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Woke Is Just Part of the Problem Plaguing the MCU Now

Phase 4 films like 'Love and Thunder,' 'Eternals' losing audiences, critics alike

The Marvel Cinematic Universe could do no wrong in its glory days.

Even tepid fare like 2019’s “Captain Marvel” scored big at the U.S. Box Office ($426 million). Installments like “Avengers: Endgame,” by comparison, bullied past some of the most successful films of all time.

Now? There’s a problem in MCU-ville.

MASSIVE Drop For Thor: Love And Thunder At Box Office! | This Would Be A TERRIBLE For Marvel!

The latest proof? “Thor: Love and Thunder” dropped like a stone at the box office during its second weekend of release – against no new competition, either. “Where the Crawdads Sing” made more than analysts predicted, but it’s still no threat to the MCU’s theatrical dominance.

Consider the numbers in play:

Disney’s Thor: Love and Thunder is having a great fall, with a -68% drop for a second weekend that’s $46M. While the Taika Waititi-directed movie improved beyond its high $130M estimates last weekend into the $144M range, it’s clear those sour audience exits of a B+ CinemaScore and 3 1/2 stars are taking their toll.

The trend is so profound even rah-rah geek sites like Screen Rant are sounding the alarm.

Thor: Love and Thunder is met with a 68% box office drop in its second weekend, which continues a gloomy theatrical trend for Phase 4 of the MCU … This phase has struggled to connect [emphasis added] with audiences, as it is currently unclear if there is an overarching vision for where these stories are going.

When cheerleading news sites, particularly ones eager to promote the MCU’s inclusion push, peddle that narrative it’s eye opening.

And, as Screen Rant indicated, the “Thor” financial droop isn’t an isolated incident. Deadline shares more about the context.

Thor‘s second weekend drop ranks among the MCU’s worst, including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (-67%) and Black Widow (-68%). Forget about Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s -68% second drop. That’s largely due to Christmas, and everyone knows that Sony/MCU title was making money hand over fist on a daily basis. It’s an outlier.

“No Way Home” had a gargantuan opening late last year, and the fan-friendly film enjoyed Betty Grable box office legs (Mary Hart? Carrie Underwood?).

Few think “Thor” will duplicate Spidey’s” longevity.

And lest we forget last year’s “Eternals,” a Phase 4 entry that misfired on multiple fronts. Director Chloe Zhao’s dud generated just $164 million, although the pandemic clearly hurt its bottom line. Critics were equally unkind.

RELATED: How Tim Burton’s ‘Bat’ Pave the Way for the MCU

On the surface, the MCU seems in solid shape. The new “Thor” had a massive opening weekend, and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” capped its box office run with a $411 million tally.

Most movie studios would kill for those results.

The numbers still offer warning signs for Disney, the MCU stewards. Critics, many of whom fawned over the earlier superhero fare, can only offer tepid praise for the newer releases.

  • Rotten Tomatoes score for “Doctor Strange?” 89 percent fresh. “Multiverse of Madness?” 74 percent fresh
  • Rotten Tomatoes score for “Thor: Ragnarok?” 93 percent fresh. “Love and Thunder?” 68 percent fresh

The Phase 4 films aren’t generating the kind of fan love that propelled the saga ever since Robert Downey, Jr. put on that iron suit in 2008.

What happened?

RELATED: MCU Chief Begs China to Release ‘Shang Chi’

It’s undeniable that woke plays a role in the franchise downgrade, but it’s hardly the only reason for the MCU’s stumbles.

You could blame less familiar characters for the downturn. Few people outside the Comic-Con crowd could name a single Eternal character before that film dropped. Yet the equally obscure “Shang Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings” earned better reviews and out-muscled “Eternals” at the box office.

And the most recent MCU films featured fan favorites like Doctor Strange and Thor, still played by the original, beloved stars.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Still, MCU maestro Kevin Feige put a heavy emphasis on woke for the fourth chapter in the superhero saga. And he’s delivered on his pledge.

“Eternals” took a diverse superhero lineup and made it even more inclusive. “Love and Thunder” gives lip service to not one but two same-sex themes. “Multiverse of Madness” similarly adds a same-sex couple into the storytelling mix.

None of this should matter, on paper.

It’s notable that many woke projects either fail or fail to live up to the hype. Think “Charlie’s Angels,” “Men in Black: International,” “Terminator: Dark Fate” and “Lightyear” to name a few examples.

Diversity can be both healthy and beneficial to a film franchise. The “Fast & Furious” franchise remains aggressively inclusive, but almost no one complains because the saga delivers on his high-octane formula. Nor does it draw attention to its casting choices.

