When you have peak movie events like Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, it becomes difficult for viewers to be contented with movies that are merely mediocre. Before, they could release mid-tier flicks and get away with it, because there wasn’t such a high sense of expectation attached. Now, if a MCU movie doesn’t measure up, there’s an immediate pile-on, with everyone exclaiming that the MCU has lost its touch. Unfortunately for The Marvels, it’s released at a time where disillusionment is high, and the constant reports of how the movie is underperforming aren’t helping either.
If we cut through all the noise surrounding the film, and look at it for what it does and what it is, the easy conclusion is that it’s an entertaining, mid-tier MCU flick. The film works for the most part because of the chemistry between its three leads. Iman Vellani is absolutely charming and funny as Kamala Khan, aka. Ms. Marvel, and her interactions with her idol Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) are simply adorable and heartfelt. It’s not overplayed, and I like how she gradually grows to see Captain Marvel as a person rather than just a superhero she admires.
The film effectively uses the past memories between Monica (Teyonah Parris) and Carol to frame their relationship, and the betrayal Monica felt when Carol never returned despite saying she would. Larson gets to show off more of her acting chops in this film than in the previous Captain Marvel, and that’s mainly because of her co-stars. The choreography when the trio exchange places and powers is top-notch, and director Nia DaCosta does an excellent job of infusing jeopardy into these fight scenes, which is not easy to do when your characters have superpowers.
There are many funny set pieces that made me laugh like crazy, like that whole Aladna scene and Carol’s Disney princess moment. It’s nice to get a glimpse into what Carol was doing for all those years away, and I wish we got more development of that backstory.
Where the film falters is really in its villain and lackluster storyline. We’ve had so many memorable villains in the MCU, but Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) isn’t one of them. The film spells out her motivation for us, however, her characterisation feels so paper-thin when we never quite see the struggles of the Kree. She very eloquently tells us, over and over again, but as we know, telling us something isn’t quite the same as making us feel it. Ashton doesn’t quite know what to do with the character. She’s making all these campy, villainous facial expressions, which makes it quite difficult for the viewer to take Dar-Benn seriously.
The tonal shift surrounding the climax of the film also feels a bit out of left-field. The film is clearly going for a more comedic than dramatic vibe, so the sudden tragedy does feel a bit like whiplash, especially when it’s immediately undercut with the end-credit scene. And this is where the whole inter-connected aspect of the MCU becomes frustrating, because their films now can’t be impactful on their own. I want to watch a film and experience it in the moment, and not look at the film as merely a catalyst for other films and projects. There’s also some continuity issues, like Kamala’s clothing changing randomly in the midst of a scene, and tons of unresolved plot points by the end of the film.
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The Marvels works because of excellent cast chemistry. The three leading ladies are funny together, and I would easily watch a whole other movie of them just working alongside each other and kicking ass.
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