Movies & TV / Reviews

The Marvels Review

November 10, 2023 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
THE MARVELS Image Credit: Laura Radford, Marvel Studios
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
The Marvels Review  

Directed By: Nia DaCosta
Written By: Nia DaCosta, Megan McDonnell, and Elissa Karasik; Based on the Marvel comics and characters
Runtime: 105 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG-13 for action/violence and brief language

Brie Larson – Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel
Teyonah Parris – Monica Rambeau
Iman Vellani – Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel
Samuel L. Jackson – Nick Fury
Zawe Ashton – Dar-Benn
Gary Lewis – Emperor Dro’ge
Park Seo-joon – Yan D’Aladna
Zenobia Shroff – Muneeba Khan
Mohan Kapur – Yusuf Khan
Saagar Shaikh – Amir Khan
Abraham Popoola – Dag
Leila Farzad – Talia
Daniel Ings – Ty-Rone
Tessa Thompson – Valkyrie
Jessica Zhou – Pink Lady

There is currently quite a bit of negativity surrounding The Marvels. Regardless, in viewing the film as a standalone Marvel superhero adventure, The Marvels is an entertaining, heroic flick. It’s a film that delivers on its promise of showcasing a fun, classic, traditional superhero team-up that brings classic comic book elements to life. However, the film suffers at points due to its undercutting of the plot’s potential for emotional weight and conflict.

The film begins after the great devastation of the Kree Empire. Out of desperation, the Kree soldier and new Suprema, Dar-Benn (Ashton), locates the lost Quantum Band, which is the other half of the pair of bangles first seen in Ms. Marvel. The other Quantum Band was gifted to teenager Kamala Khan (Vellani) by her grandmother in Ms. Marvel, unlocking Kamala’s hard-light superpowers. Suprema Dar-Benn is now using her newfound power to unlock unstable space portals across the galaxy, which calls the cosmic hero Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers (Larson), into action by Nick Fury (Jackson). Fury is back aboard S.A.B.E.R. following the events of Secret Invasion, and he seems more jovial than ever. Also operating on S.A.B.E.R. is Captain Monica Rambeau (Parris), who was promoted and offered a job aboard the station following the events of WandaVision. After Carol Danvers and Monica come into contact with some of Dar-Benn’s handiwork, they become cosmically entangled with Kamala, so the trio will inadvertently switch places whenever they simultaneously use their powers.

After events are brought up to speed from the final scene of Ms. Marvel, it’s up to this new cosmic trio to work together and save the universe from Dar-Benn. While the rookie hero Kamala is overjoyed to finally be matched with her inspiration, Carol is more of a lone wolf, and things are still awkward between Carol and Monica. Nevertheless, it’s up to the three heroes to save the day.

Despite some obvious issues with its primary villain and rushed pacing, The Marvels is by no means a bad film. It’s a fun, entertaining superhero romp that shines when the heroes unite as a team. The highlight of the film is undoubtedly putting together its cosmic trio of heroes, Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, and Captain Monica Rambeau, who sadly never gets an official codename here, but not without effort by Kamala Khan. The group’s dynamic and their chemistry playing off of one another are terrific. When the cosmic trio unites, The Marvels finds its footing. Over the past 15 years, Marvel Studios’ has demonstrated its strength in capturing that dynamic visual style of comic book superhero art and making it look as impressive onscreen as it does on the page.

One of the benefits of the advancements in visual effects and CGI is that superhero films can now look as good as the comics of yore. Nia DaCosta excels in bringing that comic book world to life. Early in the film, there’s an impressive sequence where Carol Danvers steps out into the vacuum of space without a space suit. It showcases Captain Marvel’s power and strength with a type of regal majesty. These are the moments where DaCosta’s style shines.

Iman Vellani’s boisterous, bubbly charisma as Kamala Khan is undoubtedly, a highlight of the film. Ms. Marvel did an impressive job building the anticipation of putting the characters of Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel together and meeting face-to-face. While that didn’t quite come together in the finale, the payoff finally happens here, and it’s a joyous event for Kamala to meet her beloved idol at last.

Although Kamala gains a beloved mentor and teacher in Carol Danvers, things are far more tense between the latter and her estranged “niece” Monica Rambeau. Monica returns post-Blip after her mother’s death from cancer, and she harbors a great deal of resentment of Carol. After Monica returned from the Blip, Carol was nowhere to be found. Carol has her reasons for her conspicuous absence from Earth since leaving at the end of the Captain Marvel movie, which the plot delves into later.

