Disney and its Marvel Cinematic Universe has been in a bit of a slump recently. The adrenaline shot that audiences used to receive with films such as Avengers: Infinity War seem part of a bygone era that nervous execs are hoping to recapture. But after Avengers: End Game and Spider-man: Far From Home, Phase Three closed an unparalleled winning streak while Phase Four seemed to divide audiences with divisive films such as Eternals. And now in Phase Five, it seems audience fatigue for the genre has firmly set in thanks to a multitude of multiverses and a myriad of masked crusaders. It seems every studio has felt the pushback from a lethargic audience starving for original content.
But can The Marvels save us from caped crusader burnout?
Featuring Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) from Captain Marvel and The Avengers, Monica Rambeau from WandaVision (Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) from Ms. Marvel, The Marvels is a female-led superhero pic directed by Nia DaCosta (Candyman) in search of a movie miracle. In addition to a decent box office take and good reviews, The Marvels is hoping to pull the MCU out of its stagnation with a comedy-driven body-swap story that creates a crossover event from different mediums.
In the film, Danvers, Rambeau, and Khan finding themselves forced to work together after an incident compels the trio to swap places each time they use their powers at the same moment. Or whenever it is convenient for the script. This gets fairly tricky when an enraged Kree Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) enters her revenge era, taking aim at vulnerable people and places that have meaning to Danvers.
As a trio, Larson, Parris, and Vellani are charming together. Danvers’ previous history with Rambeau along with Khan’s constant fangirling makes for heartfelt and comedic banter. The three of them have tremendous chemistry and are the best part of the movie. Other than Goose the Flerken.
But the script is riddled with exhausting moments of absurdity in which characters make one bad decision after another. Or even worse, when the script neglects its own rules and guidelines in order to fit the whims of the story. And while there are obvious attempts to have fun with the narrative, not every endeavor works. There are clear moments in the film where one can pinpoint the minute DaCosta received a studio note from execs that read: “Add more Thor: Ragnarok stuff.”
But the real problem lies with the villain. Angry at the destruction of her planet by Danvers – and rightfully so — Dar-Benn comes off as a dime-store heavy, Frankensteined together from the lesser parts of previous Marvel malcontents. With only five minutes of backstory and a few snazzy accessories to drive her, her entire evil plan is more fitting of a 1950s radio serial than a multi-million-dollar Marvel movie. Steal the sun! Steal the water! Steal the air! This was literally the plot of a “Simpsons” episode, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Spaceballs.
While the Heyday of Marvel is far from over, The Marvels is not the movie to pull it out of its recent dip in audience favor. Not a bad movie by any degree, but The Marvels isn’t going to save anyone from superhero fatigue. While it has its fill of entertaining repartee and a truly-inspired set piece featuring Goose and her goslings, the flavorless Villain du jour mixed with half-baked battle scenes places The Marvels among the MCU’s middling offerings. A decent movie, but not quite the hero we need right now.
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