Among the massive Hollywood multi-franchise of the superhero genre, The Marvels is one of many recent superhero releases that have seen an increasingly apathetic response from its once loyal fans. The Marvels released to the lowest opening weekend box office of any MCU project, at $161.5 Million. Nearly one hundred and fourteen million dollars short of their gross budget. This has created worry and doubt for many fans, those who online have claimed the MCU has died since its first universe culminating event in the forms of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. However, after the first weekend, a rising group of people who had the opposite opinion have made themselves known, and I count myself among them.
This is a *spoiler* review of The Marvels
Going in to see The Marvels, I was honestly expecting the film to sit somewhere in the range of 3-5/10 for me. With the mixed quality of the last several movie releases, I was certainly one of those doubtful fans that felt the franchise I had grown up with was on a slow and steady decline.
This for me was coupled with the absolute bombardment of negative reviews, and I, perhaps naively, forgot that this negative campaign was the same thing fans did for the first Captain Marvel film; a film I actually enjoyed. The biggest similarity I would later realize is that the majority of the negative talk is from ‘fans’ who haven’t actually seen the film. So I sat down, gummy worms in hand, and I was absolutely taken aback by how fun this movie was.
The trio of Kamala, Monica, and Carol was absolutely terrific. All three characters felt right at home and like they had been a team this entire time. As it stands now I’m more excited to see more of The Marvels as opposed to the Avengers. To start the film with awkward silences and end it with the three practically being space sisters was a great choice by Marvel Studios.
I think this comes through because of the pacing, action, and character this movie has. This movie to me feels like what Shang Chi And The Legend of The Ten Rings was trying (and succeeding) to do. Properly introduce several new characters, give them emotional moments, and keep a light fun tone without dulling action. It is my opinion that this goal is the film’s greatest triumph. Everyone is having fun here, even Samuel L Jackson seems to be having a good time on screen. The action is tight, the jokes actually land (finally!) and I truly never had a moment when I wondered when the movie was going to end. Quite the opposite actually, the pacing was so delightfully speedy and full of life that the film was over before I knew it. And given the amount of titles that really drag their feet getting to the third act, this was a welcome change for the MCU.
Though I couldn’t mention fun without crediting Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan directly. Everyone in this movie is honestly really good, save for one scene we’ll discuss in a moment. Iman absolutely steals this movie for me. She's funny, adorable, charming, and still is a convincing badass in her fight scenes. She brings a young life that the MCU sorely needs and I was very happy to see her just as bright as she was in Ms. Marvel.
Unfortunately The Marvels is still not a perfect film, and it doesn’t for me really move the entire universe forward. While every MCU project can’t be some world altering story, I as well as many others were hoping this film would have some big impacts for the MCU or at least the title characters. And while the reunion between Carol Danvers and Monica Rambeau was handled much better than I was expecting, I don’t feel like we really see much in the way of consequences for any of the on screen characters. The villain sticks to the boring MCU formula: does some bad stuff then dies, as you’d expect, but it’s not really her that I mean.
For me, the singular issue that prevents this film from being a standout in phase four is that our title character, Carol, goes through remarkably little transformation when it comes to her involvement with the villain. I think when it comes to the meet your hero themes, having the split between a jaded Monica and a star-struck Kamala was perfection. However, the plot of the movie attempts to center more closely around the Kree villain getting vengeance for what Carol did to Hala, the Kree home planet. In the film, it is revealed that Carol is responsible for Hala’s host star dying, effectively putting an entire planet of people on the brink of death. While the Kree have mostly been portrayed to be antagonists, this is a planet full of innocent civilians that Captain Marvel puts on the edge of annihilation. By the end of the movie the audience is expected to sort of not really care because she restarts the star with her powers.
Besides the relatively boringly written villain, it’s Carol’s lack of consequences that mainly rub me the wrong way. Yes, she shows remorse, yes, she did her best to reverse what happened. But that doesn’t change the fact that this character was nearly responsible for killing a planet, and yet it gets relatively glossed over. I like the idea that Captain Marvel’s strength and headstrong attitude causes her to accidentally do terrible things, but nobody in the film, not even Brie Larson’s delivery of the revelation, made this feel like something anyone but the villain was taking seriously.
But I must confess, throughout the entire movie’s runtime, I wasn’t really thinking about her consequences. That is exactly the issue, because I should have. In my opinion Carol having to actually deal with the consequences of her actions would have given this fun movie that emotional kick it needs to be up to par with the MCU greats. But regardless this is still a funny, extremely well choreographed, summer flick in disguise that I could easily recommend to anyone who’s a fan of Marvel.