After the last few MCU blockbusters and the fact that I did not especially like Captain Marvel, I can’t say I had the highest expectations for The Marvels, a film that showed up as the third-worst reviewed offering in MCU history, and one that is very clearly destined to fail at the box office.
But I had to see it for myself, and yes, I was pleasantly surprised. I liked it. Quite a bit, actually, and I fully believe that the higher audience scores are much more on point than the low critic scores and whatever its dismal box office may be.
The Marvels is short, funny and endearing. The main reason I was excited to see it was because it would shine a brighter spotlight on Iman Vellani’s Ms. Marvel, who I have repeatedly said is the best-cast MCU character short of Tony Stark. She exudes energy and charisma as she did in her Disney Plus show, and she and her family were the highlight of The Marvels to be sure.
But the entire trio dynamic worked well. All three cast members, Brie Larson’s Carol, Teyonna Paris’ Monica and Vellani played off each other well, but the group also literally synergized well with the whole power-switching gimmick which could have easily been stupid, but instead it created some really creative and funny action sequences unlike anything we’ve seen in the MCU.
I did not especially like Larson’s Captain Marvel in the original film. Not because of stupid “comic bros hate Brie Larson” reasons, but just that she wasn’t fleshed out enough or terribly magnetic. Here, we see a more energetic, interesting side to her, but I’m not sure she quite gets there, and yes, is outshone by Vellani. But again, her dynamic with her fellow Marvels really works, and she is indeed part of the central chemistry that keeps the film flowing.
The villain? Well, this continues with the “Marvel villain problem” where most movies usually have a string of ineffective, unmemorable villains that are not named Loki and Thanos. Recently, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3’s broke this trend with the truly sadistic High Evolutionary, but we’re back to unmemorable here, with Zawe Ashton’s Dar-Benn. It’s not really her fault, it’s just that the successor to Ronan the Accuser was probably never destined to be a great villain unless there was some sort of insane script attached to her. There…isn’t, and the conflict is the main issue with the film. I also didn’t love the entire “singing planet” concept as that went a bit too far into silly territory, even for a lighthearted film.
As for doing “homework” to enjoy the film, I don’t think you had to. I recommend you watch Ms. Marvel because Vellani is good and Monica’s WandaVision because WandaVision is good, but they didn’t seem necessary. And as I predicted, Nick Fury’s terrible Secret Invasion series is not referenced even once, which I think we can all agree is for the best.
Finally, I am not normally a fan of so much weight being put on credits/mid-credits scenes, but without getting into spoilers, the very last scene of the film, then the mid-credits scene, were genuinely exciting, paving two different paths forward in the MCU, neither of which have to do with Kang, thankfully. Great stuff.
It’s a good movie. I fully believe that critics are now just scoring most MCU films lower and lower and lower because they’re so sick of the genre, and if this movie came out say, five years ago, it would have done much better, both critically and at the box office. Its inevitable failure is not really its fault. It’s easily a top-half MCU movie, and a lot of fun, if you can get past pre-conceived biases. It’s not Guardians Vol. 3 or the Loki finale, but I’d suggest you give it a chance.
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