It’s diverse, not woke.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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We’ve seen several examples of woke movies that focused more on progressive platitudes than rock ‘em, sock ‘em entertainment. The creative drop between “Neighbors” and “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rules” is a textbook example. The 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot burned more calories on its feminist bona fides than crafting killer jokes.

it’s why woke-free films like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Top Gun: Maverick” stood out in a crowded marketplace.

It’s also obvious that Phase 4 lacks a cohesive spirit, let alone a prime directive. The earlier MCU films were building up to the Thanos challenge. They also cleverly overlapped to reinforce the “universe” in play. 

A cameo here, a post-credit sequence there, and the big picture slow came into focus.

The Phase 4 films are all over the cultural map.

“Black Widow” felt like a Jason Bourne adventure. “Thor: Love and Thunder” flirted with Adam West’s “Pow! Bam!” brand of superheroics. “Shang Chi” delivered the most traditional MCU thrills with a slick Eastern flourish.

The less we think about the dour “Eternals,” the better.

Where’s the master plan, the villain lurking in the shadows who can take the baton from Thanos?

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR Clip - "Thanos vs Everybody" (2018) Marvel

The quest to create more, more more content in our streaming age isn’t helping the MCU, either. We’re given a new “Star Wars” series every few months, and something similar applies to the MCU. There’s too much product right now, and none of it is particularly spellbinding.

WandaVision” proved bold and original, no doubt, but it lacks the addictive nature of a “Captain America: Civil War” or “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Bottom line?

The MCU is no longer special. Fans don’t expect greatness from each new product, and they spend most of their energy debating all the super-flaws on YouTube and social media.

The franchise hasn’t fallen as dramatically as the “Star Wars” theatrical model, now in dry dock seeking extensive repairs.

The days of huge, de facto opening weekends for new MCU projects may soon be over.

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24 Comments

  1. Two takeaways here: 1. Critics should always be ignored. They are almost never accurate as to what people like. 2. Whether Disney or the “woke” crowd likes it or not.. their purposeful decisions to lecture their audience, by utilizing beloved characters to them, is failing miserably. I realize the market as a whole has dropped, but you can tell this by looking at the specific returns on Disney stock over the last few years. People just simply do not want “woke” shoved in their face. The woke crowd can rant and rave all they want – but the numbers speak the truth.

    1. It has nothing to do with „woke“ that the numbers are going down. The stories are simply not interesting, funny or engaging in phase 4. Iron Man 3 or Thor 2 also sucked, without any wokeness and would have killed off the MCU if it hadn‘t been for the (far more woke yet record-breaking) Endgame.

      The unwoke crowd can rant and rave all they want, there are just as many people who are sick of having unwoke crap shoved in their face but who don‘t scream as loud about it as the unwoke whiners. After the umpteenth young white straight male hero who can solve any problem and survive being shot at point blank range, some people simply don‘t need more of the same anymore. The 80s are over. Deal with it.

      1. Lol no one gives a f if its a white male; just because you’re insanely ignorant doesn’t mean we haven’t had movies with strong female characters (yes, even in the 80s, also before and after) and people of color. The problem is these days its done in a condescending and lame way. And people could tell a story without the wink and circlejerk for diversity points. They should be focusing on telling the best story – period.

      2. Well technically, inflation numbers are putting us at 70s era inflation. What is old is new again…Disney has tried and failed tho unfortunately for the fans. The household ratings and Disney+ numbers have taken a dive hard and will continue to do so. At this point folks, Disney is like Titantic headed straight for iceberg and they’re too big to slow it down to make the corrections and dodge it in time. The many failures launching soon (She Hulk, Ironheart) to name a few will not rate well if what we’re seeing now is any indication of what lies ahead. What Disney has done to MCU feels like if you let a team of hippy woman design a American pickup truck and expecting that truck to sell better than any truck before it just because a woman did it and we don’t get to complain.

      3. Absolute nonsense. Get woke go broke is the truth and everyone knows it. If you’re writing off a character simply because they’re white you’re part of tbe problem.

        Race is irrelevant, so is gender, but if the writing banks of that as being the core of a character’s identity and forgets the story, it’s trash. And iron man 3 and Thor 2 fared MUCH better with audiences than almost all of phase 4.

        1. Delusional. Disney is anything but broke. Corporations are just cashing in on what’s culturally relevant. Going “woke” at least by their metrics is very profitable. They are not very sincere attempts, but it hardly matters as representation means a great deal to people.

          Ragnarok netted two hundred million more than Dark World.
          Iron Man has been the most popular character in the MCU. Iron Man 2 seems to be considered to be the worst of the three, but you won’t bring that up. And I like how you forgot that in IM3 how Pepper Potts girl-bosses her way to save Tony at the end of the film or that they swerved the audience with the Mandarin character who was played by a white guy.

