About Black Widow’s Box Office…

After what seemed like forever Marvel Studios and Disney finally released on July 9, Black Widow, the first film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. Predictions and projections were all over the place over how the film would perform and be received.

At first, Black Widow performed very impressively, earning $80 million dollars in its opening weekend. This may be small compared to some of the bigger MCU hits, but terrific for a film release during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cratered the box office worldwide. In fact, Black Widow has set the record for the highest debuting film during the pandemic.

However, the news was quick to turn against the film and Disney when Black Widow had an enormous drop in its second week, earning only $37 million dollars, a drop of 67 percent, the biggest second week drop for an MCU film. This current weekend it earned $11 million dollars, placing it in third place and it actually beat the film that displaced it in its second week, Space Jam: A New Legacy. Currently its box office haul is $315 million worldwide. Yes, that is impressive but it had a budget of $200 million and it looks like it will barely break even if it reaches $400 million by the end of its run. Consider that the average MCU film of late earned roughly $1 billion dollars and its lower earning films averaged around $500 to $600 million. These figures can be used to conclude that Black Widow will be a disappointment in the box office. In fact, there are tons of reports trying to explain its relatively poor performance.

But that is not necessarily the complete picture.

As anyone reading this knows, Disney simultaneously released Black Widow on its streaming platform, Disney+, for $30 dollars on top of a subscription to the app. Many people scoffed at paying such a high price for a film that could be seen in theaters for much less. Yet, it earned about $60 million dollars to date and that is aside from its box office haul. Surely, Disney’s accountants will point out that the streaming haul means that the film’s earnings to date are close to $400 million and anything over that is just profit.

It was also heavily pirated online, which certainly robbed Disney of a lot of revenue. Being that the film was completed over a year ago, there were many opportunities and time for it to be pirated before it was officially released.

Many have correctly pointed out that the online access to Black Widow robbed the film of its full box office potential. Theater owners are enraged that Disney did this because it undercut their business, and set a precedent for film releases going forward, although after the upcoming Jungle Cruise is released both in theaters and premier access on Disney+, the entertainment company will discontinue this practice.

Others have said that the film had limited appeal since it was not a big-event film like Avengers: Endgame and that it came out too late. Yes, given the film’s setting and the main character’s eventual fate, the film should have been released right after Captain America: Civil War in 2016 or 2017. But many circumstances beyond the film’s control prevented that and while the film is just a standalone film and is not perfect, it is a solid MCU entry that shone an overdue spotlight on Black Widow herself and her world.

Of course, the wildcard in the film’s performance is the pandemic. Hardcore MCU fans braved going to the theaters to see the film, while everyone else thought it was safer to pay for online access or waiting. However, at the time of Black Widow was released, the perception was that the pandemic was winding down given the huge drops in COVID-19 infections and deaths. But since many idiots refuse to get vaccinated or others are unable to have access to vaccines, the delta variant of the coronavirus has spread like wildfire and increased cases. In other words, the rising cases and deaths encouraged potential theater goers to stay home instead. With the pandemic it is doubtful that even an Avengers: Endgame would have performed as well as it did pre-pandemic.

So, saying Black Widow underperformed is not so clear cut. Given the many hurdles it faced it performed remarkably well and helped bring the MCU back into theaters. Hopefully the next MCU films will fare better and Black Widow itself will gain in popularity later on like many other MCU films.

Disneyland Resort’s Avengers Campus Is Now Open For Recruits!

After over a year, the Disneyland Resort in California was allowed to re-open in April once the coronavirus cases dropped in the state. To help celebrate the re-opening, Disney California Adventure (DCA) opened its long-awaited Avengers Campus land on June 4 to the public.

Originally set to open last summer, Avengers Campus is a richly themed land based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but not exactly. Avengers Campus is not set in the complex continuity of the MCU, instead it is a parallel reality called the Marvel Theme Park Universe where the Blip or Thanos’ Snap did not happen. No problem, the place still looks like its part of the MCU!

