As fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe gear up for this week’s sure-to-be shocking finale, “Avengers: Endgame,” it seems as if movie-goers are still boning up on the multi-billion-dollar franchise’s latest superhero story. Now in its seventh week of release, the Brie Larson-starring “Captain Marvel” continues to perform in big-time fashion. The Ryan Fleck- and Anna Boden-directed film just crossed the $400 million mark at the domestic box office, the seventh MCU feature to accomplish such a feat during the series’ decade-long run. Also impressive: the film actually went up 6% from the previous week, signaling that Marvel fans are not only still turning out for the film, but perhaps taking in yet another watch before Larson and her cohorts appear in “Endgame.”
Like “Black Panther,” the film’s continued performance at the box office proves that, while most of the MCU’s biggest wins have come from team-up films, including all three “Avengers” films and even “Captain America: Civil War,” there remains an audience appetite for origin stories that focus on new characters as they join the milieu. But of the seven films to cross the $400 million mark, only “Captain Marvel” and “Black Panther” serve as origin stories or standalone adventures (well, as “standalone” as the interconnected universe gets) for single characters (while “Iron Man 3” is also among that rarefied list, the Robert Downey Jr.-starring hit had two other standalone films under its belt before its release).
As it stands, the Chadwick Boseman-starring “Black Panther” remains the series’ top domestic earner and the first MCU film to be nominated for Best Picture. And “Captain Marvel” now has pushed past “Black Panther” at the international box office, taking in over $690 million (Ryan Coogler’s 2018 hit ultimately made just over $646 million in foreign territories), as both films handily proved that there is also a global appetite for films that focus on the kinds of heroes that have not always gotten their own big screen stories.
Courtesy of Marvel
These are films that hinge on the stories of superheroes that do not typically get the individual movie treatment: even Marvel, which continues to dominate as the world’s top superhero moviemaker, spent its first decade focusing on films about white male superheroes, with women and people of color cast mostly in supporting roles. That’s changing, and even rival DC has gotten hip to the appeal and earning power of films that follow other kinds of heroes, from “Wonder Woman” to “Aquaman.”
It hasn’t always been easy, however. That both “Captain Marvel” and “Black Panther” were dogged by vocal “fans” before their release — “Black Panther” was subject to everything from a planned Rotten Tomatoes sabotage to a rant from the perpetually annoyed Bret Easton Ellis and “Captain Marvel” had to contend with its own planned RT score sabotage and scores of online trolls continuing to flood the internet with hate-filled comments, screeds, and even videos — shouldn’t be ignored. Even with factions of toxic fandom attempting to quite transparently bring down the films, the box office results speak loud and clear: people want to see these films and will show up when they’re made.
Those big box office numbers should thrill both fans of some of the series’ currently underrepresented characters and Marvel accountants perhaps worried about the imminent end of the “Avengers” plotline. While Marvel has stayed mum on its official plans post-“Endgame,” recent rumblings from the Marvel camp indicate that it will embrace some of the lessons taught by the success of both “Captain Marvel” and “Black Panther,” with films like a long-awaited “Black Widow” spinoff on deck, along with more diverse features like “The Eternals” and “Shang-Chi” also planned for the coming years.
While Marvel was slow to make films centered on both female superheroes and superheroes of color — even its own stars have been vocal about wanting to see more diversity on screen, both in terms of gender and race — the success of “Captain Marvel” and “Black Panther” offer one hell of a counterpoint to studio feet-dragging: money, and lots of it.
“Captain Marvel” is in theaters now.