There’s no secret that Marvel Studios is in trouble. Their latest projects no longer hold the reverence or command audience respect like they used to. It’s down to several factors, and it’s in this environment of superhero decline that ‘The Marvels’ finds itself releasing. Originally scheduled to release on July 8, 2022, the film was delayed four times. And it could have done with more time, as ‘The Marvels’ doesn’t live up to its name.
A sequel to ‘Captain Marvel’, ‘WandaVision’, ‘Ms. Marvel’, and ‘Secret Invasion’ ‘The Marvels’ follows the prodigal child of the Milky Way Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) as her powers are entangled with Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), and Monica Rambeau/Photon (Teyonah Parris) causing them to switch places with each other. They have to stop the new Kree leader Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) from stripping planets of their resources to return the Kree world of Hala to its former glory after Captain Marvel plunged the planet into civil war.
The use of the power entanglement causing the heroes to swap places helps to give the film some unique action, giving it momentum when one of the heroes swaps places, and it helps to keep the flow of movement. It’s fluid and proves that when it comes to superhero action, Marvel Studios has still got talent. There’s a constant sense of motion aided by dynamic camera movement allowing audiences to see what’s happening.
And some of this talent translates to characters. Larson gives a much more relatable performance as Danvers, showing off a range of emotions and allowing audiences to connect with her. Vellani constantly amazes as Khan, her charisma and charming personality shining through in every scene, especially in one of the final scenes. Parris isn’t as strong as her costars and doesn’t get much chance to show off her acting. Of course, they aren’t the only characters in the film. Ashton does what she can with a horrifically written villain with Marvel Studios reverting to their bland, generic, and one-note villains that everyone thought they’d moved away from.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is also present for a large proportion of the film, and his characterization of a more jokey Fury is jarringly different from his anxious and serious portrayal of the same character in ‘Secret Invasion’. The two feel completely disconnected, which goes for the broader narrative of ‘Secret Invasion’. It’s almost as if Feige wants to forget that ‘Secret Invasion’ ever happened. There is only a single line referencing the show. It’s a big problem for a studio that prides itself on its continuity, and having every show and film matter.
Another place the film falls is its script and tone. ‘The Marvels’ wants to be a comedy, a drama, and a look at how past trauma can affect people. But these elements never mesh together, leading to rushed emotional conclusions and dramatic moments with no weight behind them. The comedy elements often push the boat out too far, leading to one of the goofiest scenes in the MCU, a dance number on a planet where the inhabitants can only sing. There are certainly places where the comedy works, but it’s rare and often has everything to do with Vellani’s delivery. Scenes and conflicts are sometimes half-fleshed out, with aspects of the film resolved far too quickly and easily.
The film doesn’t have much cinematic flair, with shots looking safe and uninspiring. The VFX is generally competent apart from a few notably terrible shots. Despite this, It’s amazing what VFX teams can achieve when given enough time to work on their craft. But the film isn’t ever stunning, and it feels like it was purposely made for Disney+, something that’s not helped by the fact it’s a sequel to three Disney+ shows.
The final area where the film drops the ball is with its music. Composed by Laura Karpman, the score does nothing to make itself stand out from what’s happening, often fading into the background where it remains unheard. There’s no point where it swells to fill the audience with emotion but instead, the music is forgettable. It’s a shame because the right music can elevate a scene to new heights, but that’s not the case.
While ‘The Marvels’ has its highlights, it does little to alleviate Marvel Studios’ current problems and is contributing to the superhero decline rather than reversing it. There are some impressive hints at what might be coming down the line next, especially as it relates to ‘Deadpool 3’ and the future of the Avengers, but there has to be a creative course correction to realize that potential properly.