Marvel Studios’ “The Marvels,” directed by Nia DaCosta, is the latest feature in a 15-year-long Marvel Cinematic Universe – coming in as the 33rd film.
Combined with the various television series under Marvel Studios on Disney’s streaming platform, there are now over 40 parts to the MCU, with each installment sharing the same universe. This “Marvel universe” actually encompasses multiple universes, ever since Marvel began what is known as their Multiverse Saga. It’s easy to imagine how the average person could get tired of it all.
There are hundreds of hours worth of content to work through, all of which asks viewers to connect dots and remember the names of an ever-growing roster of superheroes as they fly across the screen, punching bad guys. So, how does the latest film, “The Marvels,” attempt to keep audiences both entertained while also standing out as its own story?
In a word, by trimming.
Rather than task audiences with remembering details and character dynamics from earlier projects, “The Marvels” breaks the relationships between its three leads – Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel and Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau – into the well-understood, albeit cliched, dynamic of unlikely companions forced to work together.
This lowers the overall enjoyment of the film as some of the more emotional moments fall flat, with the main exception being those that feature Vellani, whose excitement and joy come through wonderfully on screen. Her co-stars, Larson and Parris, also have memorable moments, but Vellani simply steals each scene she is in and positions herself as the breakout star of the film.
“The Marvels” also suffers from the classic “Marvel problem” of boring villains. At no point did the struggle of Dar-Benn, played by Zawe Ashton, feel like anything audiences should care about. She is simply the “Big Bad,” who wields a glowing hammer and needs to be stopped.
At a runtime of one hour and 45 minutes, “The Marvels” is the shortest Marvel film to date, and despite its brevity, there are still a couple of action sequences that overstay their welcome. Still, they remain plenty enjoyable.
Overall, if you are someone who continues to enjoy superheroes on the big screen, “The Marvels” will surely entertain, but it’s unlikely to win back any skeptical fans who think the MCU juggernaut is finally losing steam.