When Ant-Man and the Wasp earned over $120 million on its first weekend, it seemed like the Marvel Cinematic Universe was doing well. Sure, reviews were mixed (even if we’ve been pretty enthusiastic here at Den of Geek), but the movie still resonated with fans. And then box office numbers dropped 69% the second weekend, and a further 61% for weekend three. The massive drop in ticket sales forces even the most fervent MCU fan to wonder, “Is the Age of Marvel over?”
As you’d probably expect, returning Disney CEO Bob Iger’s answer is “no.” Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference (via Deadline), Iger assured attendees that “There’s nothing in any way inherently off in terms of the Marvel brand.” Even taking into account Iger’s literally vested interest in Marvel doing well, he does have a point. After all, four of the top grossing movies of 2022 were from the MCU, and Angela Bassett is up for an Oscar this weekend for her performance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. If that’s struggling, then most studios want a similar run of bad luck.
Still, Iger sees trouble on the horizon, and with it a need for course correction. “I think we just have to look at what characters and stories we’re mining,” he explained. Taken by itself, that comment might seem to suggest a return to the tried and true heroes of the MCU, more of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Mark Ruffulo’s Hulk, and maybe even convincing Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans to come back as Iron Man and Captain America. But Iger is looking forward, not backward.
“If you look at the trajectory of Marvel in the next five years, there will be a lot of newness,” he proclaimed. “We’re going to turn back to the Avengers franchise with a whole new set of Avengers, for example.” Iger neglected to say which new Avengers he had in mind, nor exactly how new he was thinking. We’ve certainly seen a lot of lesser known Marvel characters make it to live action — in the past twelve months, MODOK and Leap-Frog have both shown up on screen. But there are still plenty of cannonical Avengers who haven’t made their MCU debut, including Moondragon, Tigra, and Quasar. More likely are the characters we’ve seen, who have long Avengers associations in the comics, namely She-Hulk, Black Knight (Kit Harrington’s character from Eternals), and Monica Rambeau aka Spectrum.
But while Iger’s excited about getting these new characters out there, he doesn’t want them to overstay their welcome. “What we have to look at at Marvel is not necessarily the volume of Marvel stories we’re telling but how many times we go back to the well on certain characters?” he asked. “Sequels typically work well for us. Do you need a third and a fourth, for instance, or is it time to turn to other characters?”
While that means it’s more likely than it was before Iger’s comments that we won’t see a fourth Ant-Man movie or a third Doctor Strange, it does mean that we’ll get a unified roster and the chance for even more obscure Marvel characters to get their due. And if there’s anyone who can turn the tide for Marvel, it’s Z-List Avenger Demolition Man.