Marvel Empire Finally Falling, The Future Of Blockbusters Looks Grim

By Robert Scucci | Published

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Just five years ago we all thought that the Marvel Cinematic Universe could do no wrong, and they had the box office numbers to prove it. But what goes up must come down, and as we get further and further away from Avengers: Endgame, Marvel films are falling flat. It’s making us wonder if their dynasty of big-budget blockbusters is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Now that Phase Five has reached its halfway point, a pattern of diminished returns has been established, and we can’t say for certain how much staying power the Marvel movies have left.

Iron Man Kicked Things Off

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When the MCU kicked off with Iron Man in 2008, Marvel Studios hit the ground running by putting out solid blockbusters. The box office numbers hit their highest point with 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, which many Marvel fans consider to be a solid bookend to the Infinity Saga, and the franchise as a whole.

To date, Endgame is Marvel’s highest-grossing film, with a global box office earnings total of nearly $2.8 billion.

Ended After Endgame

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In other words, the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off with Iron Man, and has not since been able to put out blockbusters as successful as Endgame, which ended with the death of Tony Stark/Iron Man.

But we can’t say for certain that the death of Iron Man was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After all, the second highest-grossing MCU film post-Endgame was 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, which nearly hit the $2 billion mark.

Superhero Fatigue?

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When you couple the public’s ongoing feeling of superhero fatigue with the fact that Marvel hasn’t consistently put out hit blockbusters since Endgame, it’s evident that Marvel Studios needs to course correct.

Most fans of the franchise point to exhausting multiverse plots and the introduction of unnecessary characters since Iron Man’s death as reasons for the franchise’s decline in quality and critical and commercial success.

Since Robert Downey Jr parted ways with Marvel, we have yet to see a charismatic central character that the fan base has universally loved.

Marvel Movies After Endgame

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It’s worth noting, however, that No Way Home was definitely a diamond in the rough compared to the rest of Marvel’s Phase Four releases, as it was one of few blockbusters that saw such high box office returns.

For context, Black Widow topped out earning just under $380 million, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings earned $432 million, and Eternals just barely broke the $400 million mark.

Though we’re talking about an unthinkable amount of money here, it’s worth noting that Marvel blockbusters have hefty production costs.

The Marvels Flops

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Since Marvel blockbusters boast an average production budget of $200 million, they need to generate a hefty payday to see a return on their investment. A general rule of thumb is that most big-budget blockbusters need to earn back two to three times their production budget to break even.

Fast forward to Phase Five, and Marvel looks like they’re in quite a bit of trouble. Marvel’s most recent blockbuster attempt, The Marvels, is the worst-performing film in the franchise to date, earning only $205 million against its reported production budget of $275 million.

After production, marketing, and distribution costs are factored in, The Marvels would have needed to earn roughly $700 million to break even before turning a profit.

Deadpool And Others Saving Marvel?

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As Phase Five approaches the second half of its release slate, Marvel can still possibly redeem itself with blockbusters like Deadpool & Wolverine, Captain America: Brave New World, and Thunderbolts if the storytelling and character development are on point.

If the Marvel Cinematic Universe wants to remain synonymous with high-grossing big-budget blockbusters, it needs to either consistently deliver movies that people actually want to watch (featuring heroes they actually want to root for) or reboot the whole thing and start with a clean slate.

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