Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3
The sky is beautiful, and it is forever.
Spoilers for a very popular Marvel movie ahoy.
Last weekend, as you likely are aware, the Walt Disney Company released the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe into movie theaters. That film, The Marvels, remains unseen by me, but if you are like me, you are equally aware that it did not do well at the box office. On one hand, $46 million is a mammoth amount of money and certainly more than I’m likely to ever lay eyes on in my lifetime. On the other, it’s the amount The Marvels made this weekend, landing as the worst-ever opening weekend in the MCU, and that includes the 2008 Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton. Separate from any future discussion of the film’s quality, the number is Not Great, Bob.
That result, coupled with recent stories at industry trades like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, have led to plenty of debates about how and why we have gotten here. The MCU used to be untouchable, and now, the whole thing seems close to falling apart. For myriad reasons, including the recently resolved actors’ and writers’ strikes, Disney will only release one Marvel movie next year, via Fox with Deadpool 3. (I am aware that Madame Web and Kraven the Hunter are both set to open in theaters next year, but that’s not through Disney and also, I wish I was not aware of any of the facts in this parenthetical.) It’s easy enough to identify a handful of causes, from the glut of Marvel-related content on Disney+ that you should maybe watch in advance of The Marvels, like Ms. Marvel and WandaVision and Secret Invasion; to a marketing campaign that seemed to shift from emphasizing a sense of fun to a sense of weighty import; to the actors’ strike making it so Brie Larson and the other actors couldn’t promote the film until its literal opening day; and so on.
But I think all of these very reasonable guesses sidestep where the cracks started to show in the MCU. It would be easy to pin the blame on Kevin Feige, even, considering that he has apparently been the creative gatekeeper (either expected to serve that role by others, or intending to serve it himself) for many of the recent films and TV shows. I think, though, we need to cast our minds back before the pandemic, and even before Avengers: Endgame and the ensuing creative emptiness upon the defeat of Thanos and the conclusion of the Infinity Saga.
Where did this all start? If the MCU’s issues have snowballed to a creative catastrophe, what kicked it off?
James Gunn getting fired in 2018.