Review

The Marvels (2023) Review

If there’s one thing consistent about The Marvels, the expensive follow-up — reportedly cost around US$220-270 million — has been catching flak for getting so much hate online, notably its staggering dislikes in the less-than-enthusiastic trailer on YouTube.

Frankly, from the day the Captain Marvel sequel released its first teaser to the final trailer just a few days before its general release, the footage that has been shown so far somehow fails to convince me this would be a cinematic event. It doesn’t help either when the 2019 original — never mind the fact it made over a billion dollars since well, a huge box-office hit doesn’t necessarily equal quality — ranked as one of the most disappointing entries in the MCU.

One of the main problems lies in the surprisingly hollow introduction of Captain Marvel played by Brie Larson, whose stiff and blank-faced expressions barely made a lasting impression. Sure, her superhero character was subsequently integral in helping the Avengers fight Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his army during the final battle in Avengers: Endgame, proving her immense strength and superpower. But she’s more of a deus ex machina who showed up and came to the rescue. Unlike some of the beloved MCU characters of the past and present, Larson’s Captain Marvel leaves a little significant cultural impact on its cinematic universe’s ever-growing roster.

I was hoping this would change with The Marvels under the direction of Nia DaCosta, who knows a thing or two about bringing out the best in her cast seen in Little Woods and Candyman. Too bad that’s hardly the case here as Larson’s bland acting remains the same.

This time, she finds herself mysteriously teleported into Jersey City. Kamala Khan’s (Iman Vellani) bedroom, to be exact, which was previously shown in the mid-credits scene of episode 6 of Ms Marvel on Disney+. The teleportation, better known as “jump point” is somehow caused by the wormholes in the space-time continuum. It doesn’t just affect Captain Marvel but also Kamala and even Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), resulting in a series of fun and exhilarating switcheroo moments. The earlier scenes are pacey, complete with some well-choreographed and dynamic action set pieces.

Zawe Ashton as Dar-Benn in "The Marvels" (2023)

At the heart of the jump-point mess, a vengeful Kree warrior Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) is determined to locate a missing bangle, where Kamala has on her wrist all the while. The movie, however, botches Ashton’s appearance as the sequel’s main antagonist into a weak villain-story syndrome.

Going back to Larson, she fares the worst with the kind of what-am-I-doing-here acting style and even when she attempts to let loose, the result is a cringey Bollywood-style song-and-dance and comedy moments. It certainly triggered the painful memory of Basmati Blues, which also happened to star Brie Larson. The entire scene including the glorified brief cameo of Park Seo-Joon as Prince Yan feels awkwardly misplaced, making me wonder about DaCosta’s ill-advised intention to make her film “really wacky and silly”. The “wacky and silly” moment does work the best in the switcheroo scene but this one bewilders me instead.

The other two female leads are thankfully better by comparison but it was Iman Vellani who excels the most with her lively performance as Kamala Khan. DaCosta, who also co-wrote the screenplay alongside WandaVision‘s Megan McDonnell and Loki‘s Elissa Karasik, could only muster superficial character dynamics between Captain Marvel, Kamala Khan and Monica Rambeau. The movie’s compact 105-minute length, which DaCosta reportedly intended to make a Marvel movie in under two hours, backfired with her flimsy storytelling.

By the time The Marvels ends, the sequel is nothing more than a mishmash of good, bad and ugly stuff rolled all together into a run-of-the-mill intergalactic adventure. Just like Captain Marvel, Goose steals some of the show here and so does a scene in a space station revolving around the Flerkens (yes, Goose isn’t the only alien cat who gets the attention in this sequel).

The Marvels does end with one of the best and most intriguing mid-credits stingers ever seen in the MCU. It’s worth sticking around and let’s just say it was something that definitely would send the fanboys and fangirls into a frenzy.