Say what you will about the MCU and its cinematic legitimacy, but this franchise is bound to go down as one of Hollywood’s most impressive balancing acts. After 15 years of interconnecting stories, the fact that fatigue is just starting to settle in is a testament to the MCU’s quality and impact. That said, the fatigue is real. That’s not to say the MCU is out of gas. If The Marvels’ post-credit scene is any indication, there’s still potential for this studio to hook us back in for the long haul. As a whole, however, The Marvels isn’t the film that’s going to win back fading fans or recruit new ones.
This is a strikingly below-average superhero movie despite a few highlights. Three of those highlights are Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, and Iman Vellani. The film picks up decades after the first Captain Marvel and immediately after the Ms. Marvel miniseries. Yeah, you’ll need to do some homework to follow every character arc. Unlike Infinity War or Endgame, though, it may feel like studying for a test that ultimately doesn’t impact your final grade much. Herein lies one of the main problems with The Marvels. For a film that juggles so much exposition, the story isn’t particularly eventful.
The Marvels is torn between being an event picture or a lighthearted romp. When it takes the latter route, the audience starts to have fun. The film has some inspired ideas involving the titular trio swapping places, a musical planet, and a sequence set to the Cats soundtrack, putting Tom Hooper’s abomination to shame. The central trio is also given an intriguing dynamic on paper. Monica Rambeau (Parris) and Kamala Khan (Vellani) both grew up idolizing Carol Danvers (Larson). While Kamala still looks up to Carol, Monica feels abandoned by her aunt. Kamala also finds that her hero isn’t perfect, although Carol is trying to atone for her past mistakes. Not keeping in touch with Monica was one of them.
While the right elements are there for an involving ensemble piece, The Marvels comes off as rushed. It takes too long for the trio to join forces and when they finally do, any emotional baggage is sorted out too quickly. The Marvels is only 105 minutes, which is refreshing for a tentpole release. With so many balls up in the air, though, this project might’ve worked better as a Disney+ miniseries, especially since it requires viewers to see Ms. Marvel and WandaVision. The three actresses do everything in their power to keep the film afloat, but they can’t overcome one of the MCU’s most forgettable villains or stale comedy. Seriously, when is Marvel going to get the memo that the “coming up with a superhero name” gag is becoming painful?
We’ve gotten to the point where the MCU can’t just coast by on one-liners, CGI action, and a post-credit scene guaranteed to set social media on fire. Each new release either needs to feel important or unique. The Marvels is neither. It isn’t the franchise’s worst offering, but the film goes through one ear and out the other. Given what the MCU has given us in the past and what it promises to deliver in the future, we expect more. For loyal fans who want their MCU fix, The Marvels may prove serviceable enough. For those feeling the fatigue, it’s one you can easily skip, although that post-credit scene is almost worth the price of admission.