Will The Marvels Be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Solo?

Nader Elhefnawy
5 min readNov 6, 2023

When Disney took over Lucasfilm it was clear that what the management hoped was that it would turn the Star Wars universe into a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)-style hit machine, putting out multiple blockbusters a year.

This was probably always a longshot. There was a profound difference between the shared universe of Marvel’s superheroes, with their separate though interlinkable adventures, and the cinematic equivalent of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, with regard to the potential to appeal to a really mass audience. And reality caught up with Disney-Lucasfilm that way in 2018, when Solo crashed and burned at the summer box office, putting paid to plans to make Star Wars the equivalent of the MCU. The only Star Wars movie that came out after that was the conclusion of the new main-line trilogy in 2019, after which nothing has appeared — and will not be appearing before 2025 at the earliest as Kathleen Kennedy now speaks not in terms of the spectacularly high output MCU but the low output James Bond films (these days, very, very low output), all as new Star Wars is mainly reserved for the small screen.

Right now it looks as if Captain Marvel 2 — aka The Marvels — will be as big a flop as Solo, and perhaps even worse. ( Solo made over $200 million domestically — more like $250 million domestically when you adjust for inflation — whereas according to the latest data Captain Marvel 2 may be lucky to make even $150 million.)

Given all this one may wonder if Captain Marvel 2 will not be the MCU’s Solo, a flop that forces Disney to back off and profoundly change course. However, sheer inertia will keep the movie from being that, no matter how badly it does at the box office.

After all, when Solo hit theaters Disney’s Star Wars movies had been coming out for a mere two-and-a-half years, with Solo only the fourth film in the sequence.

By contrast the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been going strong for over fifteen years now, with Captain Marvel 2 the 33rd movie in the sequence. What Disney merely hoped to achieve with Star Wars, but did not, it did achieve with the MCU, especially in Phase Three — which at this point may be feeling more and more distant for fans, but for the executives probably feels like it was “just yesterday,” and not just because time passes differently for old people, or because executive types are slow on the uptake. After all, if things have gone less well since, Spider-Man: No Way Home was as big a success as could have been hoped for even pre-pandemic; if they did not do so well as hoped, the latest Dr. Strange, Thor, Black Panther sequels were among the most profitable movies anyone in Hollywood had in 2022 (#4, #5 and #9 on Deadline’s list); Guardians of the Galaxy 3 was at least a respectable performer in the end; and even the disappointment with Ant-Man 3 can be chalked up to exaggerated expectations for what an Ant-Man movie could do and the Chinese market becoming less open to the franchise rather than catastrophic across-the-board collapse.

The result is that where with Solo there was little cushioning against their worst fears that they were acting in a profoundly foolish way in regard to Star Wars. By contrast, even the worst that has been predicted for Captain Marvel 2 runs up against that massive success already behind them so that they can think of it as a fluke and hope for better the next time.

Or several times.

After all, even if the studio really is given pause by Captain Marvel 2’s failure, that same matter of inertia leaves them heavily invested right now in a plethora of additional MCU films — with Captain America 4 already in post-production, and three more movies in production (Deadpool 3, The Thunderbolts, Blade), enough to keep the movies coming until at least 2025. Meanwhile there is the lesser investment in two more movies already in “pre-production” (Fantastic Four, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty), to say nothing of others “in development.”

Lucasfilm had nothing comparable to that roster of films going when Solo made the studio’s management change course, and one cannot picture Disney-Lucasfilm shutting all that down simply because one movie underperformed (however severely). The investment is recognizably the bigger when we consider Marvel’s streaming TV empire (Star Wars hadn’t got one yet as of the summer of 2018), and the revenue Marvel derives from the way the new films keep up interest in and trickles of revenue coming from the increasingly vast collection of old films (32 before this one!), the merchandising, and the rest on a scale that may also dwarf Star Wars when one puts it all together.

As if all that were not enough the fact that even as Star Wars was not working out Disney was doing so well with its other properties made it easier for the studio chiefs to make the hard decision to back away from its earlier plans for that franchise. After all, they had Pixar, they had their live-action adaptations of their animated classics, they had the MCU, all generating billion-dollar movies in ticket sales on a regular basis. (Indeed, counting the 2019 Spider-Man film the top eight movies at the box office were all Disney productions, each and every one a grosser of $1 billion or more worldwide and the eight together collectively accounting for over $10 billion in ticket sales.)

Now the MCU, even in its weakened state, looks like their strongest asset, with any replacement a long way off, making it far more likely that those calling the shots at Disney will feel that much more pressure to hold on to the MCU for dear life, and hope for the best. The result is that there is probably zero prospect of Captain Marvel 2’s failure (should it fail — let us not forget this has not actually happened yet) making Disney change course with the MCU the way that it did with Star Wars. However, it could mean some changes in the longer-term planning, and perhaps more caution in regard to those projects they can still alter.

Originally published at https://raritania.blogspot.com.

--

--

Nader Elhefnawy

Nader Elhefnawy is the author of the thriller The Shadows of Olympus. Besides Medium, you can find him online at his personal blog, Raritania.