“What the hell is going on?!” erupts Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury within the opening moments of The Marvels. It’s a sentiment that echoed through my mind as I embarked on Nia DaCosta’s (Candyman) cinematic journey, a sequel of sorts to 2019’s Captain Marvel that attempts to thread the narrative needle through the vast expanse of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Buckle up, folks; we’re in for a ride that struggles to maintain coherence across its relatively brief running time.
In essence, The Marvels can be likened to a space-faring Freaky Friday, introducing a seemingly straightforward premise. Picture this: Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), her ardent admirer Kamala Khan, or Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), and her de facto niece Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), swapping places each time they unleash their light-infused powers. Sounds like a cosmic cakewalk, right?
Well, think again. The execution of this seemingly simple premise becomes a convoluted dance through space, time, and multiple dimensions. A single fight scene unfolds across a Kree battleship, Khan’s terrestrial abode, and the orbiting space station S.A.B.E.R., resulting in a kaleidoscope of chaotic confusion. The film struggles to find its footing, leaving both characters and audiences disoriented.
Clarity, however, emerges when our trio of heroines joins forces. A vibrant montage showcases their exploration of the potential inherent in their power-swapping abilities. Picture them engaging in activities like ball-juggling and rope-skipping, a delightful glimpse into the camaraderie that could have formed the bedrock of this female-led Marvel mash-up. It’s a shining moment, but alas, it also epitomises the film’s tendency to introduce compelling ideas only to swiftly cast them aside.
Consider a sequence on a sun-drenched, lush blue and green planet where we are told that the inhabitants communicate through song, a unique, if a little cringey, concept. Unfortunately, this musical gimmick is abandoned after a single, rather uninspiring number and skirted around with exposition and plot convenience.
Similarly, the Skrull refugees, initially positioned as potential catalysts for significant plot developments, fade into the cosmic background once their need to move the plot along has ended. Their abrupt disappearance raises questions about the film’s commitment to weaving a tightly-knit and cohesive narrative tapestry – a tapestry that was so important in the earlier stages of this now gargantuan movie universe.
The supposed significance of Kamala’s bracelet, a trinket essential to preserving the Kree’s ailing homeworld, takes a back seat as her ability to conjure hard light seems unaffected, whether the accessory graces her wrist or not. It’s a narrative inconsistency that, rather than adding depth, detracts from the story’s overall cohesion, and suggests trouble is afoot at Marvel.
Amidst the cosmic confusion, a subplot involving eggs birthing a litter of cuddly Flerkittens injects a dose of humour, that sadly is spoilt by poor CGI and too-obvious green screen, a problem impacting the majority of modern Marvel movies. Elsewhere, the villain Dar-Benn’s plan to steal the elements for her home planet feels eerily reminiscent of many other cosmic adventures, though as villains go, she’s not the worst the MCU has thrown at us over the years.
As a franchise regular makes a brief cameo, declaring, “May our next meeting be joyful!” the sentiment resonates with an audience yearning for a more comprehensible encounter with the MCU. In the advanced stages of the MCU’s increasingly intricate history, a plea for clarity becomes more than a mere wish – it’s a necessity.
The camaraderie between Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and Monica Rambeau during their moments of unity is a testament to the potential of a female-led ensemble. The energetic montage, despite its brevity, hints at the chemistry that could have elevated the film into a celebration of empowered heroines navigating the cosmic challenges of the MCU.
However, these glimpses of potential are overshadowed by the film’s inconsistency in tone and narrative focus. The abrupt shifts from lighthearted humor to cosmic drama create a jarring viewing experience. The audience is left oscillating between moments of genuine connection with the characters and bouts of confusion induced by the film’s frenetic pacing.
In the grand tapestry of the MCU, The Marvels seems like a vibrant but unruly thread. It attempts to weave together disparate elements from previous Marvel offerings, including nods to the Disney+ series WandaVision and Ms. Marvel. However, the integration feels forced at times, leaving audiences who may not have delved into every corner of the MCU universe feeling like they missed a crucial memo.
As a standalone cinematic experience, The Marvels demands a certain level of commitment to the broader MCU narrative. For those uninitiated or casually acquainted with the Marvel saga, the film’s cosmic complexities may prove overwhelming. The narrative assumes a level of familiarity with characters and storylines, potentially alienating a segment of the audience that may have approached the film with a more casual curiosity.
In conclusion, The Marvels is a cosmic rollercoaster that, despite its sporadic moments of charm, struggles to maintain coherence across its expansive narrative canvas. The film’s potential is evident in glimpses of camaraderie, humor, and nods to sci-fi classics, but these elements are eclipsed by narrative inconsistencies and a frenetic pace. For die-hard MCU enthusiasts, it may offer a dizzying ride through familiar territory. However, for those seeking a more accessible and self-contained cinematic experience, navigating the cosmic labyrinth of The Marvels may prove to be a challenging endeavor.