It's official, Ant-Man's opening box office did not compete with Marvel's other releases.
That's not to say it was a flop: $58 million dollars would be impressive for almost any other film (it beat Trainwreck's $30 million and Terminator's $27 million, via). However, it just fell short of the predicted $60 million, and was behind Captain America: The First Avenger ($65 million), Thor ($65 million), and Iron Man ($98 million).
In comparison to these other far more popular heroes, it seems like Ant-Man is actually doing pretty well. The character isn't popular among collectors like Iron Man is, and his more memorable story lines usually involve him being kicked off teams instead of joining them. For now, it seems like Marvel's reputation is enough to get audiences in theaters- even when introducing characters few people have heard of or care about.
Is that really a sustainable model though?
The movie itself wasn't that great.
It's not the train wreck that some anticipated (with the original writer Edgar Wright dropping the project, it wasn't a baseless prediction). But it was hardly a thrilling summer blockbuster. The plot was predictable, with tired trope after tired trope. The villain was a caricature. Hank Pym's wife was fridged to give his character motivation. His daughter Hope was better-prepared for the mission given to Rudd's character Scott, but instead she existed purely to help him during a training montage, and make out with him a little at the end of the film.
It's not a BAD movie. But with plenty of other predictable action films saturating the market, it seems like the Marvel name alone is what gives this movie a competitive edge. And if Marvel can't continue to deliver on the promise of their brand (entertaining, innovative action films), it won't continue to be such a draw.
Ant-Man could have risen to the challenge.
But it didn't. The writing wasn't at the caliber we expect from Marvel films, and the character wasn't popular enough to carry the film on charisma alone. Marvel could have released a film about a different, more popular character (The Falcon or Black Widow- fans have been demanding more from those characters for a long time), but they didn't. Or, they could have brought Ant-Man to television instead. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has set enough of a precedent- Marvel clearly can work on TV. And Daredevil and Agent Carter were both risky, ambitious projects that paid off despite the limited marketing and- in the case of Agent Carter, a historically bad time slot. But they didn't.
Marvel HAS options.
But they're not exploring them. Their film formula isn't the problem, it's their marketing formula. They're adhering to a tight content schedule, and while they were willing to alter their film lineup for the addition of Spider-Man, it doesn't seem like they're willing to reconsider their choices- some of which were made YEARS ago- to adapt to the current market and audience. Which is a huge mistake.