The MCU's latest entry is a fun space adventure with heart.
After hearing all the backlash against The Marvels, I went into it braced for disappointment. I walked out wondering if those critics had seen the same movie I had. The Marvels is an entertaining, wholesome, and all-around fun space adventure. The fact that it has three kick-butt female superheroes is just icing on the cake. The kids and I loved it.
The film begins with the three heroes off in their own corners of the galaxy. Carol (Captain Marvel) is in her spaceship, chilling with her alien cat and trying to dig up more of her lost memories. Monica Rambeau is on a space station with Nick Fury, and Kamala Khan (Miss Marvel) is in her bedroom sketching a Captain Marvel fan comic.
Side note: Some have complained that you had to see the various Disney+ series to understand the film, but that wasn't the case for me. Why is Nick Fury on a space station? Why are the Skrulls seeking a peace treaty with the Kree? How did Monica get powers? No clue, but it didn't affect my enjoyment of the movie at all. It's easy enough to just accept those things and move on. Maybe I would have connected more with Monica and Kamala if I'd seen their respective shows, but they were both introduced in an accessible and relatable way.
When a baddie gets hold of a long-lost artifact—the partner to Kamala's bracelet—she causes a space anomaly that "entangles" the powers of the three heroes and causes them to switch places unpredictably. After some hilarious hijinks, including priceless reactions from Kamala ending up in space and Carol ending up in Kamala's bedroom, the three team up to stop the baddie.
As they work together, Carol has to deal with both Kamala's hero worship and a past shared trauma with Monica. This brings welcome depth to her character, whose amnesia in Captain Marvel prevented us from really getting to know her. The movie's short runtime doesn't leave enough room to fully explore these relationships, but their interactions elevate the movie into more than just your standard "save the world" McGuffin-chase. They also let Brie Larson flex her impressive acting chops. The reaction when she sees all the Captain Marvel fan art plastered in Kamala's bedroom? Priceless.
As Kamala, Iman Vellani is an absolute joy to watch. While the plot is arguably more about Carol, Kamala's infectious enthusiasm makes her the heart of the story. Teyonah Parris is cool as Monica, though I feel she's underutilized here compared to the other two. In supporting roles, Kamala's family is the perfect mix of heart-warming concern and comic relief, and Samuel L. Jackson reminds us that he's just as good doing comedy as he is kicking butt.
Genuinely curious why the movie got so roundly panned, I scoured reviews online to find out why. With about as many 1-star reviews as 5-star ones, the response seems weirdly polarized for a film with an 83% fresh Audience Rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics raise valid concerns about the movie's pacing, special effects, character development, and campy tone. While I didn't think any of those things were particularly bad, I can at least respect their opinions.
Unfortunately, these reasonable reviewers are drowned out by a veritable armada of 1-star trolls just yelling about how Disney has ruined the MCU with its "wokeness" and "forced diversity." Their core argument seems to be that comic book audiences are mostly teenage boys, so a movie aimed more towards teenage girls is an abomination that rightly deserves to fail. I call BS on that.
For starters, various polls and studies have shown that women make up anywhere from 25% to 45% of comic book and comic movie audiences. While that's not the majority, it's not a tiny fraction either. From a moral standpoint, minorities deserve movies too. From a business standpoint, there's every reason to believe that audience can grow. Wonder Woman and the original Captain Marvel both did really well at the box office. Clearly there's a market here.
Also, I think it's very insulting to teen boys to assume they couldn't possibly relate to a movie featuring women. Women sci-fi/fantasy fans have been doing the reverse for decades. If I can love Captain America, why can't my son love Captain Marvel? In fact, I saw The Marvels with my son and a bunch of his teen friends, and they really enjoyed it. While that's just one anecdote, I think the kids are all right. It's the adults who need to chill.
And to lay its box office failure solely on gender politics seems willfully obtuse. There are many factors all hitting at once—the actors' strike, Marvel over-saturation, the general decline of theater attendance, and the seismic impact of streaming services. For me personally, it takes a really special movie or event to get me to the theater when I can just wait a month or so and see it at home on Disney+. I wouldn't even have seen this one in theaters if it weren't for a birthday party.
I just think it's a shame that such an earnest, fun movie is taking a beating from all directions. These heroes deserved better.
Oh, and the cat scene (no spoilers - you'll know it when you see it) was the funniest thing I've seen in a movie in recent memory.
- Princess Power:
- Bechdel Test: Pass
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