Yikes! This Thanksgiving’s holiday blockbuster from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is NOT a biopic depicting the domestic situation of metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell, but a sequel to the 2019 film Captain Marvel, as well as a continuation of the television or possibly steaming show Ms Marvel. Confused? We’ve not even started yet. So let’s head over to Wikipedia, where we’ll get a tight, no-nonsense synopsis of what all this is about, right? It’s a kids film, so shouldn’t be too hard for us to understand…
‘Dar-Benn, the new leader of the Kree, retrieves one of the Quantum Bands, of which Kamala Khan has the other half. Dar-Benn harnesses the power of the Band to tear open a jump point in space. The resulting anomaly is discovered by S.W.O.R.D. Meanwhile, Nick Fury, now residing at the S.A.B.E.R. space station, hosts peace talks between the Kree and the Skrulls. Monica Rambeau investigates a jump point anomaly near S.A.B.E.R. while Carol Danvers investigates the source of the anomaly, where Dar-Benn found the Quantum Band. When Rambeau touches the anomaly…’
I’ve previously included parts of the Wiki plot summery on recent reviews for Dr Strange and his Sh*tbag Emporium of Multiverse Magic and Ant Man; Quadrophenia, and for the same snarky purpose; to demonstrate how profoundly alienating this over-plotted gumbo is for the casual film-goer who just wants to see stars, jokes, story and effects. ‘Confusion is the first step on the journey to knowledge,’ says a character late on in Nia DaCosta’s widely mocked film, but in this case, it’s just confusion. The Marvels starts with such a guddle of flashbacks to previous movies and films that it’s well nigh impossible to know if you’ve even seen what they’re flashing back to; if it’s about Skrulls and Krees, you probably deleted it from your memory hole, and yes, you ARE getting tested on this.
I couldn’t make much of The Marvels while I was watching, and even my notes aren’t helping much to contextualise lines like ‘It seems the surge has had some residual effect on the jump point,’ as the newly married Captian Marvel (Brie Larson) joins up with, checks notes, Ms Marvel (Iman Vellani) and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) to venture to a Skrull refugee colony on the planet Tampax, and an eventual confrontation with, hold on, it’s all coming back to me now…Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) with the fate of magical portal-opening bangles at stake. ‘How many chapters of Captain Marvel fan fiction are we in?,’ offers someone, and I’ve got no answer to that.
Before you can say self-indulgent, did we mention that The Marvels is partly a musical, and takes place on a planet where everyone communicates in song? That there are cats which can turn into a carnivorous octopus and there’s an action montage set to Memory from Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber? Ms Marvel seems star-struck with plain old Nick Fury, but Captain Marvel sure ain’t, addressing him as ‘One-Eye’ which isn’t really a great way to teach kids about disability. It’s all just the usual actors adrift in front of green screen nonsense, with barely a hint of daylight or recognisable human behaviour, and lots of eye-rolling dialogue like ‘Your daughter is the hero that saved Jersey City.’
On the t’internet, Stephen King suggested that the sudden post-Marvels pile-on to dance of the grave of the expiring MCU has been unseemly, and he’s probably right, but the creators unwisely moved away from the populist, bubblegum feel of the original films and replaced them with something else that audiences don’t seem to care for. As a film, The Marvels seems to have been radically cut down from something even worse, and there’s barely 90 minutes of film here; the damage to the MCU brand was already done by widely-seen utter duds like The Eternals. Will Ms Marvel form a new, Justice Society super-group with Ant-Man’s daughter and Kate something or other? That’s the meagre promise the end-credits are teasing if you last that long, and if you’re genuinely interested in the answer, good luck with that. 2023’s game-changing Barbenheimer demonstrated that today’s audiences dig personable, relevant, single use movies, and flogging an endless line of such robotic, idiotic comic-book antics can’t help but feel like yesterday’s socials.