The Marvel Cinematic Universe has ballooned to such a degree that The Marvels represents an excess of the lore. Here is a film that requires you to not only be familiar with the films Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, but the TV shows WandaVision, Ms. Marvel, and Secret Invasion. Mind you, this is all required to understand the plot, not enjoy it. What might’ve been bonuses for comic book fans of past films has become so standard that a surprisingly dull superhero plot is needlessly complicated with its cinematic universe connections, making its bursts of fun lesser.
There’s no introduction here for the newbies who may only be familiar with Captain Marvel. The plot starts immediately where Ms. Marvel left off when the titular teenage superhero, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), somehow magically switches places with Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers (Brie Larson). At the same time, Monica Rambeou (Teyonah Parris), having gained her powers from WandaVision, is now working on a space station with Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) semi-secret organization of S.A.B.E.R. There’s no time to get used to any of these characters, as they’re immediately launched into a plot of their powers merging together.
This film hits the ground running so hard that even the astute will find it difficult to keep up. I can only imagine how someone being absent from Marvel’s many movies and TV shows for even a year would be able to comprehend. The chaotic editing of the many fights leaves little room to explore the regrets of Carol’s intergalactic political actions, Monica’s grief for losing her mother during the blip, or the genuine fangirling of Kamala. Their few attempts at chemistry always feel cut short by some new development in the plot, and it’s not exactly a plot worth following.
The villain is an absolute snooze-fest of a predictable and stock antagonist. Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) is a Kree warrior seeking revenge for her people, taking on the same weapon and stance as Ronin, the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy. She wants to save her people by assaulting other planets out of fear of the Kree losing their resources. We never get to spend much time with her or feel more for her plight because there’s not much time for anything in this film. Even the addition of Kamala’s family as comedic backup feels too much, considering how little they add to the banter or the story.
It’s only when the film slows down for some weird asides that it finally becomes enjoyable. One of the planets that the three Marvels venture to is a place where everybody has a sublime means of communicating. Another absurd segment features S.A.B.E.R. utilizing the bizarre nature of the alien cat Goose and her tentacle-laden mouth that can swallow things whole. But just when it feels like the film has found something fun to do, it’s gone too soon, so the story can return to the ho-hum save-the-world plot loaded with technobabble and underdeveloped arcs.
The Marvels crowd the screen with too much going on in its tight running time to appreciate any of the characters, sci-fi elements, or man-eating cats. In bits and pieces, there are some good moments and even some fine performances of the core three heroes, especially with Ms. Marvel being a highlight for showing enthusiasm. But it’s hard to appreciate the charming weirdness when it’s buried under the mountains of monotonous minutes that comprise the messiest of save-the-world plots, far too chaotic for a plot that should be simple enough for breathing room. It didn’t help that I watched Poor Things, a fantastic film brimming with weirdness, the previous night. If that film were a bountiful feast of weird, The Marvels is a Tupperware of microwaved two-day-old leftovers.