Saturday, November 11, 2023


The Marvels arrives on a wave of bad buzz for the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has fans and critics and showbiz reporters wringing their hands about the troubled state of the series. What once prided itself on a kind of comic-book style improvised cross-over continuity has floundered as the movies and TV shows have felt less connected. And even when parts of a particular project hit big financially or creatively, which seems to happen less and less, there’s a prevailing sense of diminishment. (It’s easy enough to forget the pretty darn satisfying Guardians of the Galaxy 3 was released a mere 6 months ago.) The newest feature will do nothing to calm fans fears that this whole thing is on its way out. This effort to draw together threads from a variety of projects—it’s a direct sequel to both Captain Marvel and Avengers Endgame, pulls in television characters like the charming teen lead of Ms. Marvel and a key supporting player from WandaVision, and finds cameos from two other movies and one other show—plays like a heavily recut compromise that’ll please no one. Writer-director Nia DaCosta's underlying concept is clever enough: flying, energy-beaming Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) realizes her heroism from her first film inadvertently destabilized a planet’s ecosystem and created a new villain’s need to plunder resources from other planets. Said plundering leads to an accident in which Marvel gets her powers entangled with the two TV superheroes (Iman Vellani and Teyonah Parris), so now they switch places every time they try to use their super-talents. There’s a hint of clever body-switching stuff and some potentially provocative ideas about intractable intergalactic conflicts. There’s a role for Samuel L. Jackson to stand around, and some funny sitcom ideas floating around Ms. Marvel’s charming family. But everything is flattened by the hurrying nonsense plotting, deadeningly empty spectacle, and endless pattering exposition papering over leaps of logic and incomplete ideas. Even then there’s barely coherence to the jumble, leading to what’s less a story, more a number of sequences scotch-taped together as a string of random moments. Everything lands with a thud. It takes several planets near, to, or beyond the point of apocalypse with a shrug, and slams three charming leads off of each other with flat jokes and paint-by-numbers character beats instead of developing actual chemistry. It skips over the surface of every idea, and shreds every good concept under the weight of hurrying into the next scene. I watched in growing dismay as it sat dead and lifeless on screen. Even its attempts to shoehorn in fan-flattering cameos and long-awaited teases for future plot lines play limply, doomed to go nowhere and please no one. Its end credits scene feels like less of a promise and more like a threat to pile on complications past the point we care. I don’t think the MCU is doomed quite yet, but a few more flailing projects like this will do the trick.

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