Review: The Marvels

Score: B-

Director: Nia DaCosta

Cast: Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

First, the good news. The Marvels is not the death knell for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Variety's recent "Marvel in Crisis" exposé may have proven Kevin Feige's baby is in need of a massive overhaul. Despite a post-production phase without director Nia DaCosta, the film is definitely not a disaster. It's fun, and fits in more with the Guardians of the Galaxy films than even the most recent entry in that series. But that's about where the good news ends.

So what's bad? Well, it suffers from the same problems that have plagued just about every MCU entry as of late: dodgy VFX, a weak villain and a repetitive finale. None of this is DaCosta's fault, nor is it the fault of the the film's three engaging leads. Its stylistic swings - including some swift editing and a full-on musical number - stick out because the rest feels so familiar. At 105 minutes, this is by far the shortest film Marvel Studios has released theatrically. But you can tell its been cut to ribbons. There's no room for anything to land or resonate because the plot keeps on churning.

Brie Larson reprises her role as Carol Danvers, who's been galaxy-hopping and saving other planets, while neglecting her loved ones on Earth. Monica (Teyonah Parris), now all grown up, works with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, phoning it in) and has some vaguely defined "light energy" powers. After a rift in space-time, they swap places with one another and with Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani). There's a great fight scene when the three are confused and keep shifting between New Jersey, outer space and a Kree ship. A training montage set to the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic" is a blast. But once they figure out how to work together, it's just a lot of punching to keep the villain from getting the other half of a MacGuffin.

This is all stuff we've seen before, and it's not as if it's done on a higher level as its predecessors. There's a doohickey, some glowing energy things and a big beam of light coming down from the sky nearly destroying the planet. To be successful in the future, Marvel needs to toss out the template and stop forcing some of the talented directors they've hired to just fill in the blanks of their Mad Libs.

Still, I give The Marvels a mild recommendation for three key reasons: I was never bored, insulted or confused. The latter is particularly important, because its two major cast additions were introduced in Disney+ shows I never watched. I realize this is damning this film with faint praise. But considering the sorry state of the MCU, it could have been a lot worse.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.