The Marvels Movie Review: Yet another harmless clone from the MCU assembly line
Rating:(2 / 5)
You might have probably heard of the phrase, ‘Saved by the bell’. It is used in boxing when a player is narrowly saved from losing the match or getting knocked out when the bell is rung and the time runs out. The phrase immediately pops up in your mind when the credits start rolling on The Marvels and you realise how you couldn’t have bothered to watch a minute more of the film. Reported to have the shortest runtime for any Marvel film so far, The Marvels seems to have read the metaphorical ‘room’ of the Marvel fandom and thankfully understands that a shorter runtime was the only antidote to the mounting indifference to MCU’s recent outings. However, they could have also tried their hand at a better screenplay and not tried to inflate an already bloated franchise but here we are.
Director: Nia Dacosta
Cast: Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton
The sequel to Captain Marvel starts off lithe and energetic. The premise is enough to hold our attention and the film never takes the eyes off the central knot of the film from the get-go. Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel finds herself switching places with Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan every time any of them uses their superpowers. Now, the trio must figure out how their superpowers are entangled while also trying to stop one of those factory-made, notoriously forgettable Marvel supervillains. While the entire film is constructed around Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, it is Iman Vellani’s earnest attempt at playing the quirky, energetic teenage superhero Kamala Khan, that leaves a strong imprint on your memory. Even if the character doesn’t work for you, Vellani’s focused performance leaves you charmed. On the other hand, it seems like the Academy Award-winner Brie Larson tries her best to conceal her apathy towards the film but it unfortunately seeps through whenever the script demands a smidgen above the bare minimum out of her. On a scale of Iman Vellani to Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris’ performance as Monica Rambeau lies somewhere in the middle as she struggles to care while still being throttled by a story that gives her barely anything to do until the very end.
The characters spell out their motivations and resolve them in the same fashion. If the dialogues were any simpler, the characters would sound like cavemen. However, the humour is not as overbearing and grating as Marvel’s last few films. There are brief flashes of ingenuity in the writing, like when Goose the Cat and her Lovercraftian face-tentacles are used for more than just a comedic effect. The film takes a curious detour in the middle, where director Nia Dacosta tries turning a pivotal sequence into a musical. While any detour from Marvel’s all-too-familiar formula would be a welcome change at this point, we can probably rule out musicals from the list of experimentations we can subject the MCU to.
The act of pointing out Marvel’s ongoing issue with its ‘weak antagonists’ is as tiresome as the problem itself. Zawe Ashton’s Dar-Benn is a Kree warrior who plots revenge against Captain Marvel for the injustice done to her people while also trying to save her dying planet. The design of her character, along with her motivations, make it seem like they should work, at least on paper, but it never raises above the level of a villain-of-the-week in a Power Ranger episode.
Much like the universe we live in, the Marvel Cinematic Universe can only expand so large before it starts crumbling under the weight of its own gravity. The audience cannot be expected to catch up on spin-off series and sequels to understand peripheral characters. Kevin Feige has remarkably spearheaded the expansion of the franchise for more than ten years but the universe is starting to burst at the seams. While we do see the universe coming apart, The Marvels is not where Marvel tests the last of your patience. The Marvels is soulless but it is also a harmless compendium of colourful visuals, good enough reasons for superhero fights, and a couple of chuckles, that is best enjoyed in the peripheries of your focus.