The land right now consists of three attractions, the Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission: Breakout, which opened in 2017 and is a redress of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride, Ancient Sanctum, an outdoor magic/performance show with Doctor Strange, and the new land’s main attraction, Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure.

The Spider-Man ride is your basic 3D augmented reality (AR) shooting arcade where you board a vehicle and help Spider-Man corral self-replicating spider robots. You actually mimic the way Spidey uses his hands to shoot webs and can shoot webs without web shooters. Just aim your hands and fling your arms out then animated web line shoots out from you to the robots. It sounds like fun, but let’s face it, Web Slingers cannot compare to the classic ride in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. That ride is over 20 years old and is still a beloved, exciting attraction that continues to hold up today. Sure, it’s hard to compete with the Universal ride, but it seems as if Disney did not even bother to match that ride and instead went for a ride similar to Toy Story Midway Mania, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle! instead of trying to create something unique.

In reality, Web Slingers is not supposed to be the headline attraction in Avengers Campus. The Avengers Quinjet Experience will open during the Phase 2 expansion of the land sometime in the future. That ride is the definite E-ticket center of the land and seems to be some kind of interactive simulator ride. Not much was revealed about specifics or when it will be complete but construction has not even begun, though the outer building where a mockup of the Quinjet is complete. That spot is currently the location to spot several Marvel superheroes themed after their MCU counterparts.

While Avengers Campus may not compare to Islands of Adventures thrill rides such as The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man or the Incredible Hulk Coaster, what the land excels with is the overall theming. The Marvel-themed land at Islands of Adventure, Marvel Super Hero Island, is rich in detail and well-executed. However, the look of the place has barely changed since it first opened in 1999. To be frank, the land is stuck in a motif that captures the garish look of comics from the 1990s and since Disney will not allow any further work on Marvel Super Hero Island, the place will remain that way.

However, Avengers Campus just looks wild and immersive from the architecture with countless Easter eggs, unique foods (they even have a shawarma cart!), amd the performers who walk around and interact with guests. They look like they just stepped off the silver screen with their accurate looks. Probably the highlight of the immersive atmosphere is the Spider-Man Stuntronics robotic double that swings through the air just like Spidey does in the comics and films. Disney constructed a special animatronic robot that is capable of pulling off the acrobatic feat that would be too dangerous for a human to pull off.

Looking at what Avengers Campus has to offer and will offer, not just at DCA but at other Disney parks worldwide, it’s easy to see the potential of what can be done to immerse guests into the MCU. In other words, more reasons for fans to visit and burn through budgets! But hey, it’s so worth it! 😀

Nagging Questions About The Current MCU

Most fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are besides themselves with the new content streaming on Disney+ and coming soon to theaters (fingers crossed). While the new content is enjoyable and the upcoming slate of films and TV shows is exciting, there are a few nagging questions unanswered to date about the MCU. Here are just a sampling, oh, by the way, there will be spoilers about the characters and events of the MCU:

What Happened to the Avengers?

It is pretty obvious given the events of Avengers: Endgame that the superhero team broke up. By the end of that film Iron Man/Tony Stark sacrificed his life to stop Thanos; Captain America/Steve Rogers went back in time to live his life and returned as a feeble old man, so he’s out of commission (more later); Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff died obtaining the Soul Stone; and Thor left for space with the Guardians of the Galaxy. That left us with just two of the founding members, the Hulk/Bruce Banner and Hawkeye/Clint Barton. The Hulk was left with a disabled arm, while it was implied that Hawkeye retired. In fact, he did retire from the superhero life at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

So this means the Avengers are no more, correct? But why is it with the current TV shows and the last Spider-Man film, the main characters are referred to as Avengers? Would this mean the team is still active? It does not seem likely given that the Falcon, Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff were seen operating independently and behaved as if the team was gone.

