Written and directed by Nia DaCosta, The Marvels is the follow-up to 2019’s Captain Marvel, which saw Brie Larson star as the titular superhero. She’s joined by Ms Marvel star Iman Vallani, and WandaVision’s Teyonah Paris.
The film was predicted to debut to low box office takings, as fans complained of “Marvel fatigue” (that the franchise peaked with 2019’s Avengers: Endgame and has oversaturated the market since). However, some early reviewers were “pleasantly surprised” by the film.
Still, it wasn’t enough to save The Marvels from flopping. The film opened on Friday (10 November), where it took $21.5m (£17.5m) in the box office in the US on its first day, the second-lowest grossing opening day for an MCU film. Over the entire weekend, DaCosta’s movie took just $47m (£38m) in the US.
This placed The Marvels at the lower end of its estimated domestic takings based on Friday’s sales, and gave it the worst US opening weekend of any MCU film against an estimated $220m (£179m) budget. These numbers were already lower than the predicted box office figures for the film, which were originally $75m to $80m (£61m to £65m) but dropped last week to $60 to $65m (£49m to £53m).
The takings are some way off the previous lowest US opening for any Marvel film, which went to 2008’s The Incredible Hulk when it made $55.4m (£45.3m) in its first weekend (although this is not adjusted for inflation). In close second place was Ant-Man, which took $57.2m (£46.8m) in its opening weekend in 2015.
While some critics praised aspects of The Marvels, others called it a “disjointed mess” of a film with a “rushed” final act that felt as if there were scenes missing.
However, in her four-star review for The Independent, film critic Clarisse Loughrey was more generous, calling the film “marvellous”.
“Marvel has reached a crisis point – caught in a thunderstorm of its own making, its profits dwindling in the face of exploitative labour practices and overstuffed production lines,” she wrote. “So, isn’t it ironic that the project that the studio has publicly shown the least amount of faith in is the one to provide them with a blueprint for their own survival?”
Once unstoppable, the MCU reached dizzy heights in 2019, when Avengers: Endgame became the highest grossing film of all time (it was overtaken by previous title holder Avatar when the film was re-released in China in 2021).
Since then, there have been several attempts to introduce new characters and create fresh franchises, spin-off TV shows, sequel movies. However, these have largely failed to reach previous heights but critically and commercially.
In 2023, Marvel entered “phase five” of its releases with Paul Rudd sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Unfortunately, the film set a new negative milestone for the franchise, as it became the lowest-scoring MCU film on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 followed months later and fared better with critics, with Loughrey declaring it “the best Marvel movie in years”. Still, both films did well in the box office, taking $106m (£86m) and $118m (£96m) in their respective first weekends.
The Marvels is in cinemas now.