The Marvels is one of the most needlessly complicated films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While previous films have been fairly accessible without much foreknowledge, that’s not the case with this film. You really have to do your homework with this one.
This isn’t just a case of recalling Captain Marvel’s role in her previous film and Avengers: Endgame. You’ve got to be updated on the works of WandaVision, Ms. Marvel, Secret Invasion, and Spider-Man: Far From Home to make heads or tails of any of this. All of this is required reading all builds up to a very ho-hum superhero adventure.
The Many Marvels
There’s no time for introductions! There’s already a threat of the Kree blowing up galaxies, and all hands are called on deck. This means Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers (Brie Larson) needs to snap into action without any time to explain where she’s been in the past few Marvel movies or what she did to bring about this new war.
Kamala “Ms. Marvel” Khan (Iman Vellani) picks up immediately where she left off in Ms. Marvel, where she was flung into a wall and switched places with Captain Marvel. Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), returning from WandaVision, is now using her powers to work for SABER, a space organization run by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). There’s nothing to prepare you for these characters, and The Marvels hits the ground running with them in a new situation.
A Sloppy First Act
Part of the opening act of The Marvels involves the three characters finding that their powers are linked. If two of them use their cosmic abilities simultaneously, they switch places. They learn this the hard way when they find themselves fighting Kree warriors in a fight sequence that is more admirable for how it was assembled than how it looks.
There’s little time for The Marvels to slow down and explain itself. Perhaps this was on purpose to avoid the substandard plot looking so weak. But there’s also not much time given to appreciate the chemistry of the three central heroes.
There are some arcs worth exploring. Carol regrets how she handles intergalactic politics alone, Monica has grief and abandonment issues, and Kamala aspires to be a great superhero on her first galactic adventure. The few moments they slow down, there’s some genuine fun, but it’s only for short bursts.
A Forgettable Villain
The central plot for the heroes is not all that interesting. The Kree are back and want revenge against Captain Marvel’s actions. Their empire is led by Supremor Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), a bog-standard villain who comes off like a cheaper carbon copy of Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s hard to shake that notion when she’s wielding the exact same weapon with the same powers.
It’s not that Dar-Benn’s motivations for obliterating planets are not unique. She wants to strip resources from other worlds to save her own. But with so little time spent with this character, she comes off as a stock villain who is gone before we can either grow to despise her or sympathize with her.
The Weird Bits
The Marvels has the most fun when it’s diverting from the ho-hum plotting. The planet-hopping adventure takes the three Marvel women to a planet where everybody speaks in song. It’s ridiculous but leans into that silly sci-fi nature with gusto.
Another fun sequence involves Goose, the alien cat that can eat people with her tentacle mouth. This leads to an absurd moment of weirdness involving kittens being used to save a space station in a way that one might not expect. These are the moments where I found myself loving the film more.
But these sequences feel like they’re taken away too soon. It isn’t long before the weirdness ends and the tiresome plot returns. Having seen this story before, I wanted more weird planets and aliens instead of the paint-by-numbers, save-the-world scenario that Captain Marvel is in yet again.
A Crowded Film
Paced at 105 minutes, there’s not much room for The Marvels to breathe. It doesn’t help that it’s piled on with too many characters. Kamala’s family is added into the mix, but they offer nothing when they join Nick Fury, considering we’re also introduced to two SABER agents who already provide comedic backup.
There’s so much excess in this movie that I find it maddening how the film can never slow down and let it have its sweet moments. It needs more scenes of the three women connecting and bonding, considering they have much to discuss. But with so many cameos and the foreboding multiverse cluttering the screen, who has time for any of that good stuff?
Conclusion: The Marvels
The Marvels has some good ingredients but whips it all together too quickly in an incredibly small bowl. What has all the hallmarks of being a fun superhero film turns into a mess of a movie with some fun moments amid its tiresome plot. It’s a shame that the film ended up this way, instead evoking more of the fangirling charm that Ms. Marvel wields perfectly in this film.
Did you see The Marvels in theaters? What did you think? Was it better than Captain Marvel? Let us know in the comments below.
The Marvels is currently playing in theaters everywhere.