If that is the case, wouldn’t Tony Stark or the founding members would have tried to set up a new team to carry on without them? Given all his fortune, wouldn’t Stark have left behind resources to ensure the Avengers continue? It seems irresponsible given the world-threatening events to leave the world without a team to protect it. Of course, this is a perfect way to set up the Thunderbolts, the Fantastic Four or some other superhero team to fill the vacuum. But when will we see this happen?

Who will be in the new Avengers line up?

We have clear candidates with the new Captain America (Sam Wilson), Spider-Man (if he can clear his name by the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home), War Machine, and maybe James Barnes (the former Winter Soldier), White Vision, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man and the Wasp. But is this the end for the Hulk? Is there anyway his arm can heal in time for him to rejoin the team and what is going on with Hawkeye? Will he be grooming Kate Bishop to take over for him as implied by the upcoming Hawkeye series?

What if the MCU introduces the Young Avengers as the team that will become the new Avengers? The Disney+ TV shows have already introduced members of the Young Avengers such as Elijah Bradley (Patriot), Kate Bishop (Hawkeye), Cassie Lang (Stature), Wiccan and Speed. All we need now are Iron Lad and Hulkling.

What Happened to Steve Rogers?

This is one of the most nagging questions about the current MCU. We last saw him handing over his shield to Sam Wilson at the end of Avengers: Endgame and that was it. In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, whenever he is mentioned he is said to be “gone” which is very cryptic. Did he die of old age? Or is he on the Moon as someone on the show speculated?

There are unconfirmed reports online that actor Chris Evans is negotiating with Marvel Studios to return to his role. Does this mean a rejuvenated Steve Rogers will appear down the line as it happened in the comic books? That is hard to say, but it won’t be answered until Phase Five of the MCU given that the announced lineup of upcoming films does not indicate anything about Captain America, although a fourth film featuring Sam Wilson as the captain is in development.

What does the end of WandaVision mean to the MCU?

Obviously, the events of WandaVision will lead to more exploration of the magical side of the MCU. The events of WandaVision not only directly lead to the next Doctor Strange film but Spider-Man: No Way Home as our favorite Wall-Crawler grapples with multi-dimensional threats and visitors.

From the way Wanda Maxmoff twisted reality in WandaVision, the door has literally been opened to the bizarre with unexpected appearances. Think of her dead brother Piotr returning, which was a meta casting joke and reference to the recent X-Men films. The next Spider-Man film will feature characters from previous Spider-Man film incarnations reprised by the original actors such as Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina and supposedly Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire and Willem Dafoe. Will we see more appearances from other past properties? Why not bring back the actors/characters from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so we can get confirmation that they exist in another continuity?

Another important related question has to do with Wanda herself? Can she be redeemed? Her actions in the show were villainous: she took over a town and warped the reality and minds of its residents against their will. At the end, she did not face justice for her actions and the post-credits scene in the final episode hinted that she was taken a more nefarious turn as she was shown studying the dark magical arts. We’ll find out in next year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as she will appear…supposedly as the film’s villain.

Are the other non-Disney+ Marvel TV shows part of MCU continuity?

Ever since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered many wondered whether or not the show was part of the MCU. This sounds silly given appearances of characters from the MCU films such as Agent Coulson, Nick Fury, Sif and others. But the films never referenced the show or acknowledged its existences. None of the original characters from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. turned up in an MCU film or were mentioned. The same went for other Marvel TV shows before the existence of Disney+. The Marvel shows that streamed on Netflix supposedly took place in the MCU but no one ever saw Daredevil or the other New York-based Netflix heroes turning up in the films. Ditto for other Marvel TV shows like Runaways, and Cloak and Dagger.

The only rare exception was when the original human Jarvis introduced in the TV show Agent Carter made a brief cameo in Avengers: Endgame. Also, there are rumors that some of the actors in the Netflix TV shows will reprise rebooted versions of their characters in upcoming films. We’ll know if this is true if Charlie Cox reprises his role as Matt Murdock in the next Spider-Man film.

