Did Ant-Man Pop the MCU Bubble?

Monday, 20 July 2015 - 9:37AM
Marvel
Ant-Man
Monday, 20 July 2015 - 9:37AM
Did Ant-Man Pop the MCU Bubble?
Ant-Man has been plagued with naysayers from the very beginning, with Marvel fans and detractors alike expressing concerns that it would be a disaster, and effectively mark the end of Marvel's winning streak. Now, the results are in, and Ant-Man performed well, comfortably coming in at number one at the box office, but could still signal trouble for Marvel, as it saw the lowest Marvel Studios opening since the much-hated Incredible Hulk.

Even as pop culture enthusiasts insist that Marvel can do no wrong, the pessimist in all of us has been waiting for their empire to fall. They've made a habit of taking lesser-known, sometimes outright silly superheroes and turning them into mega-successful franchises, but how long until the novelty wears off? How many times can they offer a variation on the same formula to audiences before they start seeing diminishing returns? 

Ant-Man likely won't be considered a financial failure, as it is performing lukewarmly at the box office and may be able to make up the difference with positive word-of-mouth over the next few weeks. It is the first film in the MCU that needed to worry about making back its production costs, but if anything, it's probably not a case of diminishing returns so much as stabilizing. When Marvel first started to see success with Iron Man and built up to Avengers, there was a fever pitch of excitement that just kept growing. Now, Age of Ultron and Ant-Man have both performed well, but not as well as everyone thought, which is probably a case of pundits overestimating the public's ability to sustain that level of frenzy rather than a sign that Marvel's empire is falling.

Ant-Man may also have made a mistake in letting Edgar Wright go. When fans were first dubious of Ant-Man, many compared it to Guardians of the Galaxy, which was entirely different from anything else Marvel had done but still became a runaway success. But GotG succeeded because it fully embraced its quirkiness and silly comedy. If Ant-Man had kept Edgar Wright as director, it would have been a similarly risky decision to commit to being an entirely different movie, and may have been able to carve out its own niche, like Guardians did. 

By all accounts, Ant-Man is a perfectly solid Marvel movie. It hit all the right notes, with some humor, some self-aware cheekiness, some big-budget action, some character/family drama, and lots of Marvel Easter eggs. Although I'm sure it's a good movie, I'm getting bored just writing that sentence, so it's no surprise that Ant-Man didn't quite find an audience that was genuinely excited to see it. 

Just because Ant-Man had very specific problems, we probably shouldn't be apocalyptic about Marvel's future. Captain America: Civil War will generate buzz (and $$) no matter what, as it has literally every Marvel superhero ever. But if the studio continues with their slight dip in quality, they may have to worry about DC nipping at their heels, since Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad are both getting a lot of hype, and the latter especially looks amazing. But that goes to show that the comic book movie bubble has not burst yet, and likely won't for a good long while.
Science Fiction
Comic Book Movies
Marvel
Ant-Man