Marvel’s Phase Four has been interesting to watch.
When it comes to business plans, Kevin Feige and Disney are perfect examples of how to perfectly create a universe that translates into cold hard cash. Marvel started their cinematic universe in 2008, with Iron Man having the distinction of being the first film to represent the growing brand. The Robert Downey Jr. vehicle was a success, garnering over $580 million worldwide; the numbers continued to grow until Marvel and Kevin Feige wrapped up a ten-year plan with Avengers: Endgame. Ten films made over one billion at the box office, with Infinity War and Endgame collecting over two billion worldwide. Once Phase Three was over, Marvel seemed like it could do no wrong. Most fans and critics loved the quality of the movies, and Feige’s business strategy worked to perfection.
Then, Phase Four happened.
To be fair, Marvel isn’t in serious trouble and the coronavirus pandemic definitely hampered box office performances. There was no way that Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and The Eternals would get into the billion-dollar club. Add in the fact that the last two films didn’t play in the second biggest movie market in the world, China, then that number became even slimmer. However, the key thing is that the quality of Phase Four has notably dropped. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were heavily praised by critics and fans, but Eternals managed to garner the first rotten tomatoes for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While shows like WandaVision were well received by both fans and critics as well, the remaining shows aren’t seen as good as the first Marvel series, despite the overwhelming positive critic reviews. However, Spider-Man: No Way Home gave the MCU (and theaters) the jolt that phase four needed. The Tom Holland vehicle managed to garner huge praise from audiences and made an astounding $1.914 billion at the box office. Another big factor of No Way Home was that Dr. Strange was a featured name in the film, and the introduction of the multiverse had fans excited for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Unfortunately, critics were pretty divided once the Sam Raimi pic was released on May 6th, though Multiverse of Madness still managed to get a good rotten tomatoes score. The hype surrounding the feature was simply too big as audiences rushed into theaters despite the middling reviews. Doctor Strange 2 opened with an astounding $187.4 million domestically, making it the 11th biggest opening weekend of all time. However, like critics, fans were divided regarding the Sam Raimi film. The following weekend saw Multiverse of Madness drop a steep 67.5%, making it the second-worst second Friday drop for an MCU movie. It made $61 million in its second weekend, which is still a strong number overall.
However, compare the second-weekend numbers to The Batman, which made $66.5 million. The big difference is that the Matt Reeves film had an opening weekend of $134 million. Clearly, Reeves’s newest take on the dark knight connected with fans better than Doctor Strange 2. Ultimately the latter made more at the box office by making over $952 million worldwide. Though, Batman’s theatrical run was cut short because Warner Brothers were more focused on boosting HBO Max. Still, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness should’ve been an easy billion given the hype surrounding the film following Spider-Man: No Way Home and the excellent opening weekend numbers. Marvel doesn’t need to start panicking because this box office total is nothing to scoff at, but it’s still a disappointment. The pandemic and China are no longer accepted excuses as No Way Home made it into the billion-dollar club dealing with the same issues. On the bright side, it’s the second highest grossing film of Phase four thus far, as Thor: Love & Thunder made $200 million less, only banking $749 million worldwide.
So, what does the future hold for Doctor Strange? Despite the sequel’s shortcomings, it would be shocking if Multiverse of Madness was the last time audiences see the character. Feige was highly complementary of Benedict Cumberbatch during his Walk of Fame ceremony, “Benedict has turned this character into an icon, appearing in a history of the top six films of all time. It’s been quite a journey,” Feige said. “I remember our very first meeting was set as a general, and we wanted to pitch him this great character, and before we could, he said, ‘So tell me about Doctor Strange,’ because you know. Because somewhere you knew what this could be, and you’ve always seen the tremendous potential in this character. Because of that, you’ve become the anchor of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the only actor capable of guiding us through the madness of the Multiverse.”
There hasn’t been much news regarding the future of Doctor Strange. We’ll surely find out in the coming years.