Supposedly, the head of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, did not want any association with the TV properties if he was not involved with the production. This explains why the films never referenced the TV shows to the irritation of some fans who sought a tighter continuity between the media.

At this point, the answer to the question is that no, these non-Disney+ TV shows are not set in the greater continuity of the MCU.

What happened in between the five-year jump in Avengers: Endgame?

During Avengers: Endgame there was a five-year time jump with limited exploration as to what occured in that time period. Supposedly, what was left after Thanos snapped his fingers at the end of Avengers: Infinity War was a paradise; never mind that his actions wiped out half of all life in the universe. This point of view came from the Flag Smashers terrorist group featured in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. One of the flaws with the villains is that we never saw for ourselves how great life was back before the Avengers resurrected the life wiped out of existence by Thanos.

According to some reports, the upcoming film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will take place in this five-year period, which will give us a first-hand look at society during this time and we can tell for ourselves if things were as great as the Flag Smashers claimed.

Also, it would not be surprising if future films and TV shows feature flashbacks which take place during this time period and will probably be explored in other medium such as those Prelude comic books. However, this time period is ample ground for future films and TV shows to explore.

Where are the mutants?

Ever since Disney acquired 20th Century Fox and gained the film rights to the X-Men, fans have been desperately waiting for any news or sign that the mutants will appear in the MCU. To date, those wishes have gone unfullfilled and will be for some time.

Anyone who saw last week’s Phase Four movie slate did not see any sign of mutants. The only clue we have to date was a visit to the fictional country of Madripoor in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which was Wolverine’s hiding spot in the comic books.

But other than that we won’t get anything else, not even casting hints until maybe next year or the following when Phase Four starts winding down. But it’s for the best since the mutants need to rest and recharge creatively. This will build up demand and excitement for whenever they X-Men or Mutants or whatever they wind up being called, finally debut in the MCU. In the meantime, we have plenty of X-Men and related films and TV shows, and many of them are great and worth rewatching.

So, are there any other questions about the MCU? Be sure to list them in the comments section below!

Captains America And The Falcon And The Winter Soldier

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the second Disney+ TV series based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) just finished streaming its inaugural season. On the whole, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is another winner for Disney+ despite its flaws. As fans speculate, discuss and laud the series, it is pretty clear that it sets a new direction for the MCU. Spoilers will follow below for anyone who has not watched the show in its entirety.

The series takes place several months after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, is now “gone” (it is never clearly stated if he died) and his two best friends Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and James “Bucky” Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) were left to pick up the pieces after Steve’s absence.

In the end of the last Avengers film, Steve Rogers passed on his nearly mystical shield to Sam Wilson to carry on the legacy of Captain America. However, when the series starts, Sam is very uncomfortable with that mantle and donates his shield to the U.S. government as he carries on juggling his private life with his contract superhero work for the government. At the same time, Bucky is grappling with guilt from his previous life as the Winter Soldier, where he carried out brutal assassinations.

While the two men try to go about their lives, events occur that force them to get involved together. These include a terrorist group called the Flag Smashers led by a young woman named Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman). In the time between the last two Avengers films, half the world population was erased from existence until they were restored. The Flag Smashers believe the world would be better if there were no borders or nations, which apparently happened in between the films. To help their cause, Karli and her comrades have taken the same super soldier serum that gave Steve Rogers his enhanced strength and agility. They also steal more of the serum to create an army.

The U.S. government commissions a new Captain America, who is John Walker (Wyatt Russell), a military vet suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and he has a major chip on his shoulder. Naturally, he clashes with Sam and Bucky as the two track down the Flag Smashers.

Their hunt for the terrorists lead them throughout the world and encountering allies and foes including the Machiavellion Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl), former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) and the mercenary Batroc (real-life mixed martial artist Georges St-Pierre). Zemo truly stood out as a character in the series with his cold charisma and calculating nature. His cause (a hatred and distrust of superhumans) was clearly defined and understandable from his point of view. For a villain who was dismissed by many fans in Captain America: Civil War, Zemo was elevated to become an A-list villains who had his own humorous memes, especially with his dancing at a night club. Here is an hour-long edit put out by Marvel Studios of Zemo dancing for your enjoyment!

