November 7th, 2023
MOVIE: THE MARVELS
STARRING: BRIE LARSON, TEYONAH PARRIS, IMAN VELLANI, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ZAWE ASHTON
DIRECTED BY: NIA DACOSTA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
The Marvels just might be the first superhero movie, of the long-running Marvel Cinematic Universe, where you can see things cracking. The edges are frayed, the seams are ripping, and the foundation of the Disney-Marvel empire has begun to sink. It’s not without effort, at least, in Nia DaCosta’s (Candyman) attempt to bring a trio of incredibly charming and powerful ladies into their own super adventure. What audiences get is a movie that has been hacked at, with moments of stiff acting, shoddy editing, and CGI that never elevates above “Hey look a green screen”. The Marvels is an ambitious effort, failing to hit the mark on standard escapism while rehashing a tired plot in a sinking genre.
Years after the events of WandaVision, we catch up with Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) aka Captain Marvel, living on an isolated space station, with her pet tentacled cat Goose. Back on earth is precocious high schooler Kamala Khan (an always charming Iman Vellani) aka Ms. Marvel, daydreaming that one day she will meet her favorite hero. Meanwhile, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) is helping Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) with his efforts on a space station to help the Skrulls find a safe place to live. When an evil villain known as Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) discovers Kamala’s second bangle (it’s a powerful wristband) on a distant moon, she looks to use it to uplift her people of the Kree, but doing it at the expense of other planets. It’s up to the trio of ladies to stop her, but now their powers have connected with one another, causing them to teleport between spaces, forcing them to work together as a team to save the day.
Although the energy may be “fun”, that’s a relative term that wears off fast. The plot itself feels incredibly slapdash and pasted together. The editing is atrocious. The screenplay from DiCosta, Megan McDonnell, and Elissa Karasik starts narrative threads and abandons them entirely. This isn’t necessarily a writer’s problem but an MCU problem. The constantly connected series has too many cooks in the kitchen. Those problems come at the expense of three genuinely charming leads Larson, Parris, and Vellani. When one character shines, the other stands around, and as a production, this hits closer to a low-rate episode of Star Trek instead of a big-budget blockbuster.
There is also the matter of a villain problem. I felt sorry for Zawe Ashton, who is saddled with portraying the most inconsequential villain in superhero movie history (a relief to Mickey Rourke for his Whiplash in Iron Man 2). Her goal of achieving ultimate power is tedious and where films such as Quantumania or Thor: Love and Thunder may have lacked, they succeeded at having multilayered villains with deeper, and dangerously sinister plots. It’s all overcomplicated as well, trips to new planets- an odd song & dance sequence is wedged in to create total confusion- and problems that could have been solved hours ago with Captain Marvel’s insurmountable powers are finally fixed in the third act.
The blame for problems in The Marvels is impossible to place on one singular person. DaCosta obviously did what she could with the material, covering up editing flaws with a pace that moves so quickly that characters can’t even breathe. The acting is relatively standard, with Larson mixing in posing as stiff as a board, while never fully unleashing her Oscar-winning charisma. Her own flaws likely exist because The Marvels sits against computer-generated backgrounds, has zero set pieces to remember, and still looks like a souped-up game of Asteroids. Call it being chopped up in post-production or just a Marvel studio problem but The Marvels is far from approaching anything Marvelous.
THE MARVELS IS PLAYING IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY NOVEMBER 10TH, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady