Opening at every multiplex in the multiverse:
THE MARVELS (Dir. Nia DaCosta, 2023)
A decade or so ago, the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe was a lot of fun. What with all the interlocking storylines from film to film, and the charisma and humor of leads like Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansson (all of whom can be seen shining in the Marvel logo banner than begins every movie), many movie-goers and myself enjoyed quite a few of the ongoing adventures of the AVENGERS, and off-shoots like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
But now, after over 30 movies, the whole thing has become a big, bloated franchise that I hear more people dis than praise these days. This new release, serving as a sequel to Captain Marvel and an extension of a show I haven’t seen (Ms. Marvel), tries as it might to offer some difference, and diversity, in its leads being three females – respectively Brie Larson as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, Teyonah Parris as Proton/Monica Rambeau, and Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan – but they seem to be winging, rather than helming, their way through this immaculate mess of a Marvel movie.
The premise having to do with ancient glowing bracelets (this film’s MacGuffin/Infinity Stones) sought after fiery villain Dar-Benn, played by a crazy-eyed Zawe Ashton, and a couple of our female leads body-switching when they use their powers at the same time, never built any momentum, with action sequence after action sequence piling up with little impact.
While she sure can’t sing as can be seen in a strange musical number with her alien prince played by Park Seo-joon, Larson is a fine actress (she well deserved her Oscar for 2015’s ROOM), but she mainly serves as a straight person to her co-stars and the scenery. She does lighten up dancing to hip hop with Parris and Vellani (whose spunk does charm at odd moments) in one scene, but otherwise her stoic demeanor is frankly dull throughout.
THE MARVELS looks mahvelous, as Billy Crystal’s SNL character Fernando would say (outdated reference lost on younger readers), with its incredible cinematography by Sean Bobbit (another Academy Award winner), that presents eye-popping visuals of space stations, alien terrains, and cats with tenacles coming from their mouths that can devour whole human beings, and such sights can surely amuse.
But the action surrounding that doesn’t excite, and worse, the comedy that should be the saving grace is awkward, and clunky AF. This latest Marvel offering doesn’t improve on the last entry, ANT MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA (Lord, I hate that title!), and makes me weary of considering what’s to come. There’s no way this Marvel machine is gonna stop, but maybe some flops like these will slow it down so some quality control can be instigated. Here’s hoping because even Samuel L. Jackson, here playing Nick Fury for the umpteenth time (15th, I think), can’t even muster much edge for this beyond played out material.