayed in one universe. However, them continuing the multiverse with Doctor Strange made it depersonalizing because when we saw other versions of the characters hurt, we had no backstory to relate them to.
    I want to eventually see The Marvels because I generally enjoyed reading the Ms. Marvel comics. Kamala seemed realistic and as a woman it was nice to read a comic with a sweet girl character that had her there for story and with a decent costume that wasn’t objectifying. But many comics supposedly for girls just make all the girls act tough like men.