The Marvels isn’t doing so hot at the box office, and Marvel Studios shouldn’t be too surprised. The film, which stars Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau, and Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel, managed to rake in a paltry $46 million over the weekend—the lowest domestic opening in MCU history. Given the relative decline in fan interest since Avengers: Endgame, there’s no way Marvel didn’t see this coming.
It Was All Downhill After Endgame
The Marvels‘ poor opening weekend performance isn’t an anomaly but rather part of a pattern. Since Endgame‘s almost $3 billion worldwide box office haul, numbers for the MCU have been slowly dwindling. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) grossed less than half of Endgame’s total box office before the MCU took a really big dip with 2021’s Black Widow.
The Scarlett Johanson solo film made less than $400 million during its entire time in theaters. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, one of Marvel’s other 2021 offerings, faired slightly better, with a worldwide take of $432,224,634 before Eternals —also 2021—dipped again, barely cracking $400 million.
The COVID Pandemic Hit Theaters Hard
It’s important to note that all three films came out in the midst of a global pandemic when almost no one was going to the movies—an excuse The Marvels, unfortunately, can’t fall back on. Even post-pandemic, Marvel failed to hit its previous highs with Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 all performing worse than their predecessors.
Is Marvel Too Woke?
So what’s the deal; do Marvel movies suck now? Not necessarily. While many naysayers will point to Disney making everything “too woke” as the reason that Marvel is suddenly failing, that line of thinking is objectively false. The first Captain Marvel grossed over $1 billion dollars at the box office despite both being directed by and starring women.
Same for the first Black Panther—a movie with a cast that was 99 percent black and directed by a black man. Thor Ragnarok, largely considered the most popular Thor film, was directed by an indigenous New Zealander and featured a black, bisexual woman hero as the third lead. Clearly, diversity and representation aren’t what’s hurting Marvel.
The Marvels Isn’t Bad…The Formula Is
So if moviegoers aren’t avoiding The Marvels because it stars three women, why are they avoiding it? Simple. The MCU hasn’t changed; the audience has.
The Marvels is actually one of the better MCU movies in recent years—there’s a scene where the three heroes have to force a bunch of innocent people to let cats with Cthulu mouths swallow them in order to get them to safety! Unfortunately, the trailer seemed to promise the usual old generic superhero shenanigans, and most fans checked out before the movie was even released.
Marvel knows that it has to change with its audience it just doesn’t know how. Experiments like the black and white Werewolf By Night Halloween special and WandaVision have shown that Marvel fans will show interest if there’s something new to see. The Marvel formula needs to be shaken up.
The Audience Has Evolved
The same kids who cheered for the misogynist arms dealer Tony Stark in the first Iron Man have now grown up and no longer identify with the “America F*** Yeah!” might-makes-right sentiment that has fueled most of the MCU. To an audience that has grown more disenfranchised as it’s gotten older, a lot of the MCU can appear as thinly veiled copaganda.
Perhaps once Marvel finally integrates the X-Men into the MCU, they can start tackling some deeper issues. Mutants, after all, have often been stand-ins in the Marvel Universe for marginalized groups like the LGBTQIA+ community and the black community.
Until then, Marvel should expect more failures like The Marvels.