The (Mattopian) Bullpen Bulletin
Greetings, True Believers!
As we continue through Phase 5, let’s take a deep breath.
Assembling this page was an interesting exercise. After matching up the reviews published in the mighty Mattopia Times with the release dates and box office results, I now understand why I was getting rather cranky during Phase 3, around the time of Guardians Vol. 2 and Ragnarok. That's when the schedule ramped up from two episodes to three per year (plus Marvel's non-MCU titles plus the DC slate of also-rans) and by then my patience with boss battles was already wearing thin. It was a state of “CGI candy” sugar shock.
As for the box office tallies, it took time to gain traction. Iron Man forged a solid opening salvo while Edward Norton’s The Incredible Hulk got clobbered. The biggest hits of the series so far are still the Avengers episodes (no surprise; the more top-shelf characters, the more appeal), followed by the cultural milestones of Black Panther and Captain Marvel, plus the cross-over appeal of the multi-generational Peter Parkers in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Anyway, it’s a miraculous feat. Sure, not every entry is a four-star masterpiece, but even the weaker movies are better than most pop culture hits. Well, except for The Incredible Hulk and Infinity War. They still bug me. So does Ragnarok. Nonetheless, Marvel has made humongous strides in raising the bar for cinematic, cross-franchise storytelling and fulfilling the dream the late, great Stan Lee had been pursuing since way back in the 1970s. It really is an inclusive universe, one that has finally broken past the overly simplistic view of giving geek culture a place to call home.
There’s been a disturbing cheese factor creeping into entries like Thor: Love and Thunder, which found its saving grace in great performances from Natalie Portman’s return and Christian Bale’s introduction. With the exception of No Way Home, the box office has been a struggle for many of the entries — in Phase 4, which is continuing now in Phase 5 with Quantumania. At this point, is less about the pandemic and more about the narrative clutter.
Watching Guardians Vol. 3, a thought started to creep in: could James Gunn and Taika Waititi, by seemingly having more creative freedom, either intentionally or inadvertently been limiting the crossover appeal of the overarching series by focusing on a style of pop culture humor that doesn’t carry the larger appeal of the earlier movies, which stayed a little more grounded in the comedic aspects? Have they clawed back the appeal to the core comic book demographic? That geek culture?
It’s a thought right now and nothing more.
But, with the Guardians now in the rearview mirror, there’s less enthusiasm for what lies ahead in Phase 5. Throw in the Disney+ game of dominoes — with most of the series no longer having definitive launch dates — and the slowdown is welcome. After such heady success, the MCU needs to find its way back to center.
As Stan would say, “Excelsior!”
Mattopia Jones, Editor-in-Chief
The Mattopia Times
— Phase 1 —
Global box office: $585,174,222
Opened 2 May 2008 / Closed 2 Oct. 2008
Global box office: $263,427,551
Opened 13 June 2008 / Closed 4 Sept. 2008
Global box office: $623,933,331
Opened 7 May 2010 / Closed 19 Aug. 2010
Global box office: $449,326,618
Opened 6 May 2011 / Closed 25 Aug. 2011
Global box office: $370,569,774
Opened 22 July 2011 / Closed 10 Nov. 2011
(6) The Avengers
Global box office: $1,518,812,988
Opened 4 May 2012 / Closed 4 Oct. 2012
— Phase 2 —
Global box office: $1,214,811,252
Opened 3 May 2013 / Closed 12 Sept. 2013
Global box office: $644,571,402
Opened 8 Nov. 2013 / Closed 17 April 2014
Global box office: $714,264,267
Opened 4 April 2014 / Closed 21 Aug. 2014
Global box office: $773,328,629
Opened 1 Aug. 2014 / Closed 22 Jan. 2015
Global box office: $1,405,403,694
Opened 1 May 2015 / Closed 8 Oct. 2015
Global box office: $519,311,965
Opened 17 July 2015 / Closed 17 Dec. 2015
— Phase 3 —
Global box office: $1,153,304,495
Opened 6 May 2016 / Closed 22 Sept. 2016
Global box office: $677,718,395
Opened 4 Nov. 2016 / Closed 16 March 2017
Global box office: $863,756,051
Opened 5 May 2017 / Closed 21 Sept. 2017
(16) Spider-Man: Homecoming
Global box office: $880,166,924
Opened 7 July 2017 / Closed 30 Nov. 2017
Global box office: $853,977,126
Opened 3 Nov. 2017 / Closed 15 March 2018
Global box office: $1,346,913,161
Opened 16 Feb. 2018 / Closed 9 Aug. 2018
Global box office: $2,048,359,754
Opened 27 April 2018 / Closed 13 Sept. 2018
Global box office: $622,674,139
Opened 6 July 2018 / Closed 1 Nov. 2018
Global box office: $1,128,267,209
Opened 8 March 2019 / Closed 4 July 2019
Global box office: $2,796,274,401
Opened 26 April 2019 / Closed 12 September 2019
Global box office: $1,131,927,996
Opened 28 June 2019 / Closed 24 October 2019
— Phase 4 —
The MCU expands in more ways than one in Phase 4. The hefty schedule includes six theatrical releases and eight streaming series on Disney+. That's quite a product road map and it’s perfect timing for all the multi-platform activity as the MCU storyline dives deep into the Multiverse.
