The Marvels (2023) review

Lower, slower, it’s over.

By now, you’ve all probably read the disaster that the latest MCU film, The Marvels, is. If you haven’t, well, the prognosis isn’t good. The film open with the weakest box office weekend of any Marvel film, at 45 million dollars domestic, putting it behind even such bombs as The Flash (55 million). This may very well be the MCU film that puts the final nail in the most successful cinematic universe, a run of 15 years that raked in more than 29 billion dollars.

A shame then, because The Marvels isn’t a bad film. A profoundly mediocre one, yes, with horrible writing and annoying characters, but one with frustratingly great potential crippled by baffling decisions and pacing that drag down what could have been something great.

The film continues the story of the titular heroine, played by Brie Larson, only this time joined by Disney+ newcomers Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris). After an accident involving jump points used by spaceships to travel vast distances, the 3 women find themselves teleporting between each others’ places when using their powers. At the same time, the Kree leader Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), is seeking revenge on Captain Marvel for plunging the Kree homeworld Hala, into ecological crisis.

Standard superhero fare, but this immediately brings us into a major problem with current MCU films- they rely heavily on the view watching an increasing large number of films and streaming shows in order to get the full backstory and context, and the film has to accommodate those that have not seen that content. The Marvels requires viewing of the first film, the Disney+ shows Ms. Marvel, WandaVision, and for good measure, Secret Invasion. That’s at least 2 shows only available on Disney+ and a film, hours of content just to get started. The payoff just isn’t worth it, especially since all these new characters come at the expense of Captain Marvel herself, a character barely seen since the first film. Yes, she has had several appearances since then, but nothing more than cameos and as a superpower whose arrival can turn the tide of a pitched battle. Her character development is rushed, and huge chunks of what she has been up to are told clumsily through flashback scenes and stilted exposition.

That would be okay, if the new characters were any interesting. Sadly, they are not. Ms Marvel continues to be the obnoxious fangirl whose every appearance is inevitably accompanied by the fawning adulation of Captain Marvel. The character is clumsily inserted into the story for seemingly no reason- she possesses an item that the villain needs… but is capable of carrying out her plans without it. Ms Marvel’s appearance seems to exist only because of the shared name and to push the character and the actress as the next face of the MCU, a decision that has not turn out the way it has. Ms Marvel, the show, had the least views and streams of any Disney+ show. She was the tutorial character for the Avengers video game which in itself failed. This recent failure makes it 0/3, a clear view of things to come.

Monica might have an interesting story line, given her involvement in the first film. There she was seemingly abandoned by Captain Marvel as a child. Unfortunately much of her story after that is told in WandaVision as a side character. Non-viewers are given hasty and underwhelming explanations of what transpired since then. She grew up, gained powers somehow through a “witch-hex,” got snapped out and back into existence, ad holds a somewhat irrational grudge towards Carol (Captain Marvel’s real name) for going away and not coming back. But none of this is fully fleshed out, save a few brief scenes where the conflict is slightly fleshed out and ultimately quickly resolved over a matter of minutes before the climax. It’s all very underwhelming, and Parris really isn’t given much to bring the character to life as well; most of her lines are exposition dumps.

The movie itself is relatively short by MCU standards, at 105 minutes, yet feels disjointed, dragging at times and rushed at others. This is mostly due to the number of characters and plotlines, some of which are wholly inconsequential, like Kamala’s parents, or are just dropped without any resolution, like the Skrulls whose refuge planet is rendered uninhabitable by the Kree. The whole 3rd act in particular is full of filler, including an over lengthy musical section that was clearly already cut from an even longer section, and a bewildering subplot involving Goose the cat, who is pregnant and spawns a ridiculously large number of kittens. These threads clutter up an already struggling plot and their inclusion is jarring in a film that is ostensibly about Captain Marvel and efforts to stop the villain.

That being said the villain is shockingly weak, even by MCU standards. Dar-Benn has no redeeming qualities, being one note and cartoonishly evil. There is absolutely no attempt to justify her actions, no attempt at backstory, nothing. Just a character that exists because of the need for a villain and for someone to fight. These distractions only serve to highlight how low the bar has fallen, and is more painful because with some editing and better writing there could have been something there. There was the opportunity for character development and and fleshing out of what up until now was mainly a deus ex machina. Instead Captain Marvel is still supremely overpowered, solving the main issue of the film with no effort in a 20 second clip. Instead, it is Monica who is sacrificed, seemingly only to set up the movie’s stinger. It’s strange, and insulting.

Despite this, I did enjoy the film- most of it anyway. It’s just mediocre, not up to snuff. It’s not actively BAD, like the Eternals, just poorly paced and written. A section of viewers will love Kamala. The VFX are alright. It’s a very dumb film, but watchable on first viewing. Brie Larson is clearly carrying the film, despite certain parts of the internet turning against her and mainstream opinion souring on the MCU in general. It’s not an awful film, but it could have been so much more, and will unrightly be regarded as the last straw for this iteration of the MCU. Maybe it was the writer’s strike that doomed this film’s plot. Perhaps it was the SAG’s strike that hindered marketing. Maybe it was all of the above. But it’s a sad ending to a once untouchable franchise, and the future of the MCU is seriously in doubt at this point.



WRITTEN BY silogore