It’s been a while since I walked out of a theater after watching a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie and found myself feeling absolutely delighted.
As a reviewer, I don’t like to focus on the negative, but at least for me, too many of the recent Marvel movies have missed the mark, at least somewhat. (And the less we say about Secret Invasion over on Disney+, the better.)
So I was quite pleased that I adored The Marvels — although I am sad it’s not gaining more traction at the box office (but more on that later).
I was pretty sure I was going to love The Marvels when I saw that it starred Iman Vellani, who first appeared as Ms. Marvel over on Disney+. That show is one of my favorite Marvel stories, and I was so excited to see this character on the big screen. And of course, as a lifelong lover of cats, there is not just one Flerken in this movie but many Flerkens to squeal over. (Minor spoiler here: My heart just absolutely melted at all the baby kitten Flerkens running around the spaceship, and I loved watching Nick Fury be as equally captivated by them as I was.)
I loved the team up between Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris). The action and CGI were solid (something that’s been lacking in some of the recent MCU flicks), and the balance between humor and more serious/emotional moments was handled well. I didn’t really love Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 for a variety of reasons, and this movie kind of made up for my disappointment at that experience. The Marvels was the fun, feel-good adventure/action movie I needed.
There’s a song and dance number that somehow works, and the idea of three superheroes uncontrollably swapping superpowers is so cool and was filmed beautifully. The villain’s characterization is paper-thin, but it didn’t bother me as much because I appreciated the film’s tight, under-two-hour runtime.
As to why this movie isn’t doing better at the box office (or getting better critical reviews), I think that, for better or for worse, The Marvels is very reliant on all the material that has come before it. As in, if you haven’t seen (at bare minimum) Captain Marvel and the Disney+ shows WandaVision and Ms. Marvel, you’re probably going to feel pretty lost. As a long-time fan, I enjoyed these tie-ins, but more casual fans maybe decided to give this one a pass because they weren’t sure what it was about.
Should the MCU go back to more simple-to-follow crowd pleasers that don’t require so much homework? Or should they dial back their expectations a bit (as well as their budgets) and just focus on stories that appeal to the core audience, who are more than happy to watch 33 MCU movies (and counting).
I don’t know what the right answer to this is, and I kinda hope that maybe there’s a place for both? It would be fun to have big budget blockbusters that draw in the general public and get people talking like the past Avengers movies, but I also want to see more smaller, interconnected stories like Ms. Marvel’s and Monica Rambeu’s.