Why 'The Marvels' bombed at the box office and what it means for the future of the once-mighty MCU

"The Marvels" scored the lowest-grossing opening weekend in MCU history.

Iman Vellani, Larson and Teyonah Parris in a scene from The Marvels. (Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Iman Vellani, Larson and Teyonah Parris in a scene from The Marvels. (Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Nick Fury, we may have a problem. Marvel Studios has experienced a rare body blow when the studio's 33rd feature, The Marvels, scored the lowest-grossing opening weekend in the 15 years since the original Iron Man made it a global pop culture force to be reckoned with.

The Nia DaCosta-directed space adventure opened to $47 million domestically and just under $100 million worldwide, the worst start for any Marvel film since The Incredible Hulk back in 2008.

The box office wasn't the only bad news for the super-trio of Brie Larson's Captain Marvel, Iman Vellani's Ms. Marvel and Teyonah Parris's yet-to-be-monikered Monica Rambeau. Critics were divided in their reaction to The Marvels, and the movie's B-level CinemaScore pointed to a lack of fan enthusiasm as well.

Here's what you need to know about the mighty Marvels flameout and what it means for the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Damage Control

Brie Larson's Captain Marvel returns in The Marvels, but early word of mouth isn't especially Marvel-lous. (Courtesy Everett Collection)
Brie Larson's Captain Marvel returns in The Marvels. (Courtesy Everett Collection)

The Marvels was already flying into strong headwinds due to reports of behind-the-scenes troubles. Earlier this month, Variety reported that the $250 million movie went through four weeks of reshoots and noted that DaCosta moved to England during the lengthy post-production phase to begin work on her next movie Hedda, starring Tessa Thompson, while editing The Marvels remotely.

DaCosta later clarified that report, noting that it's not an uncommon practice for directors juggling multiple projects. "For me personally, it was literally just that they moved the date of the film four different times," she told Jake Hamilton. "And so, instead of it being a two-year process, which I was deeply committed to, it became a three-and-a-half year process."

Meanwhile, several reviews noted that the film's abbreviated 105-minute runtime suggested editing room tinkering, with certain characters and storylines feeling shortchanged. Fans on social media agreed, speculating that key pieces were left on the cutting room floor. And then there's the overall feeling of "superhero fatigue" that's plagued both DC and Marvel properties throughout the year, from Shazam: Fury of the Gods and The Flash to Quantumania and now The Marvels.

The Marvels also had the misfortune of closing out a rough year for Marvel Studios. 2023 saw the studio releasing creatively and commercially underwhelming releases like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Secret Invasion, announcing a mid-production reboot for the Disney+ series Daredevil: Born Again and parting ways with high-profile executive Victoria Alonso. While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Loki Season 2 provided much-needed bright spots, both also represent farewells to popular characters that Marvel maybe can't afford to lose right now.

Strike Out

Parris and Larson in a scene from The Marvels. (Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection)
Parris and Larson in a scene from The Marvels. (Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection)

Besides Marvel's in-house problems, The Marvels also had to contend with a Hollywood landscape impacted by the Screen Actors Guild strike, which prevented Larson and her co-stars from doing any promotion for the movie for nearly four months. When the strike ended on Nov. 9, Disney wasted little time making Larson available for a last-minute promo run, but some box office analysts have suggested that was too little, too late.

At least moviegoers had previous experience with Captain Marvel thanks to her 2019 solo blockbuster and appearance in Avengers: Endgame. Parris and Vellani both joined the MCU with a pair of Disney+ series — WandaVision and Ms. Marvel respectively — and the strike arguably deprived both performers of the opportunity to introduce themselves and their characters to audiences that didn't watch either or both shows. Indeed, some have suggested that pairing Captain Marvel with two untested heroes might have diluted the character's power.

Had they been available to promote, all three stars could also have maintained a united front against the sexist trolls who have been review-bombing Larson since the release of the first Captain Marvel and were predictably ready to blame "diversity" for The Marvels crash-landing. Fortunately, MCU fans have been capably pushing back against that narrative on social media, and the filmmakers slipped their own jab at trolls into the film via a pointed Beastie Boys needle drop.

Generation NeXt

Vellani as Ms. Marvel in a scene from The Marvels. (Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection)
Vellani as Ms. Marvel in a scene from The Marvels. (Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection)

The Marvels may not be anyone's favorite Marvel movie, but here's one thing everyone agrees on: Iman Vellani is the studio's next big star. And the Pakistani-Canadian actress seems set to play a major MCU role going forward. The Marvels ends with Ms. Marvel essentially cosplaying as Nick Fury from the universe-building post-credits scene from the original Iron Man. Locating another young hero, Kate Bishop — Hailee Steinfeld's ace archer from the Disney+ Hawkeye series — Ms. Marvel pitches the idea of a "Young Avengers" crew that could also include Ant-Man's daughter, Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton).

As of now, Marvel doesn't have a Young Avengers movie or series scheduled for either Phase 5 or Phase 6, which are expected to wrap up by 2027. But those plans could already be in flux based on how the studio decides to proceed with embattled actor, Jonathan Majors — whose multiverse-manipulating villain Kang was previously billed was the MCU's next Thanos-level threat. Should Marvel stick with the next two-part Avengers epic they have on the calendar for May 2026 and May 2027, that could certainly serve as the debut of Ms. Marvel's YA-friendly Young Avengers team.

Meanwhile, a Marvels mid-credits scene introduces another new addition to the MCU — the long-awaited arrival of the X-Men. After the events of the film leave her stranded in a parallel reality, Monica Rambeau comes face-to-face with two mutants: Kelsey Grammer's Beast from X-Men: The Last Stand and Binary, a Captain Marvel variant who also happens to be Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) — Monica's late mother from her corner of the Marvel multiverse. That reveal lands just in time for...

Dirty Pool

Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman join forces for Deadpool 3. (Marvel Studios)
Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman join forces for Deadpool 3. (Marvel Studios)

Leave it to two Canadians to save the MCU. After years of good-natured ribbing, Vancouver-born hero Ryan Reynolds officially teamed up with Hugh Jackman's previously-retired mutant-from-the-North, Wolverine, for Deadpool 3. Originally set for release on May 3, the sequel is now hitting theaters on July 26 as Hollywood seeks to ramp up production following the end of the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Deadpool 3 is the title character's first movie within mainline Marvel continuity, and Jackman's presence suggests that other familiar faces from the now-defunct X-Men franchise could appear as well as Marvel weighs how to bring the rest of Charles Xavier's mutants into the MCU. Notably, it's also the only Marvel Studios movie headed to multiplexes in 2024, with Disney reshuffling the calendar to push Captain America: Brave New World (which will reportedly shoot additional material), Thunderbolts and Blade back to 2025.

The previous Deadpool movies have certainly been box-office bonanzas despite — or maybe because of — their R-ratings, and Deadpool 3 director Shawn Levy has already promised that Reynolds's fast-talking merc will still have a foul mouth. Meanwhile, the excitement generated by the Reynolds/Jackman pairing could be key to restarting fan enthusiasm for the MCU at large as Marvel seeks to regain its creative footing. Instead of Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, maybe Phase 5 could culminate with... Avengers: The Deadpool Dynasty.

The Marvels is playing in theaters now