The Marvels flopping is just the start – here’s what the death of the MCU will look like

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)

The inevitable has arrived. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the superhero juggernaut that has reigned supreme at the box office for over a decade, is now experiencing a descent back to reality. This downward trajectory has been evident in recent years, following the cathartic ensemble piece Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Since then, the MCU has grappled with sustaining consistent interest in its expanding repertoire of films and TV series.

The most recent installment, The Marvels, a sequel to the highly successful Captain Marvel, has debuted with a lackluster $47 million (£38.4 million) opening weekend. This marks the lowest opening for any MCU film, falling even below the 2008 release of the widely criticized The Incredible Hulk.

The Marvels adds to a string of recent MCU releases that have struggled both critically and commercially. While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 performed decently, raking in around $845 million globally, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, faced harsh criticism and only garnered $476.1 million. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the sequel to the groundbreaking Black Panther, earned $859.2 million – a substantial drop from the original’s earnings.

Even on the streaming front, Disney+ series like Loki, Hawkeye, and Secret Invasion failed to capture widespread attention in the cultural discourse. A report on the apparent “crisis” at Marvel Studios by Variety’s Tatiana Siegel pointed to runaway budgets, with individual episodes of She-Hulk reportedly costing $25 million each. Additionally, issues surrounding actor Jonathan Majors, positioned as a key villain for the franchise, have added to the challenges.

Despite these challenges, reports of the MCU’s imminent demise may be exaggerated. Marvel Studios has committed to projects well into the future, with the confirmed slate extending until Avengers: Secret Wars in 2027. This lineup includes seven upcoming films and several streaming series, with additional projects, including a new X-Men film, awaiting release dates.

While the possibility of a downward spiral exists, it is more likely that Marvel will opt for a strategic overhaul. The MCU releases may become less frequent, a trend already in motion with only one theatrical film scheduled for the next year – Deadpool 3. The return of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man seems inevitable, given his status as Marvel’s most bankable asset, exemplified by the massive success of 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, which nearly reached the $2 billion mark.

Rumors also circulate about a potential return of Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, a move that could be a win for Marvel Studios. Downey’s presence historically translated into box office success, evident in his negotiations for bonuses tied to the performance of Captain America: Civil War in 2016.

The decline of the MCU may also reflect a broader trend – a possibility that some at Marvel Studios might be reluctant to acknowledge – that the superhero phenomenon has peaked. DC Studios, Marvel’s counterpart, faced muted receptions for recent releases like The Flash, Blue Beetle, and Shazam: Fury Of The Gods this year. It could be that viewers are growing weary of the superhero concept, a phenomenon not uncommon in the ebb and flow of film genres. While the MCU’s future is uncertain, one thing remains true: in the world of comics and superhero narratives, death is a malleable concept, subject to rewriting and reinvention. ‘The Marvels’ is currently showing in cinemas, and the unfolding chapters of the MCU’s story will continue to captivate audiences, albeit in an evolving landscape.

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