The Marvels (2023)

It was bound to happen at some point.  Call it superhero fatigue or just growing indifference to the product that Disney and other major film studios have been putting out for over a decade, but The Marvels was the first out-and-out failure that Marvel Cinematic Universe has had since The Incredible Hulk.  There have been superhero movies that have done worse, but they were never officially part of the MCU, or were swept in later.  

Despite a number of people blaming Kathleen Kennedy and female-fronted superhero movies the problem is that in the last few years good MCU films have become few and far between.  The last great one was The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and Disney almost messed that situation up by firing James Gunn due to some unfortunate tweets he had made long before he was working with the MCU.  It's a combination of many things combined that have nothing to do with comic book heroes.  

The television shows, though some have been decent to good, dilute the movie "phases," and at some points have been hostile toward the comic book fans that should make up their core audience.  For the most part, however, it's a string of mediocre to bad shows and movies, with one of them being Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which preceded The Marvels.  No one should have been surprised that the next movie, unless it was Spider-Man or Captain America, was going to be the one that was punished.

Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is living alone with her Flerken on spaceship when she is notified by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) about a surge in the jump point network.  While investigating it causes her to be entangled with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) when they both touch it at the same time, as well as her biggest fan on Earth, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani).  Khan has a bangle she got from her grandmother which is the twin of one found by a Skree soldier named Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), who is using it to open her own jump points to steal resources to heal her dying planet of Hala. 

With several planets in danger, including Earth, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel and Rambeau must find a way to work together and use the entanglement to their advantage to defeat Dar-Benn.  At the same time Fury and his team try to find a way to stabilize the jump point network as Dar-Benn continues to destabilize it.  

Unlike a lot of people who have been waiting to see a Marvel film - especially one with female leads - fail like The Marvels did, I was curious to see if this was going to be similar to X-Men: First Class.  The trailers for that were horrible, it followed two of the worst movies in the series and it felt like that franchise was over.  It didn't do well at the box office, but the movie itself was quite good, and it helped save the series.  I was hoping maybe The Marvels would be similar, where it got punished because of Quantumania but went on to find an audience and was itself a turning point in the fortunes of the MCU.  It encouraged me that many people who did go see it liked it. 

I wish I could say that was the case, but, although Quantumania and the Secret Invasion television show helped lead to its failure, The Marvels did a good job of failing on its own merits.  Captain Marvel was rather thin on plot, but it had the advantage of being a stop-gap film leading up to the conclusion of the original Avengers story.  The whole Multiverse plot has been floundering about for a while now with no point and no resolution.  Kang the Conqueror was set up to be the next Thanos, but Jonathan Majors’s new legal problems derailed both his career and Disney's plans, and the combination of writer and actor strikes didn't help.  The Marvels does nothing to help reverse that slide. 

What we get is barely a television episode's worth of story stretched out to feature length.  The good thing is it's the shortest MCU movie, which means watching it isn't a torturous experience.  In fact, on the surface, it's just another dull piece of product from Disney and Marvel, rather than anything terrible.  Iman Vellani is annoying, Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson look like they are sleepwalking through the whole thing and the villain is once again underdeveloped and inconsequential.  The only one that seems to be putting forth any effort is Teyonah Parris and, if they are going to keep pushing films using minor characters, giving her a solo film may be interesting as long as Nia DaCosta isn't the director.  She is supposedly a big comic book fan, but that's not evident here, as there is no individual style to this movie that sets it apart, good or bad. 

It also gets me that over 220 million dollars was spent on this.  Everyone involved must have known this was going to fail.  It takes no chances, causes no controversy and serves no purpose, unless the whole point was a tax write off.  If DaCosta was hoping to add some moral ambiguity to Captain Marvel she failed.  Either DaCosta doesn't have the writing skill to pull it off or Larson doesn't have the acting skill to do so.  I think it's more a combination of the former with the fact that Larson just doesn't care as long as her check clears. 

The Marvels (2023)
Time: 105 minutes
Starring: Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Samuel L. Jackson, Zawe Ashton 
Director: Nia DaCosta



  1. I agree with the overall sentiment. I just could not find anything to like about this movie. It didn't help for me when I realized the whole, "Stealing air from one planet for another" was the core conflict of Spaceballs. The great MCU is down to ripping off a Star Wars parody from almost 40 years ago.


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