‘The Marvels’ is Mostly a Nothing Burger (Review)

by | Nov 8, 2023


Higher. Further. Faster. Together. And just OK. 

It’s hard to believe the current state of Marvel Studios in the little over four years since the release of Captain Marvel (a film I liked more than most). We don’t need to rehash what previously has been reported time and time again, nor do we need to go over the Marvel products released since Avengers: Endgame, with a majority of them having failed to live up to expectations. But The Marvels comes at a time where the studio and Kevin Feige are at a crossroads, creatively speaking. And while there are characters and moments in this film that they can help continue to build upon in future installments to return the studio to its full glory, this 95-minute comic book offering is another throwaway just as we’ve seen throughout Phase 4 and now Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Marvels is neither good nor bad. It’s just OK. 

Having been removed from the Kree in her previous solo outing, we find Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) alone in the galaxy doing work for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). But when a revolutionary uprising begins to shake the fabric of time and mess with other dimensions, Carol must save the day to prevent anything that could mean the end of the world she is currently living in. However, with a wormhole messing with her powers, she becomes entangled with her own abilities similar to those of two others: The daughter of her best friend, Monic Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), who is Ms. Marvel and has dreamed of nothing more than teaming up with her idol Captain Marvel.

The story of The Marvels plays out like a Saturday morning superhero cartoon: An “end of the world” moment presents itself and the superheroes must come up with a plan to work together and save the day. A concept like this is exactly the kind of story Marvel Studios needs to be doing more often instead of having everything feel like an endgame or relying so dearly on the connectivity of its own cinematic universe. However, The Marvels is brought down by the usual things we’ve seen in many of their most recent outings: story decisions without much thought, a rushed third act, bad editing, spotty visual effects, and a throwaway villain (this one with the cliched “you took everything from me” backstory).

All that being said, the trio of actresses who fit into the title provide gradual substance that has been missing in other recent Marvel products and their main characters; it should be no surprise that the interactions between the trio make for the film’s best parts. While Brie Larson has continued to be one of the better actors featured in these Marvel films, and Teyonah Parris was one of the bright spots in 2021’s WandaVisionThe Marvels is the “hello world” moment for Iman Vellani’s Ms. Marvel on a bigger scale. Bringing her character from Disney+’s Ms. Marvel (one of the best Marvel shows to date), The Marvels showcases her likable character, and Marvel Studios should bank on her in future films. Her family as well is also a joy to screen and a reminder that people should check out Ms. Marvel on Disney+ if they haven’t already done so.
The Marvels feels like the product of a first draft or a story that hasn’t completely been ironed out to its full potential like we saw throughout phases one through three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For example, there is a scene in the film that involves cats that on paper is brilliant. However the lead-up to this scene has no development or explanation as to “Why?” While we can all appreciate a film that runs under two hours, this was a moment that could have used a few minutes to explain in detail. Marvel diehards are sure to like The Marvels and be excited for what’s being teased as coming down the line. But what’s teased ultimately feels like the entire reason for the existence of this film: a story of mashed-up ideas that are not fully thought through, but the studio hopes you don’t care for because of what’s coming down the pipeline. While we all can get excited for whatever franchise has another installment coming soon, we’d also like to see stuff in the present that’s memorable instead of easily forgettable. The end result here makes for a film that puts the cart before the horse by not knowing what to do with its trio of great characters 

RATING: ★★1/2

(out of five stars)