Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors Barely Explore Its Own Themes

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Secret Warriors Could Have Been An Amazing Film

Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors is a Marvel movie you’ve likely never heard of before. I hadn’t. It’s a film about a superhero team with some very familiar names if you keep up to date with the greater MCU canon. Or even just Spider-Verse canon. That said, Secret Warriors is also not based on either of those continuities. Ms. Marvel, for instance, has stretchy powers, and Captain America has a teenage sidekick named Patriot. And there are plenty of other changes if your only frame of reference is the movies.

And, sadly, for Secret Warriors, the most interesting thing it actually does is replicate how a comic book feels. To be clear, this isn’t like Spider-Verse. The animation is barebones, but the plot and pacing are structured in such a way that I could practically pinpoint where the page flip would be. The plot throws so many characters, powers, and monologues, with nigh-static views of people’s faces delivering them, that it’s got to be a partially stylistic choice. Or a severe budget limitation. Or both.

The Animation Never Manages More Than Average

Unfortunately, regardless of whether it was supposed to be some artistic thing, it doesn’t translate well to the medium of movies. Everything ends up with an odd flow. The animation is cool for a moment, then very choppy the next. Dialog is often redundant, with characters repeating similar ideas or straight-up reexplaining to characters they haven’t gotten to tell yet. I’m almost sure there’s a plot hole where Squirrel Girl makes the same deduction twice.

Secret Warriors

The Dialogue In This Movie Is Especially Egregious

And that’s especially odd because the themes of the story could’ve been super interesting—and still are a little, if you infer stuff from background details. Superheroes, like supernatural creatures, are often used as an allegory for feeling different in society, and in this version of things, there’s been a recent event that granted (maybe random) people powers. That’s a fantastic inciting incident. The cultural impact would be massive. But it’s almost entirely dropped as a concept for large swatches of runtime. And furthermore, I think it’s a fraught idea—to say the least—to make the in-universe name for people given powers “Inhumans.” Having everyone call them that is…just not thinking through the implications. There’s clearly a simmering bigotry against them, straight-up referenced by Squirrel Girl. Why would the naming convention lean into dehumanization? I’m not really the critic to tackle this sort of thing, but I wish the narrative even addressed some of these questions.   

It’s also barely explained as a general story idea. “Inhumans” have to have gotten their powers from this one specific event, apparently. So, is it mostly a linguistic thing? Is there somehow a stigma about how you get powers? Characters like Squirrel Girl or American Chavez are not part of the same grouping, but it’s not explained why that’s a notable distinction. The Avengers are treated unilaterally as heroes—and have powers. One character’s arc even calls into question why super-tech and biological powers are thought of differently. An opening narration, a little expositional scene, something at the very least, would’ve made this a little less of a mess.

So, yeah, Secret Warriors is not a great movie in most regards. The voice acting is a big saving grace, a few character moments are nice, and it’s short enough to not overstay its welcome. But I can only watch characters talk around what the story should be about and run at each other using the same attacks for so long. Watch this if you like any of the core characters and want more fun with them, but don’t expect a ton from this movie.

Secret Warriors

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