'The Marvels' Is Barely a Movie

Directed by Nia DaCosta

Starring Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton, Gary Lewis, Park Seo-joon, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh, Samuel L. Jackson

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

BY Nicholas SokicPublished Nov 10, 2023

To fully understand the 44th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the film asks you to have done your homework. Aside from the first Captain Marvel, which is a reasonable ask, the other backstories explored in The Marvels can be found in WandaVision, Ms. Marvel and Secret Invasion; and of course, there are also the requisite cameos, Easter eggs and Avengers references to be found.

Sure, thanks to its reams of exposition, most audiences will largely be fine without having seen any other Disney+ or MCU project, but in the process of stuffing itself to the brim with connectivity, The Marvels neglects to fulfill the most basic tenets of being its own movie. 

In fact, this is the closest the MCU has ever gotten to its regularly scheduled and endlessly bloated event comics that dominate the source material each year, replete with the sense that it's tugging at the purse strings to pick up those tie-in issues. One almost wishes for the editor's notes that are often found in these crossover miniseries: "See WandaVision Episode 7 for explanation of the witch's hex-wall!"

This is exacerbated even further by giving Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) a new backstory, unseen adventures and ties to the movie's villain, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), that haven't been mentioned until now. It's a whole world of backstory that could have easily been found in a Captain Marvel 2.

The actors, as usual, try their best with what they're given; although Dar-Benn is a hazy nonentity even by Marvel's historically low villain standards. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury has turned from super spy to space custodian. The most charismatic of the trio, Markham's Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel turns in a genuinely fun performance, although her fangirling for Captain Marvel can occasionally turn from cute to cartoonish. 

Director Nia DaCosta does deliver a couple sequences reminiscent of the goofier Silver Age of comic books that the entire universe could use a lot more of. But with few exceptions, these are Kevin Feige's movies, so they're wedged in between the now-bog standard janky VFX, requisite sky portals and action scenes that — bar the final one — have no sense of rhythm thanks to the choppy editing.

That final fight scene, though, is actually thrilling thanks to the camaraderie Larson, Vellani and Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau developed throughout the movie – sold almost entirely by the actors – and the fact that the fight takes place with all three in the same room.

Those small glimmers of a real movie are not aided by the pervading sense that The Marvels was sliced to shreds in post-production — a fact that practically declares itself by ending with a scene that appears intended for post-credit fame. Then there's the actual mid-credits scene, which unlocks heretofore unknown levels of key-jangling for soy-faced YouTubers to breathlessly speculate over MCU instalments 45 through 50. For everyone else, the lasting result is more rudderless than marvelous.
(Marvel Studios)

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