Why did the Marvels flop?

The Marvels officially had the worst opening weekend of any MCU film ever, making it the series’ first flop.

With a domestic opening weekend of $47 million, the Brie Larson-directed superhero film The Marvels has secured its infamous spot in the MCU.

The Marvels failed to even break $50 million domestically, below even the maligned 2008 film The Incredible Hulk, leading many to label this latest outing as one of the biggest busts of the year to call. But given the poor reception upon release, lack of promotion from the main cast due to the recently ended SAG-AFTRA strike, and claims of superhero fatigue, things were going against The Marvels.

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But ultimately, Disney executives will ask themselves: Why is The Marvels a flop? And spoiler alert, it’s not because the movie is bad.

Brie Larson in The Miracles.Prime Video

Overly critical reviews sank The Marvels

The Marvels debuted to one of the lowest critical ratings for an MCU film ever, peaking at Rotten Tomatoes critical ratings in the mid-50s before improving slightly to 62% over the weekend.

While it may be that these low critical ratings were indicative of an inferior film that forced viewers to stay away, they’re actually an example of a larger meta-trend when it comes to critics and the MCU.

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In the post-Endgame landscape, critics have become far more critical of superhero films, particularly MCU films, compared to general audiences.

While in the early phases of the MCU critics and audiences largely agreed on the quality of the Marvel films, in Phases 4 and 5 the gap between audience and critics’ perception of these projects has grown massively.

For example, some of the most maligned projects from the first three phases – Iron Man 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Thor: The Dark World – had relatively low critical ratings on Rotten Tomatoes by MCU standards. However, these also coincided with some relatively low ratings.

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MCU Rotten Tomatoes Phases 1-3Rotten tomatoes

But when it comes to the worst MCU projects of Phases 4 and 5 – Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Thor: Love & Thunder, Eternals and The Marvels – viewership remains fairly stable while critical ratings dropped massively.

The gap between audience perception and critics’ perception has grown to double digits after Endgame, with films that audiences like as much (or more) than the worst early MCU films, but now they’re being critically panned.

MCU Rotten Tomatoes Phases 4-5Rotten tomatoes

So why is it that while audiences perceive these seven films to be similar in quality, the earlier films received so much more critical acclaim than the later ones?

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While it’s easy to say that audiences are simply more willing to accept lower quality MCU films, this wasn’t the case with Love & Thunder, Eternals or Quantumania. Audiences seemed to like these films far less, but it was The Marvels that fell short, even though audiences preferred them.

Instead, it seems as if growing concerns about Marvel’s role in the state of the entire film industry, superhero fatigue among those reviewing the films, and unrealistic expectations for individual MCU films post-Endgame have dampened critical response to films appear to be relatively similar in quality to previous MCU films.

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Nick Fury in Secret Invasion Episode 6Disney+

An indictment of the state of the MCU

However, there is no question that the perception is that the current state of the MCU is one of a franchise in decline.

Many of the negative reviews focused on the film’s overall impact on the MCU, the fact that it feels like a movie Part of a puzzle that seems to be the case lose its shineand not just whether the film itself is worth seeing.

In part this is a valid criticism, as projects like She-Hulk and Quantumania were heavily criticized for their CGI, others like Thor: Love & Thunder were called too “joking” and the recent Secret Invasion as well panned by critics and audiences alike (It is currently the only MCU project below 50% in both audience and critic ratings.)

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The fact that The Marvels followed so closely in the footsteps of Secret Invasion (both starred Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and the Skrulls) certainly didn’t boost audience confidence that the feature film represented a step forward would.

Many have pointed out that the oversaturation of MCU content has contributed to this negativity, both because the quality has declined as the MCU’s leadership has become scarce and because it makes each new installment feel less impactful.

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Marvel has already announced that it will slow down the pace of its upcoming releases to ensure fans get the high quality they are used to. Deadpool 3 is currently only scheduled for a theatrical release in 2024.

And while “superhero fatigue” is often cited as the reason for the MCU’s demise and Marvel’s bombing, it’s only one piece of the puzzle.

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick FuryWonder

The Role of Strikes in The Marvels

The SAG-AFTRA attack is used as a crutch for why the film bombed, but is also dismissed as inconsequential.

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If the cast of The Marvels had been able to promote the film, it certainly wouldn’t magically right the ship. However, it might have prevented The Marvels from becoming the MCU’s biggest box office flop.

While many scoff at the idea that Brie Larson on late-night talk shows or Samuel L. Jackson in internet interviews improved the fortunes of The Marvels, it’s important to recognize that this film faced very different circumstances than other MCU -Consequences.

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First, the plot of this film was largely tied to “Ms. Marvel,” a Disney+ show that was well-received but wasn’t one of the most-watched MCU shows.

Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan was not well known among general audiences when the film was released and the pre-release press tour would have been a good opportunity for many fans to get to know her.

The fact that Vellani has received so much praise for her performance in The Marvels only lends more credence to this statement, as does the fact that Vellani is a known fan of the entire series. Her infectious nature would have certainly created some interest and hype on the internet.

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Monica, Kamala and Carol in The Marvels.Disney/Marvel

Second, since The Marvels was marketed as a team-up event, general audiences could have benefited from seeing the chemistry between the three leads (Vellani, Larson and Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau) during a press tour.

Once again, this on-screen chemistry was praised by critics and audiences, so missing out on this certainly hurt The Marvels in some way.

Third, we must acknowledge that The Marvels has a unique disadvantage as one of the few female-led superhero films and has therefore been the subject of backlash.

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Captain Marvel And Ms. Marvel Both were bombarded with reviews leading up to their release, and this seems to be why This also applies to The Marvelswhich has 20% of its ratings on IMDb as 1-star.

While the press tour certainly wouldn’t counteract that feeling, without the stars out there, the negativity was allowed to grow unchecked.

Finally, the SAG-AFTRA strikes also had a negative impact on the perception of Disney (and therefore the MCU) as a whole.

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Fan sentiment during the strike was firmly on the side of the actors and writers. Stories about comments from Disney CEO Bob Iger, as well as revelations about the company’s planned use of AI and other work practices, have certainly angered fans against the company as a whole.

Since the strikes only ended a week before The Marvels premiered, there is no doubt that at least some general audiences rejected the film due to perceptions of the Disney corporation.

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Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau team up in “The Marvels.”Disney/Marvel

Is “The Marvels” the end of the MCU?

While many out there are using the fact that The Marvels has become such a huge flop as an indication that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is dead and buried, that is most certainly not the case.

On the one hand, a bad opening weekend doesn’t necessarily mean the demise of a film that can always gain momentum in the following weeks, as was the case with another Disney project, Elemental.

Even though The Marvels is likely to be a flop, we must remember that this film is not about one of the MCU’s most popular heroes or the most popular characters in the comics.

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With heroes like Spider-Man and the Hulk still having films left in the MCU, and the X-Men and Fantastic Four waiting in the wings, it’s unlikely that the Marvel machine will stop, especially after a flop.

The Marvels flop should be a wake-up call for Disney and Marvel that they can no longer rely on every release being a half-billion-dollar hit. That they need to put their time and effort back into writing, effects, directing and marketing.

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However, anyone who thinks this is the nadir for the world’s biggest franchise may need to recalibrate their expectations.

Dustin Huang

Dustin Huang is a Nytimas U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Dustin Huang joined Nytimas in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: dustinhuang@nytimas.com.

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