          If you wanted to bring up the mismanagement of Black Widow (which streamed simultaneously with it’s theatrical release) one could bring up the success of Captain Marvel. The glaring issues of either film have little to do with representation, mind you and more with bad writing/directing and a difference in marketing/releasing. If you wanted to bring up Shang-Chi, what would be your point firstly; as Shang-Chi is an Asian character in the comics and secondly and frankly, not a very popular character or well established prior to the films release and why neglect the success of Black Panther?

          The Spider-Man (w. Holland) films are very profitable and diverse. How is Marvel gong broke there?

          1. Representation means a great deal to people but not when it’s fed to the audience in condescending, misandrist, and racist ways like much of Phase 4 has been. When I saw Black Panther in the theater it was packed with black people. I’m not saying that blacks never go to movies, but I hadn’t seen that before. So yes, the inclusion of a black superhero as the title character mattered to people. I saw the movie because Black Panther is a mainline marvel character. I was excited to see T’Challa on the screen. Less excited for his racist little sister who makes absurd comments coming from the mouth of privileged sheltered royalty. Coogler shot himself in the foot and undid his own “All blacks share a common oppressed experience” commentary with Shuri. Which your average black person even thinks is crap (look for interviews with blacks on the street not race bating professors and brainwashed college students). She’s a prime example of how he thinks whites act. So how does that help his point? It doesn’t.

            Representation does matter. And the last I checked white people still made up the majority of people in the U.S. So if Hollywood is going to continue to consistently tell white people that they don’t matter. Race, gender and orientation swap characters they love left and right. Then why go to the movies if you’re going to watch yourself be demonized. How does that help Hollywood’s bottom line?

            With all of that said, some of these characters that the author complains about have been in their particular roles for some time, so for those of us that are comic fans, with actors like Chris Evans not being able to play Captain America forever, and The Falcon taking up the mantle in comics before, the fit is natural and I didn’t really find The Falcon and the Winter Soldier all that terribly woke (aside from it being horribly stupid that two white guys don’t recognize a guy who helped save the world, but a random guy on the other side of the world does? … That’s the kind of condescending wokeness we’re all tired of). Carol Danvers has been Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel for a long time in the comics, again no real surprise or problem there (except for some of the messages in the show). She-Hulk has been around for a long time as well, and I like the show for it’s nods to John Byrne’s take on the character, but her being more powerful and more in control than Bruce is highly incorrect and off putting. Kamala Khan and Ironheart are recent woke comic creations that, yeah, don’t sell books on their own and Ironheart replacing Ironman will fall flatter than a pancake. The Eternals was a woke disaster even though the Eternals were created by Jack Kirby. Read his version on them, and how much better the characters are. However, the movie fared just like the comic, it didn’t do well. The point is, while representation is important, the way Marvel and DC go about it is off putting and is clearly hurting them and will only do more so in the long run.

            Finally, I don’t want to give Marvel my money for Wakanda Forever in the theater. It’ll be more of the woke same. But then they had to go and put Namor in it, and I’ve always loved Namor. So now I’m at a bit of a crossroads.

      4. Frankinator:

        You’re as brainwashed as you are naive. Endgame broke records because it was the final film of a brilliant saga. It was a cultural zeitgeist. It had nothing to do with being “woke”. Also, diversity and woke are two VERY different things. Woke is preachy, diversity is interesting. Phase IV has not been interesting, funny or engaging because of the new policy of putting actors directors and producers into a film just because of their cultural differences. This is what’s called by people with common sense virtue signaling. Crawl back under your rock. Darwinite

  2. Well reasoned article. On “Ghostbusters” re-boot, the problem was the humor wasn’t all that funny. I think back to the smash hit “Bridesmaids”. It was hilarious all the way through since the jokes and gags is what mattered.

    When I think of the *New* MCU films they churn out every few months they all have one thing going for them, They are boring. Perhaps Disney can allow the writers and directors to NOT go woke. Must every project have the “Issue Du-jour represented front and center? A good example to me was the Netflix series “The Lincoln Lawyer”. In it the main characters talk about “de-fund the police” as if it is a good thing. Look around the country…that issue didn’t age well…and it dates the project as well. Not a good thing. I have no problem with LGBTQ characters in films, but when they are represented in every film/ television project not to enhance the story-line but to just “Check the right boxes”, it becomes glaringly annoying, condescending and preachy.

    Frank Zappa had a wonderful collection of his guitar solos called “Shut Up and Play Your Guitar”.

    Perhaps Hollywood needs to “Shut Up and Make Entertaining Movies”.

