The Marvels is a lot of fun, even if it lacks focus.

I’ve written in the past about how mediocrity would be the harbinger of the oft-prophesied superhero fatigue, identifying quality, not quantity as the critical factor. In the end, it’s what did it for the DCEU and its what keeps Sony’s lame duck universe from even getting off the ground. Ironically, Marvel has managed to create its own inverted version of the problems that plague its rivals. Quantity has absolutely played a part in the Phase 4 and Phase 5 troubles but their issue is primarily one of quality. That’s not to say their Phase 4 and Phase 5 output has been bad – far from it – but the standard has been set so high it’s almost impossible to maintain, and a good Marvel movie, while still head and shoulder above most if not all of their rivals’ recent output, still feels like a letdown given the heights the MCU has soared to. It’s this expectation, more than anything else, that weighs heavily on THE MARVELS, although Disney’s own quantity issues don’t help.

When Kree leader Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) locates the missing Quantum Band and uses it to enact her plan to restore the Kree homeworld of Hala, it causes immediate problems for the owner of the other Quantum Band, Kamala Khan aka Ms Marvel (Iman Vellani), especially when an incident involving the cosmic jump gate network causes her powers to become quantum entangled with those of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris). The trio must find a way to embrace their interchangeability and stop Dar-Benn before she lays waste to the universe in her quest to restore her home world.

With the burden of driving subscriber numbers to Disney+ falling disproportionally on Marvel’s shoulders, THE MARVELS finds itself in the unenviable position of having to introduce (or re-introduce) various characters as it tries to get the audience on the same page for the adventure to begin. It doesn’t help that there are a few Disney+ series which do matter (WANDAVISION, MS MARVEL) and at least one which apparently doesn’t even merit a passing mention (SECRET INVASION). It makes for an unbalanced feeling as the movie starts, something which pervades the tone and pacing to the detriment of the likeable performances and intriguing plot.

It does feel a little bit like, instead of watching the various Disney+ side quest series, we would have been better watching a second CAPTAIN MARVEL movie covering the events which take place between the previous movie and this one which not only provide Carole Danvers’ emotional context but the villain’s motivations, both factors which do eventually make themselves clear a little too late to really succeed, especially with Zawe Ashton’s one-dimensional performance failing to give throwaway villain Dar-Benn much of a sense of threat or substance.

Of course, I went in wanting to like THE MARVELS – I mean, who goes into a movie wanting to hate it? – and overall, I had a pretty good time. I can see why reaction was so divided, though, but I still think it’s a case of expectations being a little too high. Maybe it’s because it’s technically a cross-over movie that there was an expectation for bigger stakes? More gravitas? Certainly less singing? There’s undeniable fun in seeing Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel and Captain Rambeau interact along their planet-hopping intergalactic journey but the light comedy occasionally overshadows some of the more serious moments and despite the movie’s chief virtue being its brevity (at one- and three-quarter hours it’s the shortest MCU movie) it’s could also do with about twenty more minutes to allow some of its bigger ideas time to properly develop.

I bring all this out by way of explanation: I really enjoyed THE MARVELS, I had fun with it (fun being something in short supply in the MCU at the moment, except perhaps for THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER where there was so much “fun” that it collapsed in on itself creating a self-indulgent singularity of silliness) and it left me wanting to see more of Ms Marvel, Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau. It’s also one of the few recent MCU outings that made me hyped for what’s to come. Sure, the Ms Marvel/ Kate Bishop team-up was a little obvious but the second mid-credit scene properly got me hyped for where the admittedly unfocussed Multiverse Saga is eventually heading.

THE MARVELS isn’t a mediocre superhero movie; it’s a good superhero movie falling short of the MCU’s near-impossible expectations and there’s nothing else out there that dissuades me from continuing to say “Make mine Marvel!”

The Marvels Review
The Marvels Review
Score 7/10
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