Unfortunately, a common issue for MCU movies rears its ugly head again for The Marvels. Bright, fun, and upbeat hero antics usually aren’t the issue in the MCU. Instead, it’s usually their undercooked villains. Zawe Ashton does a terrible job as Dar-Benn, but Dar-Benn is not much of an exciting adversary. Captain Marvel teased and set up the Kree Supreme Intelligence while also marginalizing the character to mental projections disguised as Annette Bening’s version of Mar-Vell. The Supreme Intelligence finally makes a big-screen appearance here, and it’s an utter letdown. A fully fleshed-out version of the Kree Supreme Intelligence, who controls and manipulates agents like Dar-Benn, would have made for a far more interesting and compelling villain in the film.

Instead, Dar-Benn comes off as little more than a nondescript rehash of characters, such as Ronan the Accuser. It’s disappointing because the blueprint for utilizing a character such as the Supreme Intelligence controlling a dangerously imperialistic Kree Empire has been laid out in animation, and The Marvels fails to seize on it. This all comes down to a whole movie’s worth of plot being wasted in a short throwaway sequence.

At 105 minutes, The Marvels is the shortest MCU installment in cinematic history. While the film has a quick pacing, some scenes that could have been more heartbreaking and emotionally dramatic lose breathing room. One sequence could have potentially challenged and opened Ms. Marvel’s eyes to what is truly at stake when heroes go into battle. This could have benefitted Kamala’s arc by exposing her to the harsh realities that heroes often face, but that’s also what makes their roles as heroes so important. The cataclysms depicted in The Marvels are glossed over. One significantly tragic event occurs midway through the film, but the event gets promptly abandoned with little thought or emotional weight.

Superhero movies do not have to be cripplingly depressing or full of doom and gloom, but some of the stakes in The Marvels do get lost in favor of leaning more into the story’s more comedic elements. A great deal of screentime is devoted to Goose and her antics aboard S.A.B.E.R. Goose is humorously cute, and she makes for a fun mascot for the franchise, but the comedic scenes result in a great deal of tonal whiplash. The issue is not that Marvel movies need to avoid comedy or slapstick, but The Marvels does not juggle it quite as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy films.

The Marvels works relatively well as a sequel to Captain Marvel, and continuing the story arcs of Kamala Khan in Ms. Marvel and Monica Rambeau in WandaVision, but the plot plays like the Secret Invasion miniseries never happened. Secret Invasion, if it occurred at all, would have made infinitely more sense taking place after this film. Secret Invasion is illogical based on previous films, and the events depicted in that show make even less sense after watching The Marvels.

In Marvel Studios’ defense, the comic book division has suffered from continuity issues such as this for years. That should serve as a reminder that more care needs to be taken to match the pieces together since the continuity across film and television shows is one of the MCU’s main selling points.

The film has hints of a superior character arc for Carol. Her origin story didn’t fully define her role and life as a superhero. In The Marvels, she continues with her struggle to define her identity. Captain Marvel is a savior to some individuals, while others view her as a destroyer. Continuity issues aside, Larson does play these moments well, but there isn’t enough time to develop them further.

The Marvels is fun, and what it does well is entertaining. The dynamic between the three leads shines when needed and delivers a grand superhero spectacle. Buried underneath all the issues are signs of a much stronger, well-rounded film. The Marvels is a quick, fun superhero romp but falls short of loftier goals.

The final score: review Good
The 411
It is somewhat unfair that The Marvels has been lumped in with all the negative media surrounding Marvel Studios because Nia DaCosta has created a fun, superhero comic book movie experience, and the three leads mesh exceptionally well together. The team exhibits superheroic feats and comes together for the best parts of The Marvels. However, a weak villain and tonal whiplash from the slapstick comedic elements keep the film from rising to a higher level. The narrative loses sight of the potential for more dramatic elements that could have added more emotional heft to the narrative. It's a short, entertaining movie, and Iman Vellani's charisma shines the brightest during her screentime. Some fans might be very excited over the future of MCU's Multiverse saga. But so far, the way it's being executed raises more troubling questions than satisfying answers.