#REVIEW: “THE MARVELS”
Review by Nicholas Porteous for Mr. Will Wong
“Where are we going and why are we going there?” blurts out a tertiary character in an early scene from the latest Marvel offering–The Marvels. As the Movie unfolds, it becomes agonizingly clear that this line isn’t simply a classic, disposable Marvel quip. It’s a warning. And a perfect summary of the entire, highly-questionable experience.
Attempting to outline the story of The Marvels would be misleading, because it might give you, the Reader, an unfair degree of confidence that this cluster of events adds up to some kind of discernible shape that means something. I’ve seen every mainline MCU movie, and I’m at a loss when it comes to explaining what happened in this one, or why any of it matters. BUT I’m a Reviewer and it’s my job to give it a shot, so I’ll do my best. Let’s just say Brie Larson is back as Captain Marvel, and she’s teaming-up with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Ms. Marvel (Canada’s Iman Vellani–the MVP of the Movie, she somehow manages to consistently behave like a real person in these mostly unintelligible situations). After touching a weird, potentially dangerous beam of cosmic energy for no reason–yes, there’s a scene where Samuel L. Jackson asks why anyone would do this and Larson cannot give a satisfying explanation, which is played for laughs–these three heroes must deal with a strange affliction that causes them to swap places at inopportune moments. There’s also a bunch of different aliens and a scary hammer and magic bracelets, but–again, these bits and bobs don’t really amount to anything I’d comfortably label a ‘narrative’.
The Marvels is an unfortunate distillation of the present state of the MCU, where nothing is intuitive or tied to reality as we know it, and every conflict is presented and resolved with what feels like a completely invented logic. Marvel burst onto the scene with Iron Man, when there was still something fresh and exciting about the idea of a grounded, self-made superhero. Most of the time, Marvel movies posed an intriguing question: “what if this superhero existed in our world?” In spite of their powers, these characters were relatable at their core, and they dealt with clear threats to the planet and/or their lives. But as each chapter has given way to another, the lore of the MCU has piled up on top of itself and compounded to the point that every story now feels like another cog in an unwieldy, unknowable machine–on a completely foreign plane of existence. The ‘intriguing’ question of the average Marvel movie has become “what if Blorpy McGorp went to Glürp to save all the Slurps?? Wouldn’t that be fnerjjy??“
We’re so far down the rabbit hole at this point that ANY moment of clarity feels like a life-preserving sip of water in an endless desert filled with mirages of meaning. Magical rules are explained, then broken. Motivations are described as suddenly as they’re fulfilled. The dramatic engine that fuels The Marvels turns off and on randomly throughout its bizarre structure of travelling to different planets between meetings on spaceships. It’s often unclear what’s at stake and what needs to be done to solve a variety of fuzzy, mysterious problems. The Final Act is so deeply clunky and nonsensical, every line feels drenched in the sweat of desperate rewrites attempting to explain the unexplainable–grasping at straws so the audience can feel like there’s SOMETHING happening here. But what it isain’t exactly clear.
I wanted to get behind The Marvels. There aren’t a whole lot of female Ensemble Superhero movies that are also directed by women. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s got all the visual gloss of an expensive Marvel movie, Iman Vellani is frequently charming as Ms. Marvel, and there’s a fun alien culture that uses musical improv for language. The mid and post-credits scenes reminded me of better Marvel experiences from the past, and gave me faint hope that one day I might see another decent Marvel movie. But not today.
Walt Disney Studios Canada release THE MARVELS Friday, November 10, 2023.