SMART MOVIE REVIEW: The Marvels

Published 11:43 am Monday, November 27, 2023

Now playing at the B&B Theaters in the Vicksburg Mall, the latest from the Marvel Cinematic Universe arrives to little fanfare. While the film itself is perfectly enjoyable like most MCU fair, the story surrounding the film actually holds more interest than the work itself.

Nia DaCosta co-writes and directs this film: a quasi -equel to 2019’s Captain Marvel and the MCU streaming shows, Ms. Marvel and WandaVision.  The film is a bit of a jumbled mess, doing its best to pull these disparate strands together with sequences greatly reduced in order to make the film a bit breezier.  The film mostly succeeds at this, powering itself off of Iman Vellani’s enthusiasm as Ms. Marvel and Teyonah Parris’s undeniable charisma as Captain Rambeau.  Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, unfortunately gets shackled with stoic hero that has little dimension to play. This issue plagues many MCU leads, even ones as talented as Brie Larson or Benedict Cumberbatch.

The film has moments of really inspired peculiarity, a musical interlude being a highlight, but the film represents many of the ways Marvel has disappointed audiences lately. Perception is a major factor in how art can be received.  The MCU, having previously been considered top-tier blockbuster entertainment, now has been tagged with losing the plot. The critical community’s discussion around these films being weightless spectacle further harms the way the public views their value to the cinematic landscape.  Is The Marvels any worse than a down-the-middle MCU film of the past?  No. Besides the obvious racism and misogyny from some folks kicking this film, the MCU’s trend down also tags The Marvels perception and obscures many of its successes.

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When things are mostly firing on all cylinders, that collective perception of the MCU elevates everything under that banner.  The inverse being the case now was makes the climb out that much more difficult.  Will the next MCU movie that if released in 2015 would garner acclaim be enough to brush off the cultural stink surrounding the brand?  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was just idiosyncratic enough to garner praise (its isolation from the larger MCU narrative certainly helps). The GotG films have always been a bright spot for the MCU, with the MCU’s best work typically sharing that self-contained identity, but with so much being connected now, it seems as if those closed worlds will become much more rare.

And that ultimately hurts The Marvels, a fun romp that has to satisfy the masters that came before it.  Even in moments where it contradicts the “continuity” for the sake of this film, it feels incorrect no matter how much it works in the moment.  In the end, if you enjoy the MCU, you will enjoy The Marvels.  If not, maybe stay away.  Just go watch Ms. Marvel on Disney+; it’s wonderful.

Ian Omar Smart is a graduate of Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University with a degree in architecture. When he’s not drawing buildings, he’s probably at the movies. Smart can be contacted at isiansmart@gmail.com.