  3. Disney, et al have lost sight of the anticipation audiences want when they have to wait for a great new movie. By slamming out the installments so quickly, there’s no time to anticipate the next chunk of the story. Never mind that the stories themselves have been lackluster at best and preachy banality at worst. I’m not going to spend precious dollars these days to go watch a sanctimonious woke-fest, even if it is disguised as a MCU film.
    These studios need to remember: Go woke, go broke.

    1. Yes!! Watched Marvel since 2008 and never missed one. However, with the clear intent to push personal agendas the movies I loved that tried to at least resemble the actual comics have gone downhill. Why waste good money to watch what I see on the news everyday. I go to escape this, not pay to watch it from what used to be my favorite franchise.

  4. At the end of the day the stories are boring… it’s not the length of the installments or how quickly they are coming out…it’s the characters, writers, and the preaching… it’s obvious the agenda, every bad guy has a back story on why they aren’t bad… and I can look past a lot but when I get to the point that I’m just forcing myself to watch things… I got better things to do… it’s really weird… it’s like the studio just doesn’t get their audience anymore… it’s really hard to get excited at anything they do anymore because you expect the bait and switch stories… and they are quite ridiculous most of the time… black widow doesn’t feel like a spy movie – a poorly written family drama about exploitation… pass… falcon saves the world but can’t get a loan to save his own boat cause he’s black… yeah right… pass… Hawkeye was ok but too much time on the deaf villain who really (of course it’s always the case) turns out to not be so bad… or did that happen in falcon and the winter soldier? Oh wait that was another inclusive villain with no back story that wasn’t so bad after all… no wait it was black widow where the lady villain wasn’t actually a villain … no wait it was female Loki that was a villain but really wasn’t a villain… no no it was actually Wanda… now I remember… it was Wanda who was the villain but wasn’t actually the villain… and I can go on… point being the stakes ain’t high anymore… people don’t trust the brand and when you know it will eventually hit streaming you might take a shot at watching it when it becomes available… the sad part is that every time I try to watch it I feel like i wasted time in a lack luster story again… and I’m tired of getting burned… and obviously the numbers show I’m not the only one out there

    1. LOL yes.. mofo can’t get a loan and he’s an Avenger? I’m sure he could have reached out to the bank of Stark.. it’s pretty insane.

  5. It’s ironic how democrat-liberal racists and the left wing media always spout inclusion but yet they use the most racist term “people of color”. That’s no different from saying “colored person”. Number 1, it’s racist to black people by diminishing their existence in our country and two, it’s an insult to those of us with white skin, as though white isn’t a color.

    In regards to MCU going woke and all of Hollywood, just keep that left wing nonsense out of the movies. It’s beyond annoying now. We don’t care if someone is black, asian, mexican, gay, a woman, or whatever, just make the stories great. It’s like whomever is in top command over these movies have a hate revenge against normal straight males, and it shows in the films.

  6. I think picking d-list characters is a big problem as well. I was looking forward to moon knight as I like his character design, but I’m not going to subscribe to disney+ to see it (it wasn’t that great anyway according to a few of my coworkers). Mostly knew him and Black Panther from collecting marvel cards back in the day, and always thought of those two as batman in a hood and batman as a cat XD They also apparently messed up Taskmaster who is one of my mains in MvC3 which sucks. I would see a Darkhawk movie if they bothered, woke or not. A movie version of League of Losers from marvel team ups would be cool, although I get the feeling instead of Darkhawk, Sleepwalker, Speedball and Dagger being the mains, I imagine we’d get internet gas, safespace, and america chavez 😛

  7. This my opinion. The problem is bad writing you can tak about issues without feeling token or convient They need to take a step back go to orginal writers and directors comic writers consult about moving forward with future projects because comic cartoon would always talk about politics and social issues but they did in a way where it was tod so well you can take it the writing direction of films for Marvel Phase 4 was so bad it like watching Saturday Night Live skit that won’t end Only show that was good Wanda Vision and Moonkight Disney needs to foucos group do polls what will work talk real fans and real writers who were fans of Marvel and Dc stop ruining Marvel name

  8. opinion. The problem is bad writing you can talk about issues without feeling pushed token agenda or insincere They need to take a step back go to orginal writers and directors comic writers consult about moving forward with future projects because comic cartoon would always talk about politics and social issues but they did in a way where it was told so well you can take it the writing direction of films for Marvel Phase 4 was so bad it like watching Saturday Night Live skit that won’t end just felt like a joke not a good one . Only show that was good Wanda Vision and Dr Strange Spider No way home tell a good story with issues but have it where feels real authentic but not some agenda being pushed down my throat. Disney needs to focus group do polls what will work talk to real fans and real writers who were fans of Marvel and Dc stop ruining Marvel name !

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