Review: The Marvels is a movie that, while not devoid of entertainment and laughs, is a muddled entry in the recent lackluster saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Brie Larson continues to stand out as Captain Marvel in a franchise filled with questionable plot choices and villains.
In the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Marvels unfolds as a web of interconnected heroes and plot threads, attempting to weave together the narrative strands from both the big screen and small screen realms of the MCU. Directed by Nia DaCosta and featuring Brie Larson reprising her role as Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel, the film ushers in a trio of formidable heroines, including Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau and Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel. Together, they confront an enigmatic adversary, Dar-Benn, portrayed by Zawe Ashton, seeking vengeance against Captain America for her perceived role in the Kree intergalactic civil wars.
From the outset, The Marvels presents a unique challenge for viewers who may not have invested their time in keeping up with the entirety of the MCU saga. The film deftly weaves in elements from WandaVision and Ms. Marvel, which could prove to be bewildering for those unfamiliar with these series. Even as someone like me who skipped Ms. Marvel, it’s apparent that there are nuanced references and interconnections that escape those who haven’t done their MCU homework.
Returning as Captain Marvel, Brie Larson continues to portray her character with the same conviction and strength that marked her introduction to the MCU. However, the question of whether she possesses the commanding presence to lead a franchise of this magnitude remains somewhat elusive. Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau delivers a solid performance, but I can’t help but feel that her character is inevitably underutilized, especially considering the promise she showed in WandaVision.
The standout of the trio, Iman Vellani, infuses Ms. Marvel with childlike wonder and comedic timing that instantly endears her to the audience. Her character’s witty quips, while entertaining initially, do lose some of their charm as the narrative unfolds. Yet, Vellani remains the most memorable aspect of the film, a breath of fresh air in a sprawling superhero world.
The Marvels boasts a brief 105-minute runtime that distinguishes it as the shortest MCU movie to date. While this brevity ensures that the pacing remains brisk, it also leaves little room for a deep exploration of character or an intricate plot. The screenplay feels rushed and choppy, attempting to craft a high-stakes narrative within a confined timeframe, often leading to muddled storytelling.
One of the film’s notable strengths lies in the performances of the cast. They endeavor to mask and overshadow some of the script’s shortcomings, using their charisma and chemistry to elevate the material. However, even their efforts cannot fully conceal the flaws in the storytelling. A murky and convoluted script fails to effectively communicate the stakes or provide a clear sense of direction for the narrative. Viewers are left to navigate the story without the guiding hand of any foreshadowing or a well-defined narrative arc.
Nia DaCosta, a promising filmmaker, enters the world of Marvel with a desire to infuse her own vision into the corporate juggernaut. However, her talents appear to have become entangled in the complex web of the MCU. The Marvels is another example of a talented director struggling within a system defined by calculated franchise-building. While there are moments that showcase her skill, they are often overshadowed by the weight of the cinematic universe in which she now operates.
The Marvels also features some notably questionable and cringe-worthy plot choices that stick out like a sore thumb. A planet inhabited by song-communicating civilians and an extended sequence dedicated to cats inhaling humans exemplify these moments. While the latter may be charmed by a clever needle drop, the overall experience becomes marred by these clumsy plot choices. It’s evident that the film may have faced challenges in its production, possibly leading to a lack of cohesion and clarity in the final product.
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The film will certainly draw comparisons to The Guardians of the Galaxy for being an intergalactic adventure tied together by a makeshift family, but that movie successfully navigated the balance between quirkiness, humor, and heart, establishing its own unique identity within the MCU. Unfortunately, The Marvels falls short of capturing that same magic. It attempts to mirror the charisma of the Guardians but never quite reaches their level of brilliance.
The Marvels is a film that is both confined and overextended, aiming to tie together multiple narrative threads and heroes within the MCU. The cast’s varied performances are unable to fully salvage a rushed and shoddy script. The film’s brevity, while contributing to a brisk pace, also hinders character development and depth.
The inclusion of references to previous MCU entries may leave some viewers feeling alienated, as the film relies heavily on interconnected storylines. While Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, and Iman Vellani deliver quality performances, the overarching sense is that The Marvels continues the downward spiral in quality for the MCU that many have been fearing for years.
It’s a film that, while not devoid of entertainment and laughs, is a muddled entry in the ever-expanding saga of superheroes, lacking the clarity, depth, and direction that audiences have come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
See The Marvels in theaters November 8
The Marvels Film Cast and Credits
Brie Larson as Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel
Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau
Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel
Zawe Ashton as Dar-Benn
Park Seo-jun as Prince Yan
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau
Director: Nia DaCosta
Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt
Composer: Laura Karpman