The Marvels Review

A light and loose entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that teases some big events in future films without delivering much else.

Last Updated on November 21, 2023

PLOT: Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel has reclaimed her identity from the tyrannical Kree and taken revenge on the Supreme Intelligence. But unintended consequences see Carol shouldering the burden of a destabilized universe. When her duties send her to an anomalous wormhole linked to a Kree revolutionary, her powers become entangled with that of Jersey City super-fan, Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, and Carol’s estranged niece, now S.A.B.E.R. astronaut Captain Monica Rambeau. Together, this unlikely trio must team-up and learn to work in concert to save the universe.

REVIEW: In 2019, Captain Marvel became the first female-led superhero movie to cross a billion dollars at the box office and garnered a decent critical response while simultaneously getting review bombed on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. The four years since have not been easy-going for Marvel Studios as the pandemic derailed their box office momentum. With a talented director in Nia DaCosta and a trio of heroes combining the MCU’s big screen and Disney+ properties, The Marvels has just not built the buzz that the studio was hoping for. Having seen the film, I can say that it is one of the most strangely structured MCU movies to date. Clocking in well under two hours, The Marvels never quite comes together satisfactorily and instead relies on some significant teases at the end to justify audiences checking it out on the big screen. Aside from those unrelated moments, this sequel underwhelms in every way and is yet another mediocre offering from the formerly top-tier Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Marvels review

Having regularly watched and reviewed Marvel Studios’ offerings over the years, I am no stranger to the varying quality of their output. But, I have always believed that even mediocre Marvel is still Marvel. I also enjoyed Captain Marvel quite a bit when it came out four years ago, thanks mainly to Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s callbacks to 1990s pop culture and a solid lead turn from Brie Larson. After small turns in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame and a cameo in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we have not seen Larson in the MCU outside of a tease in Ms. Marvel. Capitalizing on that moment, The Marvels wastes no time as it jumps right into the plot, which finds Kree soldier Darr-Ben (Zawe Ashton), now leading a group of Kree extremists trying to find a mythical bangle that alerts Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), now the leader of S.A.B.E.R. Aboard the space station he left for the underwhelming Secret Invasion limited series, Fury communicates with Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as the interstellar portals built post-Endgame begin acting strangely. That is when, as shown in the trailers, the entangled abilities of Danvers, Rambeau, and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) make the trio switch places whenever using their powers.

Once their powers teleport the three heroes into each other’s place, it offers a fun energy to the fight sequences that began, giving me hope that this movie may be about to pull something off. The twist works in the action-oriented moments, but the charm quickly disappears. The most character development we get between Carol Danvers and Monica Rambeau comes from the latter holding a grudge that Captain Marvel left and promised to return and never did. The rift between the characters could have been used to help build a stronger relationship between them, but it ends up rushing the reconciliation to get to the next scene. What does take center stage is Kamala’s adoration of her superhero idol. It helps that Iman Vellani is hilarious and brings a cuteness to her performance that is just as charming as Tom Holland’s Peter Parker interacting with Tony Stark. Much of this movie focuses on Kamala and her family, with much of the film feeling like a big-screen Ms. Marvel movie than a sequel to Captain Marvel. Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, and Saagar Shaikh reprise their roles from Ms. Marvel and get enough screen time that you can figure out how they fit into the mix without having watched the Disney+ series. The same goes for Teyonah Parris’ role, which does not require you to have seen WandaVision. Enough is baked into the exposition to make this movie accessible if you have not seen any of the connected MCU films. However, that also means die-hard fans may be bored by the explanations included to catch the average viewer up to what is going on.

Even having seen every MCU series and film to date, I was confused myself with some of the plot decisions here. Without getting into spoiler territory, I can say that The Marvels plays fast and loose with continuity events from prior movies and series, ignoring Secret Invasion almost entirely. The film also struggles with the MCU’s biggest problem since Iron Man, and that is having a decent villain. Zawe Ashton never gets to do much as Dar-Benn other than make some decisions that push the plot along. There is a redemption arc for Captain Marvel that allows her to atone for events that occurred after the first movie, undermining their importance to the character. There are appearances by Skrulls, which also ignores the events of Secret Invasion, which facilitates a cameo from Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie for no reason other than including a familiar MCU face. The movie also includes a sequence on the planet Aladna, involving Prince Yan (Seo-joon Park), which I found to be a fun moment, but I am sure is going to be one of the most divisive sequences in the film.

Director Nia DaCosta became a hot commodity after the critical success of Candyman and promised she would not be a “puppet on a string” when she joined Marvel Studios. Despite co-writing The Marvels alongside WandaVision’s Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik, DaCosta brings almost nothing unique or distinctive to this sequel. There was a tone of lightness and fun in Captain Marvel, which was balanced with some dramatic tension and stakes, something that is all but nonexistent in this film. The Marvels moves so quickly through its 105-minute running time that it never leaves room for any single character to do much but mug for the camera. Samuel L. Jackson has been fully relegated to comic relief as he spends the entirety of the film stuck in a subplot that felt like a riff on the classic Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” The Marvels wastes no time jumping from a cut fight sequence to a quick-cut training montage to another quick-cut fight. The film then culminates with an anticlimactic final battle before spending the last few minutes on a tease of what will come next. I can tell you there is a mid-credit sequence, but no post-credit sequence, but the one scene we get is both confusing as well as very exciting for the most hardcore Marvel fans.

The Marvels review

The Marvels is fun, but ultimately disposable. The big tease that the final trailers have been dropping clues about is not at all what I expected. One works wonderfully well, while the other will leave most audiences scratching their heads. Regardless of those moments, the rest of the film is closer in tone and style to Thor: Love and Thunder, emphasizing humor that is more of a disservice than a benefit. It also feels a lot like Kang’s importance in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania in that the movie seems to be a ninety-minute build-up for the film’s end. I will say that the three main characters work far better together than I could have hoped, and I would love to see them team up again in the future. At the very least, this movie is a proper showcase for Iman Vellani and will hopefully send viewers who skipped Ms. Marvel back to check that series out. While Brie Larson is still good as Captain Marvel, she cannot rescue this movie from itself. With the next MCU project to hit the big screen slated to be Captain America: Brave New World, we have a long way to go for the MCU to try and figure out where they go from here.

The Marvels



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About the Author

5919 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.