The Marvels: A Blandly Fun Little Movie

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The Marvels Is A Medium Marvel Movie Throughout

I don’t know what to make of The Marvels. Oh, I watched it. I enjoyed it. And I even laughed at the scenes where I was supposed to laugh. But I can tell—even as my memory still holds—that this is a forgettable movie. Ask me in a month, and I might not even remember this review exists. I mean, heck, not only is it blandly fine, it doesn’t even feel like a movie. It feels like an episode of a television show. Specifically, a weaker episode of Ms. Marvel.

In fact, that’s probably why I’m nicer to The Marvels than I feel like I should be: Kamala Khan (played by Iman Vellani) is awesome. Somehow, they did the classic “nerd meets their hero” plotline and didn’t make it feel cringey. Kamala, her parents, and her brother are all played by excellent actors and are extremely charming. On the superhero side of things, Ms. Marvel’s hard-light powers are used in interesting ways, and if they had bothered to focus on her arc more, there’s an excellent early superhero storyline about the actual dangers and tough calls that’s part of the job. That’s interesting.

This Movie Would Be Much Worse Without Kamala

What’s not interesting is the presentation of Captain Marvel and Monica’s plotlines. There are great ideas, but they’re all buried. Good drama and interesting explorations of regret are relegated to the margins in The Marvels. Captain Marvel destroying a ruling AI—even if it was evil—that runs an entire civilization would have a fallout, yeah. I didn’t think about that, but it’s a great science fiction concept. Like The Blip, there are societal implications and long-term problems that could be explored if this franchise ever really went for it. Even with characters whose stories are integrally linked to those big ideas, it seems like flashy CGI holds more sway over the narrative. It doesn’t always have to be about spectacle. Focus just a little more on emotions, please. Even the core conflict between Monica (played by Brie Larson) and Carol (played by Teyonah Parris)—ostensibly the whole point of this story—is mostly brushed past with a swiftness that would impress Quicksilver.

The Movie’s Runtime Is Actively Fighting Its Impact

And then there’s the switching thing: the whole gimmick of The Marvels. To be clear, it was used to fun effect here. The fight scenes are too sparse for my taste, given the dynamic nature of rapid teleporting, but it’s a cool way to unite these characters. How it happened is honestly irrelevant, and I’m pretty sure the explanation is nonsense, even in comic book logic. But we’re well into the phase of Marvel where stuff just happens. Concepts are explored because why not? The Infinity Stones are mostly gone. Thanos is dead. Yes, there’s the Multiverse stuff, but that’s basically background noise. The modern Marvel franchise is, with some exceptions, a bunch of isolated events meant to please fans—and that’s fine with me, mostly. I’m not anti-popcorn entertainment. No Way Home had a ton of fun moments. What I’ve seen of Loki was quirky. But it does reinforce my opinion of The Marvels feeling like a television episode. They certainly structure these movies like they are serialized. The Marvels plotline is one step above in creativity from the “body swapping” premise you’d find in any children’s cartoon with sci-fi or magical elements. You know there won’t be any serious repercussions, and you know it’ll get solved by the end of the “season,” if not this specific episode.

The Marvels Could Have Been A One-Hour Episode

I will give one sort of credit to The Marvels, though—it was not afraid to go goofy. Like, genuinely silly, with no justifications and minimal winks to the camera. After Love and Thunder proved how bad Marvel comedy could go, that scene with the cats—with that musical choice somehow allowed to happen—got a cackle out of me. Not every joke worked throughout, but still, this is the better way to approach matters if comedy is the goal. The superhero genre, most of the time, is built on ideas that are absurd if you think about them for less than even a second, and the worldbuilding is dictated mainly by what new cool thing the creators want to do, so why not play with it? That’s a feature of the genre, not a failing. It makes for a much more pleasant experience than snark and insincerity, certainly. Kamala’s having fun, so I’m usually having fun. And, yes, structuring the plot like this totally robs The Marvels of anything even close to suspense, but suspense was never much of an option anyhow. This is a “sure, why not” kind of movie, and your ability to embrace that mindset will determine your experience with it.

Basically, don’t go in expecting much more than mostly well-animated CGI fights, technobabble, and a brisk, action-movie pace. Don’t go in if you aren’t already invested in this franchise. The Marvels expects you to be very knowledgeable on previous Marvel properties and will not explain itself and just keeps rolling along. It’s here to tie up old plotlines and introduce new ones. It’s here to be a new Marvel movie. And that’s fine enough.

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