The Marvels is essentially the culmination of Marvel’s recent missteps. While the impact of the pandemic on how people consume movies and other media is beyond their control, the decision to produce a minimum of three movies and TV shows annually, all tightly interconnected, is squarely on them. At this point, the MCU has transformed into the world’s most extravagant TV show, and The Marvels exemplifies how a film can suffer as a result.
To grasp The Marvels fully, a prerequisite is watching Captain Marvel and the Disney+ exclusives WandaVision, Secret Invasion, and Ms. Marvel. Without this background, you’ll likely find yourself wondering who Kamala Khan is and questioning how Monica Rambeau, once a regular kid in Captain Marvel, has acquired superpowers. Not to mention, navigating through these TV shows is no walk in the park. Secret Invasion, in particular, feels like a bit of a slog. So good luck with that!
Watching these shows doesn’t exactly serve as a magic decoder ring for The Marvels’ plot intricacies. The character arc of Nick Fury undergoes a chameleon-like transformation with each appearance. A mere six months ago, he embodied the essence of a weathered and worn-out old man, grappling to stay afloat amidst the chaos. Yet, in The Marvels, he suddenly morphs into a spring chicken, effortlessly holding his ground in a lively skirmish against multiple assailants. The man’s resilience is more unpredictable than a weather forecast.
The plot follows the familiar playbook of the genre: a villainous character gets hold of a powerful artifact, granting her formidable abilities. Her grand plan involves depleting natural resources from multiple planets, with Earth predictably in the crosshairs. The sole savior standing between her and planetary mayhem? You guessed it—Captain Marvel. However, this time there’s a twist: thanks to some cinematic hocus-pocus, the light-based powers of Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and Monica Rambeau are all interlinked. Every time they unleash their powers, they find themselves swapping places, leading to entertaining and dynamic fight scenes—though the whole switching gimmick is applied a tad conveniently.
A shadowy revelation looms over The Marvels. Astonishingly, it unfolds that Captain Marvel herself is accountable for the devastation of Hala, the home planet of Ben-Darr. Apparently, our protagonist engages in acts of genocide without a second thought, mirroring the grim deeds of Thanos. The difference? Thanos is a colossal purple alien, while she’s a charming white girl—making it somehow more acceptable when she follows suit. Oddly, this facet of the narrative remains largely unexplored. True, the final act sees her rectifying her actions and rescuing Hala, but throughout the movie, the emotional weight of the consequences fails to genuinely burden her.
Ironically, despite the first movie championing a feminist agenda, The Marvels showcases Brie Larson donning a snug tank top that subtly accentuates her curves on multiple occasions—scenes strategically leveraged in the film’s marketing. As a guy, I’m not one to complain about such visuals, but it does raise eyebrows at the apparent contradiction of employing her physique as a lure to fill cinema seats.
Both Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris approach their roles with a serious demeanor, leaving the only sparks of genuine enjoyment to be found in Iman Vellani’s portrayal of the enthusiastic Kamala. The director, Nia Costa, perhaps didn’t catch on that Kamala’s fan-girling over Captain Marvel wears a tad thin sooner than expected, but she undeniably stands out as the most entertaining character in the film. However, the end credit scene, featuring what could be seen as a parody of Nick Fury’s initial appearance in Iron Man, doesn’t bode particularly well for Marvel’s future. An ensemble of young female Avengers led by Ms. Marvel? It’s a tough sell, and success doesn’t seem imminent anytime soon.
A silver lining in The Marvels is its brevity, marking it as the shortest Marvel movie to date—a much-needed departure from the usual marathon runtimes. While the film still lumbers a bit around the first hour, the relief comes when the end credits roll after a mere 95 minutes. I, for one, welcomed this concise approach. The takeaway for future MCU movies? Not every cinematic venture needs to clock in at a minimum of 2.5 hours.
The Marvels offers a mixed bag of elements—ranging from entertaining character dynamics, notably Iman Vellani’s delightful performance, to a somewhat convoluted plot and unexplored narrative depths. While the brevity of the film stands out as a positive departure from Marvel’s usual epic runtimes, the story’s failure to truly delve into the consequences of Captain Marvel’s actions leaves a notable emotional void. Perhaps the most significant legacy The Marvels could leave is awakening the higher-ups at Disney to the realization that their current approach to filmmaking may no longer be effective, signaling a need for change.