The Plot: Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) has a bone to pick with Captain Marvel (Brie Larson). With her planet in jeopardy following the intervention of Captain Marvel in the Kree war, Dar-Benn is working on replenishing her planet by targeting others. Standing in her way is a new, all-female superhero team. Captain Marvel’s powers become entangled with those of Monica (Teyonah Parris) and Kamala (Iman Vellani) due to the presence of a quantum band that Kamala has on her arm. The other is with Dar-Benn, so she sets out to gain possession of Kamala’s quantum band – at all costs…
The Verdict: When a film franchise has been around for long enough, it can be subject to wear and tear over the years. Unless it re-invents itself and finds something new to say, it will struggle for relevance in a crowded marketplace. Just ask the James Bond producers, currently mulling their next move in the post-Craig era. That brings us to Marvel and their 33rd film in 15½ years – The Marvels. They’re nothing if not consistent, but consistency isn’t always what’s needed with superhero films. Sometimes an audience needs to be surprised and for Marvel to take a wild swing like they did with Guardians Of The Galaxy. Judging by the low buzz around the film, the powers-that-be (i.e. head honcho Kevin Feige) have some thinking and re-thinking to do on how to proceed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Superhero film fatigue is real.
Not that The Marvels is all that bad. Candyman director Nia DaCosta helms the project, .it’s entirely admirable that she wanted her film to be more of an average length. It’s somewhat of a relief then that it’s almost an hour shorter than Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (even that film’s director Ryan Coogler apologised to fans for its overlength). That works in the film’s favour, as it’s designed to be light on its feet, zippy in the air and lightning-fast in space where a good part of the film takes place. There’s a nice running theme of female solidarity too, as the over-eager Kamala proves her worth to her idol Captain Marvel. Iman Vellani easily steals the film.
The script by DaCosta, Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik is high on plot incidents but low on anything really meaningful. Dar-Benn has a General Zod-like plan to terraform other worlds in her own image, but the script never really gets serious about this. Zawe Ashton does a good line in steely stares as Dar-Benn, but she’s underserved by a script that doesn’t have the conviction to pull off an Alderaan-style incident and raise the stakes. It’s a far cry from the dizzying, five-star heights of Avengers: Endgame where the stakes were in the stratosphere. It relies too much on cast charisma and throwaway humour to prop up its deficiencies in the hope that nobody will notice (they will). Case in point: the biggest running gag in the film involves an army of mutant cats, which gets gradually sillier to the point of groan-inducing. Meow…
The Marvels is not so marvellous then, content to be just distinctly average. For some, that will be enough to keep them entertained. For others, it will be a sign that Marvel needs to hit the reset button and come up with new and interesting ways to dazzle us once again.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor
The Marvels (USA / 12A / 104 mins)
In short: Not so marvellous
Directed by Nia DaCosta.
Starring Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton, Samuel L. Jackson.