Most Marvel fans will say there hasn’t been a time when Marvel wasn’t good, but a general consensus has emerged that the more heroes a Marvel movie has, the better the movie tends to be. That means that the early movies, which tend to focus on one hero, usually are not that well remembered, while later movies that combine heroes are the highest grossing. The Avengers. ‘Nuff said.
However, this goes beyond just having Avengers in the title. After the first Avengers movie in 2011, Marvel started putting more than one Avenger in movies even if there was only one hero in the title.
Captain America – better each time out
Probably the prime example of this is the Captain America series. The debut movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, was generally well-liked but was considered less appealing than Thor or certainly Iron Man, if domestic box office is anything to go by. Iron Man made $318 million, The Incredible Hulk made $134 million, Thor $181 million and Captain America $176 million.
Then Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes along. This one adds Black Widow. This fares much better at the box office, making $260 million stateside. It’s considered one of the best MCU movies up to that point, and just last year was named as the movie Martin Scorsese would like if he considered the Marvel movies cinema.
Then there was Captain America: Civil War, which was an Avengers movie in all but name. The only players missing were Thor and Hulk, and Spider-Man made his first MCU appearance. The result? $408 million at the box office.
The MCU gets better as it goes along
The pattern applied to Thor too. His second movie, The Dark World, made $206 million, but add Hulk to Thor: Ragnarok and suddenly the gross exploded to $344 million. Clearly it helps to have a friend from work.
There was also Spider-Man: Homecoming, which featured a prominent appearance by Iron Man, and that movie did quite well, making $334 million here. That movie is a bit of an anomaly though, because Spider-Man was already a proven hero at the box office. Still, as one fan put it, “Personally I think (Marvel) really started to hit their stride when they started having more than one hero in a movie. Civil War, Thor 3, Winter Soldier, Spider-Man, all some of the better movies with more than one hero.”
Of course, for every example that supports the thesis, there are examples that dispute it. The most prominent of those are Black Panther and Captain Marvel. Neither of those movies featured extended appearances by other Marvel heroes (unless you count Nick Fury), and both of those did extremely well. Captain Marvel made $426 million here and Black Panther made $700 million here, making it the most successful movie of all until Endgame came along.
What do fans say about the future Marvel movies?
Fans on Reddit generally seem to agree that later in the game, Marvel became more consistent than they had been in earlier years. One could argue that Thor: The Dark World was the last MCU movie that didn’t really stick. After that, audiences trusted the brand, and so far, Marvel hasn’t majorly let them down, no matter what some online trolls might say about Captain Marvel.
On Reddit, fans were discussing the fact that the Guardians of the Galaxy will be in Thor: Love and Thunder, which bodes well for the success of that movie. One person said, “I’m really hoping for Hulk in Spider-Man 3 though. I love Hulk and Spidey’s friendship in the comics, most recently highlighted in a one-shot where Loki accidentally gives Peter the powers of the Hulk”
What happens with the next Spider-Man movie remains to be seen. On deck is Black Widow, which unfortunately has been delayed indefinitely due to the pandemic, but that movie will feature at least two Black Widows in Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh. While the delay comes under trying circumstances, it may also create pent-up demand and Black Widow will do even better than it would have had it opened in May.