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Review: 'The Marvels'

The Captain Marvel franchise launched back in 2019 with Brie Larson starring as the superhero Captain Marvel.

She’s back again in the movie sequel entitled The Marvels which alarmingly seems to already be running out of creative steam.

Multiplying screen superheroes seems to be a current trend with a recent installment of the Spider-Man franchise featuring all four actors who have appeared in every Spider-Man movie that has hit the big screen.

The Marvels features three main characters, Captain Marvel (aka, Carol Danvers, played by Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Captain Marvel’s friend, played by Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan (played by newcomer Iman Vellani, appearing in her first feature film).

Kamala is a female version of Peter Parker, a very average teen who appears to spend a lot of time in her bedroom at her parent’s house drawing cartoons of her hero, Captain Marvel, in which she fantasizes meeting her hero and becoming a superhero herself.

It would seem like a highly unlikely long shot if it weren’t for her possession of a large ornate bracelet that seems to have mysterious powers.

It is one of two matching bracelets in the universe that hold unimaginable power when used together, which is the evil plan of a very scary character (Dar-Benn, played by Zawe Ashton) who manages to find one of the bracelets and is in hot pursuit of the other. Possession of both will allow her to control space and time.

She’s a frightening presence, wielding a menacing, long handled hammer of a weapon not unlike the famous hammer hurled by Thor in another superhero franchise.

Like so many movies these days, The Marvels borrows a lot from other movies and franchises.

In addition to the elements gleaned from Spider-Man and Thor, the aforementioned bracelets bear a strong resemblance to the bejeweled metallic gauntlet worn by Thanos in Avengers: End Game which has its own mega-destructive power.

The bare-bones plot of The Marvels involves the three female protagonists in search of the villain and her matching bracelet. Both must be destroyed. It’s a mission that involves non-stop fighting and martial arts prowess. Essentially, everyone is Kung-Fu Fighting, in just about every scene.

Movies like this depend heavily on special effects, both visual and auditory, and The Marvels is no exception. It takes full advantage of IMAX theater technology, where it is meant to be seen. The images are colorful and surreal, the audio effects are bone-crunching, and the music is comprised of a predictable, overwhelming orchestral score featuring choirs of vocalists dramatically singing “Aaaaaah” at all the appropriate dramatic moments.

It’s a strict superhero formula that filmmakers believe audiences expect to see and hear. Considering the success and longevity of movies like this, they may not be wrong. The Marvels marks the 33rd movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It’s an impressive run, but it begs the question of whether filmmakers have gone to the proverbial well too many times.

As mentioned, the biggest problem with The Marvels is the woeful lack of a comprehensible story. It’s a string of non-stop action sequences showcasing the latest digital effects.

While the studios have bet their money on Brie Larson becoming a major franchise character, her long-term success remains uncertain. Stellar performances are also what is sadly lacking in The Marvels.

Much of the film leans heavily on Iman Vellani who seems miscast and sadly over her head in such a splashy, big-budget project.

You know that the creative team is struggling when they resort to high-risk sequences that could bomb and bomb big. One of them involves a side trip to a kingdom where the colorful, bizarre inhabitants sing instead of speaking.

It’s a comedic turn that seems at odds with the rest of the story. It gets worse when everyone suddenly breaks into song and dance like the finale of a Bollywood feature film.

The other scene involves a herd of cute, mutant cats aboard Nick Fury’s space station who run around gobbling up crewmembers with huge squid-like tentacles that shoot out of their tiny mouths.

It becomes worse than ridiculous then the heart-wrenching song “Moonlight” from the Broadway musical Cats begins to play—not just part of it, but the entire song—and the sequence drags on and on, seemingly forever.

It’s hard to say what director Nia DaCosta had in mind for The Marvels. There are a lot of things that it is not. It’s not a serious superhero adventure. It’s not a comedy. It’s not a movie that makes a whole lot of sense.

Lost in Space might have been a better title, if that title hadn’t already been used before. It’s the one thing that they probably should have also plagiarized.


Photos © MARVEL 2023

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