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Mephisto Confirmed! When Speculation Runs Amok

An interesting development over the enjoyment of recent offerings from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and other films and TV shows is the over-the-top speculation about future properties.

Mephisto confirmed! Mutants confirmed! Reed Richards confirmed! Hexagons! There are hexagons everywhere!These were just some of the wild speculations in the internet following trailer or episode releases. This was expressly true for WandaVision where YouTubers and bloggers ran every frame of film looking for Easter eggs and potential clues of upcoming shows and characters. This is also happening now with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Godzilla vs. Kong and Zack Snyder’s Justice League. What is baffling with the last property is that it is futile to speculate since there are not any plans to continue Snyder’s vision of the DC Universe. But that is another story.

Sure, the speculation is certainly fun and adds to enjoyment of the TV show or film we are watching, but this has gone overboard to the point that it detracts from enjoying the film or TV show. Case in point, is the finale of WandaVision, which left many viewers feeling disappointed that their many theories and speculations did not pan out. It did not help that prior to the streaming of the last episode actors teased that there would be a surprise cameo that would be on the level of who appeared in the season finale of The Mandalorian. Well, no one showed up. All the specualtion about the demon Mephisto responsible for the show’s machinations did not hold up. The actors in the commericals during WandaVision were not Wanda’s parents. Reed Richards was not the engineer friend of Monica Rambeau. The few things that bore fruit were that the magical book the Darkhold did appear (and helped prove that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was not part of the MCU continuity), the white Vision was introduced, Monica Rambeau developed her superpowers and Wanda’s next door neighbor turned out to be the witch Agatha Harkness. While these revelations thrilled comic book collectors and speculators it disappointed some fans and those who spent a lot of money on Silver Surfer #3, which featured Mephisto’s first appearance.

Even though the final episode of WandaVision featured spectacular showdowns between Wanda and Agatha, and between the two Visions, many complained that the episode did not live up to their expectations. Never mind that a few of the speculations and rumors turned out to be accurate.

With The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, many viewers are convinced that mutants will appear since the locale Madripoor was featured in an episode. For those that do not know, Madripoor is a fictional country in the Marvel Comics where Wolverine lived for some time under the alias of Patch. Not only did no mutants appear but neither did Wolverine. Of course, this was to expected. A huge character like Wolverine would not make his MCU debut in a TV show. Just look at how Spider-Man was introduced into the MCU. He was prominently shown in the trailers for Captain America: Civil War, he did not pop up in some TV show.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier also had its version of the cameo controversy when it was revealed that the fifth episode “Truth” would have a surprise cameo by a well-known, award-winning actor who would portray a major character never-before-seen in the MCU. Many viewers already knew better and tampered their expectations, with doubts such a person would appear. However, in “Truth” that person did appear and while it was a genuine surprise it still left many disappointed. No, it was not Wolverine or Mephisto but Countess Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, a spy in the Marvel Comics who worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. and was romantically involved with Nick Fury. She was played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who certainly fits the bill of being a well-known, award-winning actor. But this was not good enough except for comic book speculators who jacked up the prices of their copies of Strange Tales #159, which was where she was introduced. Still, these complainers could not enjoy the cameo appearance for what it was, which is a shame since it was one of the highlights of “Truth”, one of the series’ best episodes.

Now, that the trailer for the upcoming MCU film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is out, watch out for a fresh batch of speculations and rumors. Surely, somebody will spot hexagons or clues of mutants or even Mephisto himself. Here is the trailer to see for yourself.

It is always fun to speculate, theorize and go over episodes and films with a fine-tooth comb because it adds to the enjoyment. But it’s important to no go overboard because this will usually lead to disappointment. Sometimes, it is best to dampen expectations, avoid spoilers altogether and watch these films or TV shows with a fresh mind to enrich the viewing experience.