You might think that four and a half years is too long to wait to follow up Captain Marvel, one of the more financially successful entries in the MCU, but when you consider the fact that The Marvels is also a “sequel” to several Disney+ shows, the gap doesn’t feel quite as long. Although The Marvels is a mess, there are enough moments in the film that are really enjoyable that it manages to overcome its weaknesses and be an unexpectedly enjoyable experience.
The movie picks up with the post-credits of Ms. Marvel, where Kamala Khan, Carol Danvers, and Monica Rambeau find themselves inexplicably intertwined, forcing them to fight together to save the universe. Perhaps the biggest criticism that can be levied against this outing is that it’s so dependent on the lore. You essentially have to have seen Ms. Marvel and WandaVision to understand The Marvels — arguably even more than you need to the movie it is a “sequel” to.
The Marvels has also gotten a lot of attention from fans for being the shortest film in the MCU — clocking in at a mere hour and 46 minutes from start to finish. Although that is a breath of fresh air compared to the 2.5 hour superhero epics and six-episode Disney+ series we’ve been getting, the final product does feel rather rushed. However, it’s hard to tell what’s really to blame for the poor pacing. Is it the experiment with the shorter runtime, the obvious studio edits that occurred, or simply the standard third act jitters that have plagued almost every Marvel movie since day one?
The Marvels is messy, but there are a few moments that truly shine
A big part of what makes the movie work is the chemistry among the lead trio. Although their individual performances vary in quality, they really nail the team dynamic. If someone tells you that anyone but Iman Vellani is the shining star of this film, they’re wrong. She’s incredibly charming, and breathes so much life into her character. Teyonah Parris takes a minute to warm up to her role — which is a bit surprising considering that she already had WandaVision — but when she finally gets there, it works. And Brie Larson is doing the same love-it-or-hate-it thing as Captain Marvel.
Samuel L. Jackson also returns as Nick Fury, and is relegated to being the comedic relief. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Jackson has such natural comedic chops that he eats up the scene every single time he’s on screen. In the action sequence he takes part in, it’s starting to feel obvious that he’s no spring chicken anymore.
The worst part of the movie, without any doubt, is its villain. The villain’s backstory — a former goon who took over and is seeking revenge after Captain Marvel destroyed the AI in the previous film — is about as generic as they come. It also doesn’t help that the repopulation storyline for the Kree is similar to the much more effective and harrowing High Evolutionary’s story in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, leading to an unfavorable comparison.
However, there are three sequences in the movie that go off the rails with their creativity so much that they are able to carry the film. In many ways, it feels like these three scenes each come from a different movie — highlighting the incohesiveness of the final cut of The Marvels. And while there are definite flourishes in the editing and tone throughout that scream DaCosta’s directorial voice, it feels like all the creative effort was put into these three moments.
Visually, The Marvels is a mixed bag. For every moment of inspired costuming or production design, there’s a scene with very bad CGI. This might be the worst use of virtual production technology so far, as it’s being used as an obvious crutch here. It’s not creating some alternative world here like it did in The Mandalorian or Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania — it’s used a lot to simulate the sky, and it’s distractingly obvious what they’re doing.
There are a lot of things about The Marvels that don’t work, and yet there are enough flashes of brilliance and creativity that the film ends up winning you over as a whole. It’s hardly among the best outings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — even in the post-Endgame phases — but it’s also not the unmitigated disaster some had expected it to be.
The Marvels hits theaters on November 10.