One of the greatest problems plaguing modern media is that movies and television series are designed to be enjoyable for all audiences, effectively preventing them from being loved by any sub-set. The Marvels does not have this problem, providing audiences with a story that they will either love or absolutely hate.
There are many objective criticisms that can be raised when examining this film, but there are also plenty of moments for fans to enjoy. Director Nia DaCosta seems to have occasionally struggled with balance, as there is too much going on when blending the three leads’ individual experiences, but she also brought unusual flair to a franchise that seems doomed to be crushed under its own weight.
Captain Marvel investigates the Kree in The Marvels
While investigating unusual jump point activity, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) end up creating an entanglement between their powers and those of newbie superhero Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani).
This forces the trio to team up to investigate the Kree and their leader Dar-Benn, who possesses the other half of Kamala’s bangle. They have to learn to see each other as partners in order to prevent Dar-Benn from stealing the resources of planets near and dear to Captain Marvel’s heart.
Warning: From this point on, there will be spoilers for the plot of The Marvels.
The Marvels struggles to manage its MCU responsibilities
While The Marvels clearly tried to integrate itself into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it actually ended up proving that the franchise has grown too big to support itself. Because it has been four years since Captain Marvel and two since Monica Rambeau’s appearance in Wandavision, the film has to waste time reminding audiences about the major plot points of these stories, effectively inserting a “Previously On” segment in the middle of the movie.
Despite the effort it takes to connect with these previous installments, The Marvels has virtually no connection to Secret Invasion. The Skrulls seem to have reverted back to their circumstances in Captain Marvel, with all characters ignoring the attacks on Earth that theoretically came just before this film. In addition, sending refugee Skrulls to New Asgard fundamentally undermines their rootless circumstances in the series. Finally, the film depicts a very different Nick Fury than the one fans witnessed just months ago, as he seems fun-loving and carefree, rather than being the broken man who faced off against Gravik.
Given that Secret Invasion was not well-received anyway, this is perhaps forgivable. But it points to a larger problem with Marvel, which was also seen in the jarring character changes for Wanda Maximoff between Wandavision and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Because the projects are written and filmed without communication, the characters don’t have reasonable growth.
Given how much future set-up there was in the final and mid-credit scenes, it’s concerning that the MCU has now proven on numerous occasions that it cannot juggle all its stories.
The Marvels fails to balance its dark moments with humor
Similar to Taika Waititi’s Thor movies, The Marvels tries to balance extremely dark circumstances with humor. In some cases, this works masterfully. In others, the humor undermines the gravity of the situation.
Captain Marvel presented audiences with the question of how a victim can be painted as the hero, and what a person can do to fight back against it. However, the MCU then jumped from 1995 to 2018, avoiding answering that question. Effectively, Carol’s character arc, the Skrull’s search for a homeland, and the Kree’s imperialistic tendencies were put on hold for more than 20 years.
The Marvels attempts to solve this problem by showing that Captain Marvel failed to stop the Kree from attacking other civilizations. Instead, she destroyed everything that made Hala capable of supporting life. This turned the Kree into victims and Carol into a monster.
However, the potential impact of that plot never quite lands, in large part because the villain is so forgettable. Carol and Dar-Benn have little to no personal connection, and Marvel once again presents a villain who has a justified reason for their actions, only to undermine them by having them kill innocents for no reason.
The destruction of Tarnax is well-done, as Kamala has to learn that she can’t save everyone. But the subsequent annihilation of Aladna is given very little emotional weight, despite how much time the film spent showing how close the planet and its people were to Carol.
All in all, the movie struggled when it came to creating and maintaining stakes, as the destruction of entire planets was shrugged off without much concern.
The Marvels is at its best when it’s having a good time
While serious moments are frequently undermined, The Marvels succeeds when it comes to comedy, in large part because it uses situational humor. Rather than just endlessly referencing classic movies, the trio find themselves in genuinely absurd situations, and the film leans into that.
For those who enjoy the wackier side of superhero content, there can be nothing better than seeing a swarm of Flerkens used as escape pods while “Memory” from Cats plays in the background. It is absolutely not everyone’s preference when it comes to comic adaptations, but fans of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow will surely find it enjoyable.
Verdict: The Marvels is certainly not Marvel at its best, but it is a sound movie that will likely become a cult classic for those who enjoy how openly bizarre the film is willing to be. Our score? 3.5/5
The Marvels is in theaters now.