"There is nothing marvelous about the film..."

Confused, Patched Together-a Cosmic Snooze Fest

(112323) The Marvels is an underwhelming, tedious, and unexciting superhero film ruined by a paper-thin storyline and lackadaisical performances. There is nothing marvelous about the film and perhaps a more accurate title would have been How to Tank a Film Franchise. The film feels less like a unified superhero flick than a patchwork created by a faceless committee in which all the members want to do different things and get in each other’s way. It just never flows together or jells.

I would agree with critics that say this is slightly less of a disaster than Antman: Quantumania but that is a bit like saying that the sinking of the Titanic was not as bad as the volcano eruption in Ancient Pompeii.
Guardians of the Galaxy 3, none of the dialogue here sparkles and most of the characters bear no resemblance to real, multi-dimensional people. Neither Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) or Monica (Teyonah Parris) make much of an impression. But in the role of Khan, Iman Vellani is like the spunky kid sister or daughter everyone wishes they had.

The film was directed by Nina Da Costa who is known for the award-winning crime thriller, Little Woods (2018) and the well-respected remake of Candyman (2021) neither of which had a huge budget. Like her predecessor, Cloe Zhao of The Eternals she showed that she is a capable film maker, but there is nothing in her past film projects that indicates she is capable of directing a successful big budget superhero action film. Or it might be that the flavorless nature and unimpressive quality of the film is the result of too much studio interference (the film was rumored to be recut a many times.) What will probably happen is that this film with the budget of a huge blockbuster will end up with the profits of a small Indy film.

The basic story begins when a cosmic event causes the current Marvel Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, Ms. Marvel, and Monica Rambeau (who in the comics was called Captain Marvel then Photon then Pulsar then Spectrum) to periodically switch powers and places so they decide to work together to end the dilemma. This could have been the subject of a decent half-hour Ms.Marvel episode, but this flimsy plot device is not enough to sustain a whole two-hour film.

Danvers and Rambeau are less than delighted that they need to team up while Kamilla is overjoyed to work with her idol, Carol. Initially Monica is mad at Carol for neglecting her after promising her dead mom that she would take care of her. But for most of the film, Kamala and Monica seem to be in a contest to see who can worship Danvers the most (I could understand if she were Gail Gadot’s Wonder Woman). In the comics Monica was the first African American Avengers team leader and the close to Danvers in age and close to being her equal in power. But here she is reduced to being a mere stooge or sidekick of Danvers.

Viewers criticized
Dr. Strange Multi-Verse of Madness (which I liked) for trying to do too much in trying to spotlight the good Doctor while continuing the Wandavision show and introducing Miss America. But this film tries to even more than that film and it does it all less well. The Marvels is quite ambitious and it tries to do four things. It attempts to follow Captain Marvel and to provide a sequel which matches or even betters the success of the first one. I was not all impressed with the first one but this does not even rise to that film’s level of competence. It also seeks to shed a spotlight on the Monica Rambeau character from Wandavision and build her up as an important character. In addition, it tries to continue the skull narrative from Secret Invasion in an interesting way. None of these are done very well. But it does do an ok job at continuing the story of Ms.Marvel from the little watched, but not bad TV show.

I liked many of the scenes involving the Kamala Khan character interacting with the other heroes and her family. In the film’s best scene (although it only lasts a minute) Kamala Khan is seen for the first time doing acrobatic tricks, tumbling around like a cosmic cheerleader effortlessly taking out a bunch of alien warriors using her energy powers. She is as joyful demonstrating her powers as the protagonist in the Stargirl show. Fury is visibly impressed at her bravery, ability, and guts and the pair smile at each other radiating from the joy of the moment. For a brief instant, the film captures just how fun it could be for a young person being a superhero and testing or showing off their powers (The Spider-man films have similar equally joyful power celebration scenes.)

The better Marvel films either have an excellent actor playing a compelling hero (like Robert Downey’s Iron Man or Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange) or at least a fascinating villain like the Loki, Hela, Thanos or Eric Killmonger or some cases (like in Black Panther) both. This film has neither. At this point in the Marvel Universe I don’t expect such quality characters, we’d be lucky to get someone as well developed as a third stringer like The Beetle or Boomerang is in the comics. The villain here is as dull as dishwater and I began to forget who she was as soon as the film ended. What’s her name again?

Actually,  the villain in this film Dar-Benn (played by Tom Hiddleston’s real-life wife Zawe Ashton) and is an utterly forgettable Kree woman (basically a gender switched Ronin with even less personality) powered by a quantum band like Khan. She blames Carol, who she calls the annihilator, for the destruction of her home planet Hala which also housed the Kree because Carol accidentally destroyed the nearest sun. Dar-Benn also wants vengeance for the destruction of the Supreme Intelligence which happened in
Captain Marvel.

There is an initially interesting scene where the three heroines visit a planet where everyone communicates in song. The problem is this has become a common trope with genre series. First and better explored on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "One More Time with Feeling" as well as the final season of Doom Patrol and in last seasons Star Trek Strange New Worlds. It's getting to the point where when it shows up, its becoming groan inducing through overuse.

I remember a time when even the “bad” Marvel films like the Hulk films and
Thor: The Dark World were pretty good and had enough redeeming qualities to make them worthwhile. At this point we would be lucky to get a new film or TV shows even as good as the old “bad” ones. Right now, the Marvel executives seem like they are blindfolded and driving toward a cliff with no brakes. By the time they get to the new X-Men and Avengers films there might not be any audience left, even if they are decently done.

SPOILER ALERT: A few of the best moments all occur in the after credits scene which features the delightful return of one of the best cast older characters from the X-Men Universe. This alone almost made me give the film an extra half star but it was too little too late. Also, the emergence of a newer character who was one of the few bright spots of the recent Marvel shows. Hopefully this will lead to a reality or future where Marvel starts making good films again.

Directed by:    Nina De Costa
Written by:    Screenplay by Nina De Costa, Megan McDonnell,
 and Elissa Karasik. Based on the Marvel Comics
Starring:    Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Velanni
Released:    11/10/23 (USA)
Length:    105 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG 13 for action/violence and brief violence,
 and strong language
Available On:    At press time playing at local theatres

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to and His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

Come to the next session of the Monthly Poetry Show on the first Saturday of every month at Tangible Books in Bridgeport from 7-9 at 3324 South Halsted hosted by Vittorio Carli.

December 2 features: Esteban Colon, Aurora Danai, Sandy Marchetti, and Bronmin Shumway

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All Rights Reserved

Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.


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