Despite a charming lead and some fun ideas, The Marvels is another directionless, hollow entry in the increasingly floundering MCU saga.
About The Marvels Movie
Let’s cut right to the chase: Is The Marvels a good movie? No, it’s not. Is it the unadulterated disaster that much of the early buzz has suggested? Not really. It is not as borderline unwatchable as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania or Thor: Love and Thunder, but it certainly belongs among the worst entries in the MCU. The issue with The Marvels is not that it’s objectively terrible but that it’s hollow. It doesn’t offer much beyond “more MCU content!” And at this point, I’m not sure if that is enough to satisfy viewers beyond the most devoted Marvel fans.
In many ways, The Marvels feels like the convergence of all the worst tendencies that have caused the once invulnerable MCU to stumble in recent years. The movie spends so much time picking up the baton from previous stories or trying to arrange the game pieces on the board for future stories that it never gets around to telling a compelling story in the present. Yes, there are some entertaining action scenes, patented Marvel jokes, and glossy CGI spectacle, but I left the theater wondering, “What was the point of any of that?” It’s a film that’s not really about anything other than Marvel itself.
One of the gimmicks in the story is that the three heroes switch places whenever they use their powers. The idea itself is fun, and it results in some enjoyable action scenes and clever moments. Unfortunately, the gimmick is a suitable metaphor for the film itself. The Marvels feels like a story that was created by a committee who couldn’t agree with each other. Various discordant pieces are graphed together to fill the runtime, but they don’t come together with much cohesion.
The tone is all over the map. Sometimes it plays itself seriously, but other times it veers into over-the-top spoof territory. The film becomes a musical in one scene because…it’s funny, I guess? Another goofy sequence involving alien cats seems like a leftover Guardians of the Galaxy outtake. In fact, there are some entirely inconsequential subplots that feel left over from earlier drafts of the script. Even Captain Marvel’s personality seems to fluctuate from scene to scene. The film doesn’t lack vision; it lacks commitment to any of its conflicting visions.
The main problem with The Marvels is that it doesn’t give audiences enough reason to care about the characters or events beyond a pre-existing investment in the larger unfolding story. Brie Larson is a talented actress, but I struggle to put my finger on who Captain Marvel is as a character. What are her defining character traits? She’s just kind of there. The audience roots for her because she’s the protagonist, but the story fails to establish any other compelling reason to get behind her.
The villain suffers a similar fate. She’s fine but totally forgettable. Unlike Captain Marvel, she is at least given a clear goal, but her character isn’t developed beyond that singular motivation.
The one exception that pierces through my overall apathy toward this film is Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel. She’s a delight. I didn’t watch the Ms. Marvel show in Disney+, but it’s easy to see why the character has become a fan favorite. Beyond her vibrant energy and charisma, her character is refreshingly relatable and grounded. Rather than being just another superpowered person in a sprawling story of cosmic struggles and infinite multiverses, she’s a young girl with big dreams. She has a family and personal attachments that tether her to the real world. Without her character, this film would have been a disaster. If the future of the MCU looks more like Ms. Marvel than Captain Marvel, then perhaps it can regain some of its lost sparkle.
The Marvels doesn’t do anything to change the unfavorable narratives that have developed about the MCU in recent years. There are some sporadic enjoyable moments. Diehard Marvel fans may get excited by some hints at where the larger story is headed, and audiences with modest expectations who merely want to watch some superpowered women punch nameless bad guy goons into the distant horizon will find something here to scratch that itch. But this movie seems like more evidence that the MCU has overstayed its welcome. The Marvels might not be an awful movie, but it’s a boring and vacuous one. In a way, that’s almost a worse fate.
Movie Review :
- Language: There is a fair amount of profanity (mostly “s—”). There are also frequent exclamations of “Oh my G—.”
- Violence: Nothing beyond standard Marvel action. Due to the destruction of several planets, the actual death toll is (presumably) quite high, although the deaths are not depicted in detail on screen.
- Sexuality: None, although an alien cat is shown defiantly licking itself between its legs.
- Other: Ms. Marvel’s family is Muslim. When facing a near-death experience, her brother begins praying. Another character interrupts him, asking “Are you praying?” He adds, “No, don’t stop. We need all the prayer we can get” and offering his own “amens.”