Directed By Nia DaCosta
Starring – Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani
The Plot – Carol Danvers (Larson) AKA Captain Marvel has reclaimed her identity from the tyrannical Kree and taken revenge on the Supreme Intelligence. But unintended consequences see Carol shouldering the burden of a destabilized universe. When her duties send her to an anomalous wormhole linked to a Kree revolutionary, her powers become entangled with that of Jersey City super-fan Kamala Khan (Vellani), aka Ms. Marvel, and Carol’s estranged niece, now S.A.B.E.R. astronaut Captain Monica Rambeau (Parris).
Rated PG-13 for action/violence and bref adult language
DaCosta is one of the best things to happen to this franchise, with superior sharp deviations in tone and presentation from “Captain Marvel” that evokes much of the energy and excitement of the anything-goes emphasis from the “Ms.Marvel” television series. As to where the original film lacked anything substantial in terms of tangible style or imaginative personality to the engagement, DaCosta here has conjured something infectiously cerebral in the way she not only documents much of the ensuing madness, with open-armed embrace for the consistently weird, but also an appreciation for the humbling of humanity, which consistently finds its way to the tensely rewarding dynamic between Carol and Monica. Aside from this, DaCosta’s film is still fiercely feminine, but without the need to ever convey this in every single element of production, which felt overblown during “Captain Marvel”. Instead, she lets her leading ladies take charge by the extent of their actions, harvesting the brains, bravery and resiliency of women, all the while surmizing one especially beneficial performance between them that breathes new life into this side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m of course talking about Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, who once more charms an infectiously warm-hearted splendor to Kamala in ways that effortlessly establishes her as the heart to this decorated trio. Considering most of the backstory of the film centers around Kamala and her family, as well as Kamala’s introduction to her hero, it offers Vellani plenty of scene-stealing moments of starstruck glee and and adventurous innocence that articulate the rush of blood that being a superhero is all about. From here, there’s an overwhelmingly refreshing element of urgency to “The Marvels” that hasn’t been seen in a Marvel film in quite sometime, with the series shortest run time producing a lack of levity in downtime moments to keep audiences from checking their watches. At 100 minutes, there are some challenges to characterization or plot development that I will get to later in my negatives, but at least in the aspects of pacing and persistence, the film is one of the smoothest superhero investments that I’ve had in quite sometime, with no reason to draw things out for a superhero narrative that is refreshingly small scale.
Unfortunately, “The Marvels” is every bit the sloppily disjointed mess that we feared, which solidifies its status as my least favorite MCU movie to date. It starts within the confines of the underdeveloped and underutilized screenplay, which not only feels like the victim of several brash and abrupt re-writes, as a result of scenes and sequences that lack cohesive consistency, but also verbalized with an element of shallow artificiality in dialogue that easily outlines every conversation as these series of exposition deliveries. The plot is thinly structured and inconsequential, the various plot devices help to override disbelief in decisions from characters that are far from their typical consistencies, and some sequences should’ve been omitted from the finished product all together, as tonally they’re a constant reminder of the clumsy shifts in emotionality that this script is frequently distributing. As to where tones to a film can feel like an orchestra that plays their instruments at just the right times, the idea here is to have them all playing together simultaneously, which forcefully undercuts the appeal of their effectiveness in both humor that is embarassingly ineffective, but also dramatic beats that never feel remotely earned during an engagement that, like the past few MCU films, can’t ever take a single moment seriously. In addition, the ghosts of MCU’s past once more comes to fruition, as Zawe Ashton’s Dar-Benn is among the least memorable and underdeveloped villains in a franchise full of them. While there is a motivation to her madness, which proves the many unforeseen casualities of war, and Ashton is doing the best she can with the material given to her, there’s a plaguing lack of appeal that stems from limited time and focus that never makes her feel like a condemning force, and instead with the benefit of a convenient plot device in her favor, only then is she able to even remotely match the overwhelming power imbalance between her and her trio of Marvels. Another ghost from the past materializes in these off-puttingly jarring special effects, which not only lack the tangibles of an actor interacting with either a living, breathing entity or a three-dimensional backdrop, but also undermine the integrity of the movie’s already underwhelming action sequences with artificiality so obvious that you practically see the green-screen in every shot. Speaking of those action sequences, if lifelessly hollow special effects don’t make it difficult to invest in plaguing peril, the slowly executed choreography of those involved certainly will, and considering none of the assembled sequences here leads to anything that is even on the level of “Loki”, in terms of creativity or compelling emphasis, it only further drains the conflict and corresponding antagonist of the momentum they so desparately require. Finally, while the film is blessed by some stellar surprises in both unforeseen cameos and future developments, it directly undercuts the appeal of this particular installment, making it feel like a commercial expressing patience for the better things to come. This obviously is nothing new with Marvel, as they’ve made mid and post-credit scenes a necessity in superhero cinema, with even the mid-credits sequence here being my absolute favorite of Phase 4 or 5, but it points towards a bigger problem as one of producers constantly putting the cart before the horse with this franchise, in turn reminding us of the more fascinating movie that we should be watching, but instead ended up with this undercooked brand of generic.
“The Marvels” is another in the pile of overstuffed superhero genre installments, but one made so much worse by the lack of attention paid towards so many vital elements that leave it practically unwatchable. With disjointed and incohesive storytelling, a feverishly impatient tonal consistency and another forgettably bland and underwhelming villain, DaCosta is anything but a cinematic marvel of achievement, leaving her wishing that she too had the ability to switch with anyone, anywhere far from this career low.
My Grade: 4/10 or D-