Disney’s MCU Suffers “Historic Collapse”

in Entertainment, Marvel

Kevin Feige with the Avengers: Age of Ultron cast

Credit: Inside the Magic

Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe has never been at a lower point than it is right now in this moment, and fans are upset.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is a monumental achievement in the realm of filmmaking, starting with its inception in 2008 and rapidly evolving into a global pop culture phenomenon. Under the leadership of Kevin Feige, the MCU has consistently delivered blockbuster hits, creating a vast interconnected universe that captivates audiences worldwide.

Marvel's Avengers including Thor, Black Widow, Captain Avenger, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and the Hulk, look up at the destruction of the city.
Credit: Marvel Studios

The journey of the MCU began with the release of Iron Man (2008), directed by Jon Favreau and starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. This film marked the commencement of Phase One, introducing audiences to a new kind of superhero storytelling that would eventually culminate in the assembly of the Avengers. The Incredible Hulk (2008), Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and The Avengers (2012) followed, each contributing to the larger narrative woven by Marvel Studios.

The success of The Avengers was a game-changer, demonstrating the potential of a shared cinematic universe. Phase Two commenced with films like Iron Man 3 (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013), and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). The interconnected storytelling reached new heights with Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), leading up to the climactic Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).

Of course, Disney’s acquisition of Marvel in 2009 further fueled the expansion of the MCU. The franchise entered Phase Three with films like Captain America: Civil War (2016), Doctor Strange (2016), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), and Thor: Ragnarok (2017). The diversity of storytelling, genres, and characters continued to attract a broad audience.

Chris Pratt as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Credit: Marvel Studios

Phase Three culminated in the epic Avengers: Endgame, which became the highest-grossing film of all time (until surpassed by Avatar in 2021). The success of this film marked the end of an era, concluding the overarching narrative that had been building for over a decade. However, the MCU was far from over.

The introduction of Phase Four brought new challenges and opportunities. The streaming platform Disney+ became a crucial component, with series like WandaVision (2021), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021), and Loki (2021) expanding the MCU’s narrative beyond the confines of the big screen. Phase 4 faced its own unique challenges, but many hoped that Phase 5 was setting up for success following the acclaim for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) to end Phase 4 and then the subsequent success of Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 (2023) this past summer.

T'Challa as Black Panther in his original costume
Credit: Marvel Studios

Despite this success, recent reports from Variety indicate that the MCU is facing a downturn. The film The Marvels (2023), starring Brie Larson, a sequel to Captain Marvel (2019), experienced a significant drop in ticket sales during its second weekend. This decline has set a new record for the biggest second-weekend drop in the history of the MCU, with a staggering 78% decrease. In addition, the film is on pace to be the first MCU movie to not bring in more than $100 million at the domestic box office.

The reasons behind this decline are multifaceted. Audience fatigue is cited as a primary factor, as the sprawling franchise has inundated viewers with a multitude of interconnected stories and characters over the years. The sheer volume of content, both on the big screen and streaming platforms, may be overwhelming for some audience members, and this is one area that Disney CEO Bob Iger has vowed to fix, sharing that the company plans to focus on “quality over quantity” in the future.

Brie Larson as Carol Davers/Captain Marvel in 'The Marvels'
Credit: Marvel Studios

Still, there’s another aspect of this that simply includes the fact that Disney may not have given the audience a story that they cared about going to the theaters to see. While hardcore MCU fans were still quick to support the film, many of the fans who were invested through Phase 3 when things were led by Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, and Chris Hemsworth have been lost over the last couple of years.

Can Disney find a way to bring those fans back to the MCU? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments!

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