After two consecutive weekends of record-shattering MCU lows, the Captain Marvel franchise’s tagline of “Higher. Further. Faster” is beginning to sound like a cruel joke.
Despite following on from a movie that made over $1 billion back in 2019, The Marvels debuted to the lowest opening weekend gross of any Marvel Studios production. In its second weekend, things got even worse with a fatal 79% drop of its box office earnings (via Variety), the sharpest, swiftest decline for any comic book film ever. Yes, even Morbius (which had a 74% weekend 2 drop, FYI).
As The Wrap‘s Scott Mendelson noted, “I’ve never seen a sequel to a film as successful as Captain Marvel ($1.128 billion) perform as poorly as The Marvels.” Mendelson even pointed out that the Brie Larson-starring effort is surely doomed to go down worse than another infamous sequel to come from Disney. “Alice Through the Looking Glass‘ $299 million cume (following Alice in Wonderland‘s $1.025 billion cume) may be aspirational at this point,” he warned.
All in all, then, The Marvels is proving to be a very characteristic end to Marvel’s 2023, which began with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, still the worst-reviewed MCU flick in its history. As fans feared, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3‘s critical and commercial success is proving to be an outlier for Marvel in its current state, but a wonderful omen for James Gunn’s DCU and its eventual arrival with July 2025’s Superman: Legacy (which has managed to escape unscathed from the strikes).
With its reputation growing more and more tarnished with every new flop that comes along, and with the threat of a genuine rival to come from Warner Bros. at long last, it may be time for Marvel to fully flip the script on its entire approach to the cinematic universe format that it once pioneered. One possible reading of the recent nosedive of superhero projects at the box office is that audiences are simply not as interested in treating movies as just one chapter in a longer chain anymore. Just look at the Barbenheimer phenomenon: what cinema-goers want now — or again rather — is events. Not big-screen TV episodes.
It’s no fluke that the last MCU movie to cross the coveted $1 billion mark was Avengers: Endgame, but whether the currently-in-flux Avengers: The Kang Dynasty will be able to do that itself when it lands in May 2026, if Marvel continues at its current downward spiral, remains to be seen. The studio is already in the midst of revitalizing its flagging streaming content — by returning to a traditional TV showrunner method and launching the standalone Marvel Spotlight banner. It feels like we’re on the precipice of a similar, even greater, change to come for its movie outings too.
It’ll take smarter brains than I to figure out exactly what needs to be done, but something needs to be done, if Marvel ever hopes to fly higher, further, faster again.
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Khushi Patel is a science fiction author who lives in Austin, Texas. She has published three novels, and her work has been praised for its originality and imagination. Khushi is a graduate of Rice University, and she has worked as a software engineer. She is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and her books have been nominated for several awards.