Sunday November 12, 2023
'The Marvels' Less-Than-Marvelous Opening
“The Marvels” didn't exactly crackle with energy at the box office.
The last time a Brie Larson-led Captain Marvel movie opened, it was March 2019, in the midst of the Avengers-Thanos wars. Half the universe, including Black Panther and Spider-Man, had already been snapped out of existence and we didn't know how we would get them back. We would find out in May. “Captain Marvel” was a prequel but it was the last chance to see an MCU movie before the big battle, and many jumped. It grossed $153 million opening weekend.
This weekend, its sequel, “The Marvels” opened to $47 million.
How low is that? The lowest opener for an MCU movie has always been the second in the series, “The Incredible Hulk,” with Ed Norton rather than Mark Ruffalo in the lead, way back in 2008: $55 million. And that was 2008 dollars. Adjusted, that's now closer to $80 million. So $47 million is ... not good. I'm sure everyone at Marvel and Disney are scrambling for answers. I'm sure pundits and critics will provide their own. Among the suspects:
- Superhero oversaturation. There's just too many of these damn things. That's what my wife said when I asked her about her interest in “The Marvels.” (Her interest was zero.)
- Tepid critic response. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 62%, which doesn't exactly make you want to dash out in November weather to see it.
- Is this even a popular character? This could be 1970s me talking, but this version of Captain Marvel, originally called Ms. Marvel, isn't iconic in the way that Spider-Man or Hulk or Captain America are.
- Is she even a character? How would you describe her personality? I'm not sure. You understand who Tony Stark, Peter Parker, Natasha Romanova, et al., ARE. All I know of Carol Danvers is she's a former test pilot from the 1990s who's now, somehow, one of the most powerful beings in the universe. But what's the hook? Where's the personality?
- Misogyny. That's the excuse I've been reading on social media. Which doesn't explain “Barbie” or Taylor Swift box office. Maybe it's suggesting that the comic dudes who always go to these things opening weekend should also go to this OR they're misogynist? That it's up to them and not the women who made “Barbie” and Taylor the box office stories of the year?
- We've lost the thread. This dovetails with the first about oversaturation. Because it's not just movies; it's TV shows. The other Marvels depicted above have appeared in Disney+ shows, right? Didn't one of them have her own show while the other figured into the “WandaVision” thing? But to what end? I don't know what's going on anymore.
- Identity politics is all well and fine, John, but you'll never make a living with it. It feels like Marvel feels like it's enough that they have Black and Indian characters to go with the white one, and they're all female, and rah, and it's not. You need the other stuff. You need a thread, and you need personality, and you need to give us a reason to go out into the November weather. And I don't know if “The Marvels” had any of that.
It still won the weekend, of course. In second place was the third weekend of “Five Nights at Freddy's” ($9 million --> $127), and then the fifth weekend of Taylor Swift ($5.9 --> $172). Then the arthouse stuff: “Priscilla” ($4.7/$12.7), “Killers of the Flower Moon” ($4.6/$59.9), and the Alexander Payne/Paul Giamatti reunion “The Holdovers” ($3.2/$4.2). I want to see “The Holdovers.” We'll probably go this week.
What does all of this mean in the long run? More movies like those last three? Doubtful. “Marvels” still swamped them in per-theater average. But maybe we'll begin to get a greater search for what the next phase might be. I would love to think it was serious films but I don't think we're a very serious country or a very serious world.