And it so happened that the sequel to Captain Marvel, titled The Marvels, is not doing well at the box office. It likely cost $250 million to make. Another $200 million to market. And is slowly approaching $120 million at the box office after five days in theaters. That's a lot of money, but when compared to previous Marvel Studios movies... it's a massive disappointment. It might very well break even after streaming/video revenue arrives... but there's likely not a third Captain Marvel movie happening because movies have to earn a billion at the box office to make studios happy. Which is a shame, because actual people who have seen the movie say it's a fun ride and terrific entertainment...
The fanboys are cackling over it all, of course, saying that "This is what happens when you're a woke company making woke films with an all-female cast!" Which is 100% bullshit, of course. But facts don't matter any more, so this is what we have to keep listening to.
What's happening here is not a big mystery. This is a trend that has nothing to do with Disney being "woke" or that the film features a "female cast" (remember that the original Captain Marvel made over a billion dollars). There's a lot of factors at play...
- People just aren't going to the theaters as much. It takes a truly breakout film to draw people to theaters and achieve massive box office success. That could be something entirely new (such as Barbie), or a no-brainer beloved IP (such as Super Mario Brothers), or a masterpiece with a compelling story (such as Oppenheimer). I would love to see The Marvels right now. But not enough to go to the theater to do it. I absolutely fucking hate going to movies where people are talking, lighting up their phone screens, and (ugh) chewing loudly. I have a far, far better experience at home. And that's where I will be watching The Marvels. If Disney wanted to make money off of non-theater goers like me, they might consider offering a $50 dollar, 24 hour at-home rental a week after the movie hits theaters. Which includes a free copy of the movie once it is released to home video months later. Not a great thing to do to theaters who are supporting your project, but this film ain't going to be in theaters for long if nobody is going to see it.
- Super-hero fatigue is a real thing. There's just so much damn super-hero content inundating people, and rarely is it something new and fresh. Comic book films have degenerated to Hallmark movies... the same stories over and over with different actors. Now, don't get me wrong, I watch every Hallmark movie that gets released... and am thrilled to consume as much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as they want to feed me... but I am abnormal that way. Most people aren't like that. They're bored. They've moved on. And buzz isn't building over these genre films as it used to be. Especially when you have DC muddying the waters with shit like Wonder Woman 1984 and The Batman and Black Adam and Shazam!: Fury of the Gods and The Flash and Blue Beetle... and really everything after he brilliant Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy (excepting the first Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad). The average movie-goer cannot distinguish between DC and Marvel, so everything is lumped together in their head... and there's a lot of not-great films happening there. Next up is... Madame Web?... crapped out by Sony? WTF? Didn't they learn their lesson with Mobius?
- Quality is declining, badly. The lead up to Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame was filled with incredible movies that were all carefully planned to be both stand-alone stories and build to something incredible. But Marvel Studios has made several missteps to sow disinterest in even the most diehard MCU fans. The "Multiverse Saga" has been a complete bust... forcing movies into a plot thread that's not fun or entertaining. With the exception of Hawkeye and Werewolf By Night, which I loved (and had nothing to do with the "multiverse"), all the Disney+ shows have been painfully average or outright bad. The movies have shown flashes of what I love (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Spider-Man: No Way Home) and movie I enjoyed quite a lot (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) and even a movie that was good but could have been so much better (Eternals). But everything else in Phases Four and Five that I've seen... five out of nine movies... haven't lived up to expectations (the idea of seeing Clea in a Doctor Strange movie is thrilling... but that happened only in a two-minute post-credits scene... that should have been the entire movie, but they were forced into this "multiverse" crap, so that's what we got).
- The MCU momentum is slowing to a crawl. Everything keeps getting delayed. People are forgetting what's getting us to where we're going. Marvel Studios has one movie in 2024. When you aren't keeping the Marvel Cinematic Universe in people's heads, it's silly to expect these random movies are getting any benefit from what's come before. Three awesome movies a year with blockbuster characters that people want to see is what needs to happen, and they're not doing that. Yes, I understand that the actors are wanting to retire from these characters, but they're the characters that people know and love, so recasting them should be the priority over dragging out D-list characters that people don't know or care about. This has been a serious, serious misstep by Disney management. I don't get it at all. They're supposedly building a team of "Young Avengers" which could be awesome because the comics are awesome... but is anybody outside of comic book nerds like me going to give a shit? How are these films going to make any money? Introducing new characters is good, but saying "We've got Ms. Maravel, Patriot, Stature, Wiccan, Speed, and America Chavez... plus kid versions of Hawkeye and Falcon!" is a far cry from saying "We've got Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man, Black Widow, The Hulk, Hawkeye, Falcon, Vision, and Scarlet Witch!" or whatever. I'm sure the hope is that the Young Avengers will be the next Guardians of the Galaxy... but the fact that you don't have box office names like Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, and Karen Gillan... means that the odds of achieving the same success are practically zero.
- The future is anything but bright. The lead-up to a confrontation with Kang should have been phenomenal. The lead-up to an adaptation of Secret Wars should have been incredible. But there are no anchor films to get us there. Deadpool 3 will be great because Deadpool is great, but it's very much it's own thing. Which means the films we get before the next two Avengers movies are Captain America: Brave New World, Fantastic Four, Thunderbolts, and Blade?!?? WHAT THE FUCK? I mean, it's not that these films can't be great entertainment and a lot of fun... I love these characters... but this is the lead-up to two of the biggest events in comic book history? I dunno. Maybe Matt Shakman has an idea of how to make his Fantastic Four film catapult us int something that makes sense... but this is so weak. Compare the films leading up to Infinity War to this and it just seems absurd.
- I hate to say "reboot"... but, yeah, reboot this shit. The one thing I have loved about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that everything is interconnected like the comics. I love it when characters pop up in each other's movies. But when it's a bunch of D-listers, the current trend is not sustainable because you're going to have a rough time making a profit. A fresh reboot may be the only way out. And by "fresh" I mean not recycling the same stories we've already seen.
And there you have it. I don't think that anything I've said is going to be news to anybody paying attention. But since Marvel doesn't seem to be paying attention, I guess it needed to be said.
Here's hoping that the streaming release for The Marvels won't keep me waiting too long.