The Marvels, the 33rd installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, offers a cinematic experience that is as diverse as its ensemble cast of Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris and Iman Vellani. While director Nia DaCosta delivers on the superhero action front, the film’s overall narrative might leave some audiences confused with a mixed bag of emotions.
The story kicks off with Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel’s (Larson) bold defiance of the Supreme Intelligence, triggering a Kree civil war that results in the desolation of Hala. The narrative sets the stage for a universe-altering conflict, capturing the consequences of Danvers’ actions, earning her the Kree moniker of “The Annihilator.”
The Would-Be God(dess) of the Month, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), emerges as the primary antagonist with justified grievances against Captain Marvel. It’s an interesting theme that is not explored nearly enough in the film – what if a superhero thinks what they are doing is right but leads to others getting hurt in the process?
The narrative – that we’ve seen in trailers – hinges on the Kamala Khan’s Quantum bands which leads to the heroes swapping places whenever they use their powers. While confusion ensues among the three, the swapping also attracts the attention of S.W.O.R.D, led by Secret Invasion’s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
As Monica Rambeau, Carol Danvers, and Kamala Khan are transported into each other’s spaces and the threat of Dar-Benn looms, a bond begins to form between the three as they discover how to work together as a team. They will need to with the looming threat posed by Dar-Benn’s manipulation of jump points and the instability it brings to the multiverse heightens the stakes.
The climactic battle on the water planet Aladna delivers on the promised action. Dar-Benn’s ambitious plans force the Marvels into a high-stakes confrontation, culminating in sacrifices and a rupture into the multiverse.
While The Marvels mostly navigates the cosmic landscape, blending humor, “girl power” camaraderie, and multiversal threats, I was taken out of it by two rather silly scenes which leads to a bigger issue the MCU is having. One of the scenes is a dance number that takes place on Aladna which is very similar to something you might see in Aladdin. The names being so similar ain’t a coincidence.
Another one involved Goose the cat/Flerken and her many, many CGI kittens. The humor felt forced and didn’t land. Moms in the audience cackled. Superhero fans did not.
While Marvel has always injected humor into their films, these scenes took me to another place – a Disney movie. What does that exactly mean? Disney has a brand feel – polished and silly humor. That’s what this scene became.
One of the film’s strengths is its ambitious attempt to weave multiple storylines and characters into a cohesive narrative. However, this complexity can be a double-edged sword. For viewers deeply immersed in the MCU lore, the intricate connections and Easter eggs may be a thrilling puzzle. Simultaneously, for the casual moviegoer, the abundance of plotlines may feel overwhelming and, at times, convoluted.
The Marvels introduces a diverse array of characters, both new and familiar faces. The interactions and chemistry between characters bring moments of genuine humor and emotion. Brie Larson’s return as Captain Marvel is a highlight, showcasing her charisma and power. She plays better as a team and Parris and Vellani bring out the best in her.
However, Monica Rambeau (who never receives a Superhero name, but has one in the comics) and Ms. Marvel seem to get lost in the shuffle at times, and their arcs are not as fully developed as one might hope.
True to the MCU’s reputation, The Marvels delivers on the visual front. The special effects, action sequences, and larger-than-life superhero battles are nothing short of spectacular. The film embraces the grandiosity that fans have come to expect from the MCU, creating stunning visuals that are a feast for the eyes.
The screenplay – by Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik – pacing is a bit of a mixed bag. At times, the narrative moves at a breakneck speed, making it challenging to absorb all the information. Conversely, there are moments where the story feels like it hits a plateau, losing some momentum. The balance between exposition and action could have been more finely tuned.
Jackson’s portrayal of Nick Fury, though entertaining, doesn’t offer substantial depth to the character. His role seems more like an exposition thread than a fully realized contribution to the plot. He’s like your cheesy uncle coming over for Thanksgiving, not the Fury of Captain America: The Winter Soldier or The Avengers.
While The Marvels attempts to break new ground with its narrative structure and character dynamics, it still treads familiar territory. Da Costa’s plot twists and revelations may feel like variations on themes explored in previous MCU films, but the film struggles to carve out a wholly unique identity within the expansive Marvel universe.
In the realm of superhero cinema, The Marvels offers a substantial dose of entertainment. It has its moments of brilliance, particularly in the visual and action departments. However, the film’s ambitious storytelling and attempts to juggle multiple narrative threads may leave some viewers feeling a bit disconnected. It’s a mixed bag that will likely resonate differently with die-hard Marvel fans and those seeking a more straightforward cinematic experience.
Bottom Line: While The Marvels mostly weaves a complex narrative of interconnected heroes, quantum entanglement, and the looming threat of multiverse chaos, it comes up short due to some missteps. It’s a REEL SEE but it’s also okay to skip.