Within 24 hours of Captain Marvel’s opening, CNN was ready to call it: “‘Captain Marvel’ is here to save the 2019 box office,” the news outlet proclaimed. Though the film’s Rotten Tomatoes rating was attacked by trolls (for the second time this year) just hours after its premiere, that didn’t prevent it from raking in more than $20 million on its opening night, setting it on track to have the biggest opening of 2019 so far. This year, as CNN noted, has been “downright abysmal” at the box office—but Brie Larson is here to change that.
Captain Marvel’s box office figure is nearly double the opening number for Wonder Woman, which took in $11 million on its opening night two years ago, underlining the continuing thirst for women-fronted action and fantasy films (and, perhaps, for ’90s nostalgia). Sure, it pales in comparison to the $56 million opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, but then again, Captain Marvel isn’t reviving a beloved franchise—it’s expanding its canon into something that centers women characters. It’s not just for this one film, either: Disney, per Vulture, is “counting on Brie Larson’s Carole Danvers to anchor its next phase of Avengers movies.” (And while Captain Marvel and The Force Awakens might be operating in different economic paradigms, the fan backlash to both has been… pretty much the same.)
Despite the best efforts of the trolls, Captain Marvel’s early audience reviews have been pretty good, too: Its Rotten Tomatoes audience score leapt from 33 percent to 81 percent when more than 50,000 spam reviews were deleted. As IndieWire pointed out, Marvel’s reliance on indie filmmakers has paid off: Last year, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther had the biggest box office of the year, kicking it off with a $25 million opening night; Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok is one of the most beloved of the canon; and Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the director duo behind Half Nelson, made Captain Marvel. We can only imagine what might have been had Edgar Wright actually ended up making Ant-Man.