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'The Marvels' earned a disappointing $47 million in its opening weekend

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Has superhero fatigue set in at last? Well, looking at this week's box office numbers, it might seem so. "The Marvels," the 33rd installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the sequel to the hugely successful 2019 film "Captain Marvel," earned just 47 million in its opening weekend. Glen Weldon, host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, is here to unpack this surprising turn of events. Glen, what happened?

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: OK, well, can I first just stipulate that y'all slept on this movie, people got it wrong. "The Marvels" is a fun movie. It's light, it's fun, it's fast, it's breezy. It's got a big heart. It is only one hour and 45 minutes long. People should have gone to see it.

MARTÍNEZ: So clearly, let the record show that you liked. It doesn't change, though, that it did kind of bad, especially for a Marvel movie.

WELDON: Yeah.

MARTÍNEZ: I mean, Marvel movies do amazing and this one just didn't cut it, So people keep making sequels because of this - not this time around.

WELDON: Not this time, no, and I don't think there's any one reason. I think a lot of different things happened to keep people away this weekend.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so tick them off.

WELDON: All right. So No. 1, the SAG-AFTRA strikes meant that the usual Marvel publicity juggernaut just couldn't happen. Because normally in the months and weeks leading up to a big superhero movie, the lead actors would be making the rounds on TV and the internet, promoting the hell out of this thing, but the strike meant that they couldn't make any promotional appearances at all. The strike ended on Wednesday, and the leads ran to every outlet they could to let people know that this movie was happening. But you just can't squeeze months of publicity into 24 hours.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, Glen, that's one. To me, as a comic book nut, that's a weak one, but fine. What else was at work there?

WELDON: Well, "The Marvels" is the first Marvel movie to fully incorporate characters from the TV shows that are streaming on Disney+. You had Monica Rambeau from "WandaVision" and Ms. Marvel from "Ms. Marvel." Now, they're two of the better Marvel shows, but not enough people watched them to give those characters the kind of name recognition that could get butts in seats. And I'm sure people who've only paid attention to the movies, which, A, let's face it, that is most people, I'm sure they felt lost. They couldn't keep up with all these characters that Marvel keeps churning out. And as they churn out more and more TV shows, this is going to keep happening.

MARTÍNEZ: Name recognition, though, not enough to explain such a huge drop-off. I mean, "The Marvels" made less than a third of the money that "Captain Marvel" made over its opening weekend. So, Glen, after all, nobody knew who "Guardians Of The Galaxy" were when that first movie came out.

WELDON: Yeah.

MARTÍNEZ: That thing still made a ton of money.

WELDON: Yeah, but that was a different time, A. The MCU back then was just movies, movies that would come out sporadically. They'd have plenty of hype in the run-up. Now there's movies and there's TV shows, so many TV shows that the Marvel brand just doesn't mean what it did. It can't.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, two reasons right there. Any others?

WELDON: Yeah, I did see (laughter) a lot of social media posts from the usual hardcore Marvel bros this weekend saying things...

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

WELDON: ...How much they hated this film, for reasons like it's got this whole musical number. It's goofy, you can't take it seriously, which as far as I'm concerned, yes, exactly. I mean, that musical number is hilarious. There's lots of weird set pieces in this thing. I think it's safe to say that this is the first MCU film with a soundtrack that includes Barbra Streisand doing an Andrew Lloyd Webber number, and not for nothing. It is a movie led by three women, including two women of color. In other words, it's something new, and the hardcore fanbase doesn't like new. They want Iron Man back.

MARTÍNEZ: But superhero fatigue, I mean, that's a real thing. I don't get superhero fatigue. I can take as many superhero movies as Hollywood would like to pump out. This is, though, the 33rd MCU film. And for a lot of people, that's way more than they're ever going to see. So it's natural, right, that people just want to move on from this?

WELDON: I think that's certainly possible. I can't dismiss that because film genres have their moments in the sun. I mean, Westerns were a thing and then they weren't, and gangster films were a thing. Erotic thrillers were a thing in the '90s. Teen sex comedies were a thing. You know, superheroes are a genre. Like any other genre, they go in and out of fashion. Superheroes aren't immune to that.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Glen Weldon hosts NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. Glen, thanks a lot.

WELDON: Go see "The Marvels," people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALAN SILVESTRI'S "THE AVENGERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.