The Marvels: A Box Office Disappointment

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In the world of blockbuster movies, few franchises have commanded as much attention and success as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Since its inception with “Iron Man” in 2008, the MCU has redefined the landscape of superhero movies, churning out one box office hit after another. However, not all entries in this illustrious franchise have met with the same level of success. One such example is “The Marvels,” a sequel to 2019’s “Captain Marvel” and the 33rd film in the MCU lineup. Despite the anticipation and the backing of the Marvel brand, “The Marvels” experienced an unexpectedly underwhelming performance at the box office, sparking discussions and analyses within the industry.

Budget and Worldwide Collection

Before delving into the reasons behind its lackluster performance, it’s crucial to understand the financial metrics that classify “The Marvels” as a box office disappointment. The film was produced on a grand scale, with a reported budget of $274.8 million. This budget placed significant expectations on its commercial performance, necessitating a substantial return to be deemed profitable. However, the film opened with $46 million domestically and earned a total of $109 million worldwide in its opening weekend. Compared to its predecessor, “Captain Marvel,” which debuted with $153.4 million, the drop in numbers was stark. The film’s overall performance fell short of the breakeven point, which was estimated to be over $600 million, considering the combined expenses in production and marketing.

Superhero and Sequel Fatigue

One of the primary factors attributed to the underperformance of “The Marvels” is the phenomenon of superhero and sequel fatigue. The MCU, despite its popularity and success, is not immune to the challenges of keeping audiences continuously engaged. With an expanding universe that includes numerous movies and TV shows, there’s a growing sentiment that the market is oversaturated with superhero content. This saturation could lead to a decrease in excitement and anticipation for each new release, as audiences begin to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content.

This sentiment of fatigue is particularly relevant in the context of sequels. While the MCU has successfully built interconnected storylines, the excitement for standalone sequels, especially for less popular characters, may not match the enthusiasm for ensemble films or crossovers. “The Marvels,” as a sequel and part of a larger superhero narrative, may have fallen prey to this growing weariness among audiences.

Character Popularity and Appeal

The appeal of the characters in “The Marvels” also played a crucial role in its box office performance. The film’s lead, Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel), despite being a high-profile character within the MCU, has not resonated with audiences to the same extent as other MCU heroes. This lack of connection is evident from the mixed reactions to the character, with some fans perceiving her as lacking the charisma and personality that define other popular heroes in the franchise.

In addition to Carol Danvers, the other two protagonists, Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan, who were introduced and developed in Disney+ TV shows, faced challenges in gaining a substantial fanbase. The transition from small screen to big screen did not translate into a significant increase in popularity for these characters. This lack of widespread appeal among the general audience could have contributed to the underwhelming interest in the film.

Impact of the Pandemic and Changing Audience Behaviors

The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on various industries, including the film industry. The pandemic has altered audience behaviors and expectations, affecting how and where people choose to consume entertainment. The shift towards home viewing, accelerated by the pandemic, has made it challenging for theatrical releases to attract the same level of audience as pre-pandemic times. This change in consumer behavior could be a contributing factor to the lower-than-expected box office numbers for “The Marvels.”

The pandemic has also influenced the marketing and promotional strategies for films. With limitations on physical events and gatherings, the traditional methods of promoting a movie were significantly impacted. This change in promotional activities could have affected the film’s ability to generate buzz and anticipation among potential viewers.

Lack of Promotion Due to Labor Strikes

An unusual challenge that “The Marvels” faced was the restriction on promotional activities due to labor strikes in the entertainment industry, specifically the SAG-AFTRA strike. This strike prevented the film’s lead actors from participating in traditional promotional activities. The absence of actor-led promotion, which often plays a significant role in building hype and interest for a film, likely had a detrimental impact on the movie’s visibility and audience engagement. Without the usual buzz that accompanies a Marvel release, “The Marvels” struggled to capture the attention it needed to succeed at the box office.

Streaming Platforms and The Disney+ Factor

The rise of streaming platforms, particularly Disney+, has significantly altered the landscape of movie viewing. With MCU movies becoming available on Disney+ within a few months of their theatrical release, many viewers might opt to wait and watch these films from the comfort of their homes. This shift in viewing preference, accelerated by the convenience and affordability of streaming services, poses a challenge for theatrical releases. In the case of “The Marvels,” the potential audience may have chosen to forgo the theater experience in anticipation of its eventual release on Disney+, thus affecting its box office performance.

Critical Reception and Audience Response

The critical reception of a film can greatly influence its box office performance. “The Marvels” received a moderate critical reception, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 62%. While this score is not overtly negative, it does not reflect the high levels of acclaim that have helped propel other MCU movies to success. Furthermore, there was a noticeable disparity between the critical reception and the audience response, which was more favorable, standing at an 85% score. This disconnect between critics and audiences can create mixed messages about a film’s quality and appeal, potentially deterring some viewers from watching it in theaters.

Global Pandemic and Industry Impact

The global pandemic has reshaped audience behaviors, with many people becoming more cautious about attending crowded places like movie theaters. This shift has had a profound impact on the film industry, with many movies released during the pandemic experiencing lower box office returns than expected. “The Marvels,” released during this uncertain time, likely suffered from these changed consumer habits, with potential viewers opting for safer, at-home entertainment options.

Implications for the MCU and Superhero Genre

The underperformance of “The Marvels” has prompted industry experts to contemplate its implications for the broader MCU and the superhero genre as a whole. Questions about audience saturation and the evolving dynamics of film distribution and consumption have come to the forefront. The film’s reception raises critical discussions about the future direction of superhero narratives and the interplay between cinematic and streaming platforms in delivering these stories to audiences.


“The Marvels” represents a case study in how a combination of factors, including character appeal, market saturation, changes in audience behavior, promotional challenges, and the impact of streaming services, can affect a film’s success. Its performance is a reminder that even the most successful franchises are not immune to market dynamics and audience preferences. As the MCU continues to expand, it will be essential for Marvel Studios to adapt to these changing conditions, ensuring that future installments resonate with audiences and meet the evolving standards of the competitive film industry.