Okay, seriously, does anyone even care about The Marvels?
In virtually all manner of speaking, The Marvels is debuting in a world that doesn’t want to see it, or at least that’s what it seems like. Yes, due to the recent SAG-AFTRA strike, there was virtually no publicity towards the film, but even without it, audiences have been getting increasingly number to all of Marvel’s efforts in the past year. We’ve begun to see behind the curtain how things aren’t looking good for the franchise and it seems my prediction that the series couldn’t sustain itself after Endgame is pretty on point. Even the usual circle of Marvel Zombies who appear in droves to each new release seem to be skipping The Marvels, with the projected box office opening of the film being way, way lower than I think Disney is comfortable with.
That dampening resolve is also readily apparent in the film. With the exception of maybe one or two people, no one seemed to give a damn about making The Marvels either. To call it a boring movie would be an understatement and I’m almost surprised I managed to pay attention to, what is by all accounts, one of the dullest movies I’ve seen this year, and I’ve seen a movie that spent most of its runtime looking at the dark corners of rooms! If this is what Marvel is okay with putting out, then audiences really need to rethink their commitment to the brand.
Director: Nia DaCosta
Release Date: November 10, 2023 (Theatrical)
Following the events of Captain Marvel, the alien race known as the Kree are living on a dying planet with their ruler, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), desperate to save them. After acquiring a quantum band that allows her to drain planets of resources through space-time portals, it gains the attention of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and Kamala Khan/ Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) after all three of them touch the same quantum energy simultaneously. This causes the three women to switch places whenever they use their power at the same time and will require them to team up, figure out how to work with each other, and stop Dar-Benn from harvesting planets of their resources like this was straight out of Ratchet & Clank. Simple.
For as little as I cared about The Marvels in the lead-up to it, I will give the movie credit in that I was interested in its implementation of teleportation. It’s not that it does anything revolutionary with the concept, but I like this idea of having three vastly different fight scenes occurring and our characters being thrust around against their will trying to piece together each new situation and staying alive in them. There’s a lot of potential for that concept, which is executed well enough in the first third of the movie but then loses its potency when the characters actually get to know each other more. For as much as I’m relieved the film isn’t a two-hour-plus epic, I felt that more fight scenes could have used that gimmick to differentiate themselves from other action movies.
See, the appeal of that kind of gimmick was that it puts the characters into unknown and unfamiliar situations and forces them to react on the fly. Captain Marvel can fly, but when she swaps with Ms. Marvel and Kamala Khan starts to plummet, it makes an interesting scenario where she has to figure out how to deal with a situation she has never had to contend with before. There’s a lot of potential if handled well. But The Marvels doesn’t really care about its own gimmick and tosses it aside in favor of exploring the characters and searching for a reason to justify what’s happening in its plot.
Now I’m all for suspension of disbelief, but The Marvels goes above and beyond at throwing gibberish at the wall and trying to have it make sense. How are our main heroine’s powers connected? They just are. Why are quantum mechanics able to do things like suck a planet’s atmosphere into another planet’s? Because it raises the stakes of the conflict. Why does the obligatory dramatic sacrifice at the end need to happen? BECAUSE SCIENCE. The plot feels so perfunctory and each scene only exists to shuffle its disinterested cast slowly but surely to the inevitable end and will say and do anything to get them to that endpoint. Even when there’s something relatively interesting, like a planet where everyone sings and dances like it’s a Bollywood musical, we don’t spend enough time on it to care or see our trio react to it.
It’s very obvious that almost everyone in The Marvels doesn’t want to be there. Brie Larson rarely emotes in the film and comes across as even more wooden than she did in her original solo movie. Samuel L. Jackson pops up every now and then to assist, but he just looks so tired and over the series, forced to be a part of something that he’s become bored and tired of. The only person who shows energy and excitement is Iman Vellani, who geeks out over everything that Captain Marvel does, but after a few scenes with her, her performance becomes grating as she delivers the same monotonous screams, cries, and quips again and again. I never saw Ms. Marvel, but from what I heard of the series the depiction of Kamala Khan showed she had a lot of layers and nuance and proved why she was a fan-favorite character in the comics. Here, she’s a supporting character who is boiled down to a simple fangirl and a hindrance to everyone else.
I know that may come across as negative of an actress who is genuinely trying to have fun with the role, but it’s so hard to do when everything else is so tepid. It feels like the film only exists because Captain Marvel needed a sequel, the MCU needed a major fall release after it was delayed multiple times, resulting in DaCosta leaving the production, and we needed further proof that the Disney+ shows actually amount to something. Yet the funny thing is that you don’t need to watch either WandaVision or Ms. Marvel to understand what’s happening here. On one hand, I suppose that makes the show somewhat more accessible and you don’t need to do as much homework to prepare for The Marvels, but it also makes me question what the point of any of this extended universe garbage even is.
This is the definition of filmmaking on autopilot. There’s no heart or soul in this movie, no great message or theme to be said, and nothing of value to be gained from The Marvels. I know I’m starting to sound like one of those artistic snobs who is scoffing at those plebian superhero blockbuster films, and maybe I am now, but movies need to have some emotional core to latch onto. Movies can be powerful tools of change and can make their viewers experience a whole bevy of emotions, whether it be deep dramatic fare like Killers of the Flower Moon or bright goofy fun as in Barbie. James Gunn understood this, resulting in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 being as well-regarded as it is. He told the story he wanted to tell over the course of three films, sandwiched in between two movies that were more interested in setting up future stories than telling good ones in the moment.
I don’t care about seeing Kang the Conquerer as the next major Avengers threat, though that may not even happen given the issues surrounding Jonathan Majors. I don’t care that the post-credit scene in The Marvels debuts yet another major Marvel character who will appear in a future unknown film. I want good movies now! I want to have fun now, not years from now. The Marvels is emblematic of all of the problems that Marvel is facing. It has nothing going for it other than being yet another installment in the Marvel machine, taking whatever original concepts it has and doing very little with them, and making its disinterested cast act alongside some shoddy greenscreen effects and go through story beats so well-trodden that their shoes have holes in them.
But hey, that’ll all be worth it in the end, right? Marvel will make lightning strike twice, right? By this point if you believe that, then you’ll love The Marvels and will find the sand very comfortable around your neck.