Box office press overshadows Marvel-ous super women

Recent releases, The Marvels and Madame Web, showcase powerful women heroes, but their poor financial performances are more penetrating news stories.

(L-R): Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, and Teyonah Parris as Captain Monica Rambeau in Marvel Studios' THE MARVELS. Photo by Laura Radford. © 2023 MARVEL.
(L-R): Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, and Teyonah Parris as Captain Monica Rambeau in Marvel Studios' THE MARVELS. Photo by Laura Radford. © 2023 MARVEL. /
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The Marvels is the freshest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to hit theaters, this past November. Almost all the reports surrounding The Marvels detailed the sequel as anunprecedented box office failure for the MCU. Unless you actively sought it out, the mostly positive critical reaction was buried under chatter about the movie losing money or how an emphatic group on the internet targets Brie Larson’s symbol of feminism.

The Marvels is the only MCU movie not to reach $100 million in its domestic box office run. It is the first of 33 movies for the franchise, dating back to 2008, with this unfortunate statistic. The Incredible Hulk, the second MCU film, made $135 million, while Eternals struggled during the 2021 “pandemic era” with $165 million. Only four additional movies failed to earn at least $200 million.

Now, Madame Web is making headlines as breaking the record for the lowest opening of a Sony Spider-Man movie in its 20+ year history. But unlike The Marvels, Madame Web also has to fight negative reviews. Although the movie’s storyline is quite unlike almost any other superhero movie, many of the scenes play out in ridiculous (bordering on ridiculously fun) fashion.

Madame Web is centered around a protagonist who is not yet a superhero, trying to save three teenage girls, who are not yet Spider-Women, which is also a narrative detriment. Anton Chekhov famously described the necessity of plot devices by explaining that if you introduce a gun in the first act, you should use it by the third act. Well, Madame Web violates this by teasing a trio of Spider-Women in the first act and never pays off that promise.

It is a shame because all four actresses show promise in these roles, even if they are burdened by clunky dialogue and poor plot decisions. They are talented performers in various stages of their careers, and the entire ending feels like a setup for a more entertaining sequel that will likely never see the light of day, due to its brutal box office opening.

Since Madame Web came out on a Wednesday prior to a Monday holiday, it theoretically had a six-day opening weekend, and still only managed to bring in $26 million during that frame. If you count just the traditional three-day weekend, the movie only made $15 million. The next lowest Sony Spider-Man opening is Morbius at $39 million, followed by The Amazing Spider-Man, which grossed $62 million on its first weekend.

Other than their monetary misfortunes, what the two unconnected Marvel films have in common is that they both feature a team of female heroes. The Marvels lineup is particularly marvelous, with Brie Larson continuing to build her empowering Captain Marvel as a principal hero in the MCU and Iman Vellani delivering an effervescent performance as Ms. Marvel.

In general, box office figures have been more erratic in recent years, due to a changing viewing landscape and other external factors. Therefore, it isn’t always a great indicator to judge a movie by its numbers. The Marvels should not be remembered most for being at the bottom of the MCU’s box office ranking. And Madame Web deserves to at least be seen by regular superhero fans. It is much more watchable than 2004’s two-hour beauty commercial, known as Catwoman – a movie with a similar opening weekend.

Next. The Marvels MCU connections. The Marvels MCU connections. dark