After a decade of unmitigated success, the Marvel cinematic universe has hit a bit of a rough patch recently. The Marvels became the lowest-performing Marvel movie ever at the box office during its opening weekend, failing to make even a third of what Captain Marvel did in its opening weekend, and everything from the Daredevil series to Captain American 4 is rumored to be going through major reshoots. In Disney’s Q4 earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Iger suggested that focusing on the quantity of products coming out of Marvel has led to a degradation in the quality of those products.
“I’ve always felt that quantity can be actually a negative when it comes to quality. And I think that’s exactly what happened. We lost some focus,” Iger explained, saying that the pandemic also coincided with a significant uptick in the production of Marvel properties.
This was something of an about-face for Iger, who had said a few years ago that Disney was looking to increase the volume of Marvel shows in order to boost the value of services like Disney+.
After 15 years of dominance at the box office, some are wondering whether the recent spate of bad news stories from Marvel may signal that we’re approaching the end of an era. Of course, Marvel’s success came from much more careful spacing of its various stories, and because people tended to like the movies they released.
The problem, as Iger alludes to, may not just be that there is way more stuff than there used to be, thanks chiefly to the onslaught of TV shows constantly premiering on Disney+, but that the quality of those shows and movies has been in fairly steady decline.
And, even in this supposed Marvel downturn, which has become especially severe in 2023 with the launch of the MCU’s phase 5, the franchise has still had successes to point to. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 did quite well at the global box office, and properties outside the MCU have also done quite well. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse managed to make plenty of money and become one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the year thanks in large part to its original storytelling and its distinctive artistic style.
Of course, Iger only has control over one section of the superhero world, and it seems distinctly possible that people are simply getting tired of what that corner is producing. Superhero movies are still doing just fine, but audiences have become discerning about things like quality. Marvel movies are not guaranteed to be hits anymore, and quality control may have something to do with that.
Iger and the team at Marvel are clearly hoping to course-correct. There have reportedly been talks about bringing back the cast of the original Avengers, scrapping the entire Kang story arc that was supposed to be the crux of their future plans, and giving movies more latitude to have different styles and tones. What remains to be seen, though, is whether any of this will pan out.
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