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The Marvels (2023) Review

This is a review for the 2023 movie “The Marvels”. After a decade of being on top, Marvel is starting to look vulnerable. The studio giant has had a rough few years, but their latest blockbuster has proven to be their weakest performance yet, Box Office-wise. With the weakest North American opening for any MCU film so far, it’s clear that something has gone wrong here. The question of the hour is: is The Marvels a bad movie, or was it just in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Don’t say the “F word”

The “F word” being, in this case, “fatigue”. With Marvel, DC and Sony all starting to pump out superhero movies at an insane rate – many have been anticipating “superhero fatigue” for years. For the longest time, it was a phrase that made people look like fools. The passionate MCU haters would cheer “fatigue!” at every loss, only to have mud on their face when the next big win arrived. After the poor performance that was Eternals, came the smash hit Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Yet, this year has felt different. Marvel opened the year with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – a movie which currently sits in 106th out of the 115 movies that I have seen released this year. It was a movie that critics hated and fans were left underwhelmed by. Fans hoped it would be the movie that would tie together the messy Phase 4. Instead, they were given a lacklustre Rick and Morty episode; which made the latest big bad look like a chump. Marvel had some losses early on (Thor: The Dark World) and took some risks that didn’t pay off (Eternals), but they were starting to fumble movies that had been believed to be sure-fire successes. Ant-Man 3 could be forgiven in situ, but it came after a disappointing Doctor Strange sequel and another failure in Thor 4. Marvel was no longer a seal of guaranteed quality.

Alongside this, DC Studios have been in meltdown. They’ve had an even worse year than Marvel – releasing Shazam 2, The Flash and Blue Beetle; all of which struggled to take off, to varying levels of embarrassment. It would be easy to look at these performances and think that the era of superheroes is over. That could be the correct conclusion.

This year has had successes, of course, in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3, but Spider-Man has always been a different beast; and even Guardians 3 looked like it could’ve been a disappointing flop, if not for the great reviews that it received from fans.

So, what does all of this have to do with The Marvels? It means that it’s a movie that’s entering a very different playing field to it’s semi-predecessor Captain Marvel, which released in 2019 – at the very height of Infinity War / Endgame mania. People aren’t turning up to the movies to see a superhero they’ve never heard of; so that they can understand the next big team-up movie anymore.

What is The Marvels (2023)?

As mentioned, The Marvels is a sequel to the 2019 film Captain Marvel. However, it’s also a follow-up to the 2022 Disney+ series “Ms Marvel” and the 2021 Disney+ series “Wandavision”, with a character from each joining forces with Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel to save the day.

Initially slated for a summer release, it was pushed back to November – presumably in panic at the reaction to the previously mentioned Ant-Man movie; the subsequent edits and cuts likely being the explanation for the film being the shortest ever MCU movie, coming in at 1 hour 45 minutes.

Our three heroes – a cosmic lone ranger superhero, a space-exploring agent of Nick Fury and a teen girl obsessed with the former – being bound by some cosmo nonsense that means that every time they use their powers; they switch places. As they investigate this disturbance, they become aware of a greater plan; as an enemy is stealing resources from planets to salvage her own.

Despite the serious plot, that’s played (for the most part) straight – it takes a very goofy tone, focusing a lot more on the interactions between the leading ladies, rather than the impending doom they face.

It’s fun…

If you read a lot of online reactions from this movie, the most common positive word that you will see to describe it is “fun”. I would agree with that statement, it’s a fun time. Yet, there’s something shallow about that. “Fun” is a word often used to describe movies that lack depth and substance, but cover that up with a fast pace and nods to fans. I can’t think of a better case in point than this year’s Super Mario movie – which was the most uninspired, cookie cutter movie possible; but was defended by fans as “fun”… presumably because they got to point at the screen and say “oh my goodness, it’s Funky Kong!”.

And yet, when I look at some of my favourite comedy movies this year – such as No Hard Feelings or Bottoms: “fun” seems like an accurate description. I wouldn’t say either movie is particularly deep and while they do excel in other areas, the enjoyment and pleasure that the scripts for both bring is undoubtedly the highlight.

The Marvels left me feeling a lot more like No Hard Feelings, than it did Super Mario. I think this movie works as a comedy movie, I really do. Iman Vellani (who plays Ms Marvel) is the absolute star of the show, with her family bringing the most laughs. The funniest moment, however, does not come from any of the human actors – and comes alongside one of the most incredible needle-drops of all time. I cannot bring myself to spoil it, but it’s genuinely one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen in a movie all year.

There’s just one problem…

Marvel fans don’t like fun.

It’s a dramatic heading, but there’s some truth in it. A more accurate heading might be “Marvel fans aren’t looking for fun, right now”.

This is the third movie in Marvel’s Phase 5. The most common criticism of the former Phase 4 was that it lacked direction, teasing a lot of projects that still haven’t come to fruition. Marvel is producing a lot of content right now, but it’s not tying any of it together, or at least not doing so as perfectly as it used to. Fans have invested hundreds of hours into this universe, they are watching to see it develop; but time after time, they’re sitting through a mediocre TV show or movie, just to see a teaser for a better movie at the end. There’s no trust in the overall plan.

While a lighter comedy might appear to a more casual “fan”, like myself, I can also appreciate that it’s going to be underwhelming to somebody who just wants the next Avengers film. If the MCU was a TV show, this would be a skippable filler episode, and I can see why that would disappoint some fans.

The Marvels does its own set of teasing, setting up two major future projects – though even they seem disconnected from the main arc of the story right now, which is about Khan and his multiversal crusade.

So, it’s a movie for casual fans. That’s fine, too, they can generate box office – all is saved! Except…

Casual fans don’t like homework.

I would love to recommend this movie to some of the people I know, because I do genuinely believe that it is a funny romp – which even somebody who has hated every Marvel before now has the potential of enjoying. The problem is that the movie makes itself a very hard sell.

“So, the three main characters are from three separate properties – including two TV shows and a movie, which also sets the scenes for the major conflict of the film. To understand one of those TV shows, you will have also needed to watch pretty much every prior Marvel film; as that show deals with the fall-out of Infinity War. Don’t worry, though, you’ll get the gist of it!”

It’s a tough ask, but the most painful part is – it’s not necessary. The movie handholds you through all three characters’ origins up until now, to the point where even if you haven’t seen anything – you’ll be able to follow along, to some extent. It also helps if, like me, you are sat next to two very talkative men; with one constantly asking the other “who’s that?”.

Who should watch The Marvels?

If you’re already invested in the MCU, I would not recommend skipping this one. It’s an hour and 45 minutes, it’s the length of two episodes of a Disney+ show and five times as a enjoyable. If you don’t vibe with the comedy, you’ll at least get the plot advancement of the last five minutes.

If you aren’t onboard the MCU train, I can see why you wouldn’t be interested. I don’t think this movie works fully standalone, but it very nearly could. I guess if your friends are dragging you to see it, don’t be too nervous – you’ll probably have an okay time.

Rating: 6.5 / 10

This was a review of the 2023 movie “The Marvels”. Do you agree with this review? Let us know in the comments below.

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