4K ULTRA HD REVIEW:
Street Date 2/13/24;
Box Office $84.5 million;
$29.99 DVD, $36.99 Blu-ray, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for action/violence and brief language.
Stars Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton, Gary Lewis, Seo-Jun Park, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh, Samuel L. Jackson.
There’s no disputing it anymore. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has lost its way.
The Marvels, the 33rd film in the MCU, is just the latest stumbling block for a franchise trying to rediscover its creative focus following the immense success of the “Infinity Saga” that concluded with Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Almost all the films of the three phases that constituted the Infinity Saga were notable for being able to not only introduce new characters and ideas to the audience, but also tell compelling stories that were also clearly building into a larger narrative in a way that excited viewers and fueled anticipation for the next installment. With that first big story arc having concluded, the attempts to follow it up have been muddled at best, lacking in a discernable direction or stakes to sufficiently fuel the fans’ enthusiasm. Further diluting the brand with a string of television projects that vary widely in quality hasn’t helped. In fact the best MCU content the past few years has been either largely unconnected to the wider franchise or wrapping up loose ends from the Infinity Saga.
Primarily a sequel to 2019’s Captain Marvel, The Marvels is the 10th MCU movie since the beginning of “Phase Four,” otherwise known as the “Multiverse Saga.” But it’s also a sequel to several of the MCU’s Disney+ limited series, including 2021’s WandaVision, 2022’s Ms. Marvel, and last year’s awful Secret Invasion, which might as well not exist given how much its storylines are ignored by The Marvels. Even so, that’s a lot of background material for casual viewers to keep track of.
The main thrust of The Marvels is to team Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), aka Captain Marvel, with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), seen as a kid in Captain Marvel but imbued with photonic powers in WandaVision, and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), the title hero from Ms. Marvel who is empowered by a magical bracelet of mysterious origins.
They meet due to the entanglement of their powers causing them to switch places following some manipulation of an interstellar travel network by the Kree villain Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), who wants to restore her homeworld, which was devastated by a civil war caused by Captain Marvel in the 1990s-set aftermath of her solo movie. Her plan is essentially the plot of Spaceballs — steal the air and resources from other planets to rebuild her own.
With some coordination by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the three marvels are able to team up to confront Dar-Benn and put a halt to her campaign of collateral damage.
The movie eventually gets to where the MCU needs it to go in terms of setting up future storylines, but it’s not a smooth ride to get there. Dar-Benn ends up being one of the most forgettable antagonists in the canon, the tonal shifts of the story are jarring, and too many of the key setpieces are just plain goofy. First, there’s a planet where the population communicates through musical numbers, which just seems like the writers being too clever for their own good. Then, later in the film comes a comedic subplot involving alien cats that doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose other than keep Nick Fury, Kamala’s family and the rest of the supporting cast busy.
The most memorable aspect of The Marvels is the chemistry between the three heroes as they reluctantly learn to act as a team, the highlight being the endearing energy exuded by Vellani as Kamala, a die-hard fan of Carol who just seems happy to be involved. Ultimately, the film’s best assets are a pair of epilogue scenes that tease an expansion of the MCU that fans have been anticipating, including a cute callback to Iron Man that begins to address the slew of younger heroes being gradually introduced the past few years. Hopefully with some time to reassess Marvel can coalesce these threads into the higher tiers of entertainment quality the studio has proved capable of in the past.
The Blu-ray of The Marvels includes a smattering of extras that give viewers the gist of the making of the film. The 11-minute “Entangled” is the primary behind-the-scenes featurette, supplemented by five minutes of production diaries focused on amusing stories from the set.
Director and co-writer Nia DaCosta joins VFX supervisor Tara DeMarco for a feature-length commentary track punctuated mostly by comic book fan DaCosta’s excitement for the project.
There are also four decent deleted scenes that run a total of about six minutes, and a two-minute gag reel.
In the 4K combo pack, the commentary is included on both the 4K disc and the regular Blu-ray, while the rest of the extras are contained on just the Blu-ray.
Interestingly, the Disney+ streaming service includes an hour-long making-of The Marvels documentary as part of its “Marvel Studios: Assembled” series that, while using some common footage, offers a lot more detail than the featurettes included on the disc.