The pandemic disrupted the release schedule, pushing Black Widow from May 2020 all the way out to July 2021. With theatres closed and people homebound, WandaVision hit Disney+ in January 2021 and became the first Phase 4 title to have an audience.
(+1, +2) WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
“It’s only one episode in, but there are plenty of reasons to be excited about seeing the Falcon and the Winter Soldier deal with what ails them.”
WandaVision debuted on Disney+ 15 January 2021
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier debuted on Disney+ 19 March 2021
Streaming Series on Disney+
(+1) WandaVision (debuted 15 January 2021)
(+2) The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (debuted 19 March 2021)
(+3) Loki (debuted 9 June 2021)
(+4) What If...? (debuted 11 August 2021)
(+5) Hawkeye (debuted 24 November 2021)
(+6) Moon Knight (debuted 30 March 2022)
(+7) Ms. Marvel (debuted 8 June 2022)
(+8) She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (debuts 17 August 2022)
Global box office: $379,751,655
Opened in theatres and on Disney+ Premier Access 9 July 2021
Global box office: $432,243,292
Opened in theatres 3 September 2021
Global box office: $402,064,899
Opened in theatres 5 November 2021
Global box office: $1,901,232,550
Opened in theatres 17 December 2021
Global box office: $955,775,804
Opened in theatres 6 May 2022
Global box office: $760,928,081
Opened in theatres 8 July 2022
Global box office: $855,078,995
Opened in theatres 11 November 2022
— Phase 5 —
Global box office: TBD
Opened in theatres 17 February 2023
Streaming Series on Disney+
(+9) Secret Invasion (21 June 2023)
(+10) Loki Season 2 (6 October 2023)
(+11) Echo (29 November 2023)
(+12) Agatha: Coven of Chaos (Winter 2024)
(+13) Ironheart (TBA)
(+14) Daredevil: Born Again (TBA)
(+15) What If...? Season 2 (TBA)
Global box office: TBD
Opened in theatres 5 May 2023
(33) The Marvels
10 November 2023
(34) Captain America: New World Order
26 July 2024
20 December 2024
14 February 2025
(37) Deadpool 3
3 May 2024
— Phase 6 —
(38) Fantastic Four
2 May 2025
(39) Avengers: The Kang Dynasty
1 May 2026
(40) Avengers: Secret Wars
7 May 2027
(41) Title TBA
Before the Universe, there were...
"Daredevil is a movie with soul. And it's a soul strong enough to redeem the film from its sins."
"Elektra is simply average and it will be quickly dismissed."
"The action is hardly thrilling and nowhere near convincing and there's no reason to care for any of the characters, no matter how darn good looking they are."
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
"The most amazing thing about Rise of the Silver Surfer is that a movie about four scientists can come up so short in chemistry and logic."
"Spinning a web of cinematic magic, Spider-Man leaps off the pages of Marvel's comic books and comes to life on the big screen in a highly entertaining romp."
"Picking up where the first installment left off, Spider-Man 2 avoids the sophomore slump and offers up a delightful change of pace from standard comic book movie fare."
"The third installment in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man series is a glorious mess that is at turns the darkest and funniest of the trilogy."
X-Men: The Last Stand
"X-Men: The Last Stand fails to reach its lofty potential but it still serves as an entertaining diversion."
Meanwhile, in other Marvel Universes...
The Amazing Spider-Man
"The Amazing Spider-Man is uninspired and unremarkable."
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
"The characters — particularly Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy and Aunt May — feel fresh (again). There's soul. There's humor."
"Deadpool packs a lot of irreverence and violence, but the result is a little tiresome."
"Jonah Hex is a guy movie for guys who dig movies about guys who eat lead for breakfast and refuse to die until their vengeance is done."
The New Mutants
"Unlike Robert Downey Jr.’s take on Tony Stark or Chris Evans’ version of Steve Rogers, the journey doesn’t end with an overwhelming desire to see this band of characters again."
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
"Across the Spider-Verse is a monumental work of art."
"Venom lacks bite."
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
"The ‘carnage’ in this sequel’s title refers to all the quality talent that’s laid to waste."
"The Wolverine claws its way to a very mild recommendation."
X-Men: Days of Future Past
"It's outclassed by First Class, but Days of Future Past is a solid addition to the X-Men canon."
Stan Lee, Denver Comic Con, 2016
See more photos of Stan, plus Haley Atwell and much more!