Friday 10 November 2023

The Marvels (Movie Review)

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues its expansion, one would be forgiven for having lost track of all the various movies and Disney+ shows that feed into its overall narrative. Long gone is the luster that once drove fans to devour each new entry, especially in the wake of the complete dumpster fire that was Secret Invasion. And it is in this environment that we now welcome The Marvels, a movie that serves not only as a sequel to 2019's Captain Marvel but as a follow-up to both WandaVision and Ms. Marvel as well. But does the new film signal a return to simpler times or has the franchise simply grown too big for its own good?

The film has Brie Larson reprising her role as Carol Danvers, aka. Captain Marvel, except this time around, she is joined by WandaVision's Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Ms.Marvel herself, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani). The three women are brought together after a freak accident causes them to switch places whenever they use their powers. Meanwhile, the Kree are trying to restore their home planet, Hala, by siphoning resources from others just like it. And so our three heroes must go up against their leader, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) before she renders those other worlds inhospitable in the process.

Heading into The Marvels, I was forced to keep my expectations about as low as they could realistically get. This was mainly due to news surrounding its release, with the film getting subjected to multiple release date changes as it underwent extensive reshoots amidst what was clearly a troubled production. So I'd hoped that Marvel Studios would be able to salvage something worthwhile out of all of it, or at least something worth the price of admission. But as I quickly found out during the movie, hopes and wishful thinking can only get you so far.

Let me just start by saying that there are definitely things to admire about The Marvels. The film is heavy on action with more than enough set pieces peppered throughout its relatively brisk runtime. So those going into the movie solely for eye candy will get served plenty of it. It also marks the big-screen debut of Ms. Marvel and she was the clear standout amongst our trio of leads, bringing much of the same charm and charisma she was known for in her Disney+ show. Then the film has a very playful tone that some might find endearing especially if you enjoyed the humor in the two most recent Thor movies.

It is just a shame that the narrative tying all of it together comes across as a jumbled mess of ideas. The story felt disjointed in the worst way possible, relying on too many flashbacks and exposition dumps to fill in crucial aspects of its plot. The worst part is a lot of the material that got relegated to those flashbacks could've made for a very compelling narrative in its own right. I can't get into specifics without getting into spoilers but I was ultimately disappointed with how the filmmakers had chosen to present the story. A lot of it is most likely a result of those extensive reshoots as it becomes obvious a lot of the story must have gotten reshaped and dumbed down in an attempt to make the film appeal to the broadest demographic possible.

Tonally, the film was all over the place with some of its more heartfelt moments getting diluted by jokes and visual gags that fail to land. The film is also inconsistent with the way it depicts its heroes switching places, failing to respect its own rules in more than a few instances. The same can be said of the way it handles our heroes' power levels as I simply found it too hard of a pill to swallow that a hero of Captain Marvel's stature couldn't singlehandedly take down the villain. Then there is its jumbled-up script once again, which prevents its characters from getting anywhere near enough character development, especially the main villain, who is as one-note and one-dimensional as they come. All these things ultimately add up to make what could have been fun and decent come across as lame and cringe-inducing.

The fact that The Marvels is not the worst thing to come out of the MCU recently speaks volumes about just how dire a state the entire franchise is in. The movie serves as yet another example of why the current quantity-over-quality approach being employed at Disney and Marvel Studios is neither favorable nor sustainable in the long run. The good news is both Bob Iger and Kevin Feige have acknowledged the need for greater quality control in all current and future projects. So hopefully this is the last of these watered-down, obligatory entries into the MCU that fans would have to endure going forward.