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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

The Marvels: Review

Years ago, a new Marvel superhero film signified a seismic cultural event. I will never forget witnessing bustling crowds and constant chatter in the lobby during the opening nights of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: End Game.” A palpable excitement resonated beyond the brand’s die-hard comic book fan demographic. It was evident that these films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe had helped elevate superheroes into a new popularity stratosphere.

Fast forward to today, that rousing excitement has evaporated. I went this weekend to check out the 33rd MCU film, the superhero ensemble “The Marvels,” and was greeted by tumbleweeds and empty seats. Once the film began, there were no enthusiastic cheers or hearty laughs, but rather an uncomfortable stillness that lingered throughout the theater. By the time the credits rolled, the few audience members escaped their seats before Marvel’s quintessential post-credit scene even came on. It is clear at this point, and from “The Marvels’” lackluster box office performance, that Marvel’s once undeniable gravity has diminished.

While I often fill the role of Marvel cynic, “The Marvels” is receiving an unfair hand in my book - another film that falls victim to industry headlines and overarching audience sentiments rather than assessments of the end product on display. Does that mean this is a delightful superhero surprise?

Not quite.

“The Marvels” soars with infectious enthusiasm in spurts and sinks into an uninspired malaise in others. The film does showcase considerable improvement over recent MCU blunders (“Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Ant-Man: Quantumania” are two of the laziest hero features to date). Still, the final product endures several familiar MCU pitfalls and lacks a sense of impact within the franchise’s interconnected universe.

Designed as a Captain Marvel sequel meshed with a superhero ensemble featuring emerging heroes Monica Rambeau and Ms. Marvel, “The Marvels” carries worthwhile ambitions. I appreciate that this sequel forgoes forced attempts at self-important grandiosity in favor of a more contained narrative. 2019’s “Captain Marvel” served as a lame-duck superhero origin story, inserting character development sparingly throughout as the audience never grew close to its titular character.

With “The Marvels,” Captain Marvel finally grows out of the character’s rigid shell. Teaming Captain Marvel’s stern, emotionally reserved disposition with two vivacious new heroes helps tremendously to develop the character’s personality. The trio, played by Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris and Iman Vellani, effortlessly establishes an affectionate rapport, naturally bouncing campy one-liners and loving affirmations off each other as they grow into a well-balanced team. Director Nia DaCosta also infuses a new verve into the proceedings. Her dynamism behind the camera helps establish some of the franchise’s best action setpieces in recent memory, including an uptempo fight where characters teleport with one another across an unlikely suburban battleground.

At its best, “The Marvels” newfound buoyancy injects a refreshing change of pace for the MCU. That is until the film eventually traverses toward the franchise’s generic formula. Whether it is the painfully uninteresting villain, forced MCU references, the neglected, McGuffin-driven storyline or the same forced attempts at comedy, “The Marvels” reeks of tired contrivances. It almost feels like two films are enduring battle against each other, with one combatant lunging toward a fresh new vision while the other drags its opponent through the same old superhero morass. Eventually, Marvel and Disney will need to realize that audiences seek films that feel unique from one another rather than projects that recycle the same fatigued elements repeatedly.

Clocking in at a short and sweet 105-minute runtime, “The Marvels” is consistently tolerable yet rarely compelling. The film delivers a frustratingly uneven superhero adventure that is more content with going through the motions rather than embracing its promising strengths.


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