If I were Brie Larson, I wouldn’t try either. In The Marvels, the empty vessel that once was an Oscar-winning actress stars in one of the more confusing and messy Marvel movies to date. Alien cats aside, the latest MCU entry feels like you’re stepping into the forgettable Episode 17 of a cheesy TV show you otherwise haven’t watched–it’s baffling, dumb, and generic as fuck.
To truly understand The Marvels, you’ll have to watch two Disney+ TV shows and remember the original Captain Marvel, which at the time was among the worst of the MCU movies. It honestly took me half an hour to really comprehend who everyone was and what’s going on, and only once comprehension sets in can you fully acknowledge what a throwaway movie this is.
There’s the generic angry villain who is willing to destroy the universe, the banter-heavy screenplay, and the plot that feels ripped out of a superhero template book. There’s a scene set on a planet where everyone sings to communicate (WTF) and other inane moments intended to be funny but that simply fall flat.
And yet there are things to like here. The central concept, that these three female superheroes trade places every time they use their powers (inconsistently, though?), is fun in theory. I would have liked it to play a more critical role in the story, or in the action, but alas. The alien cats, and how they are utilized, is entertaining. Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) is the real star of the show, injecting humor and energy throughout. Her family (played by Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, and Saagar Shaikh) is a source of heart and comedy. There are a few decent action moments.
Overall, though, The Marvels feels like yet another MCU movie where the filmmakers (notably director Nia DaCosta) weren’t really trying to make something great, or even good. It screams Girl Power, not in the obnoxious, in-your-face way Captain Marvel did, but doesn’t do service to its largely female cast by giving them substantive material to work with. The biggest victim is Brie Larson, who should be the badass star of the show but when not using her powers does nothing but offer awkward facial expressions. Captain Marvel is a nothingburger of a character, when she should be the filet mignon.
Less discerning audience members will appreciate, or at least tolerate, the surface-level action and adventure on display here, but in a franchise that is still dominated by male characters, these women deserve better.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.