As with many studio-produced girl groups, the women leading “The Marvels” are carefully styled, wear coordinated outfits during their big numbers, have some brilliantly choreographed moves and, having clearly spent time in rehearsals, know how to harmonize (more or less). The group was created for maximum financial opportunity, familiarity and connectivity, and for this instrumental purpose, it delivers exactly what you expect from it and not one thing, idea or victory more. His members are pleasant even when they look their fiercest, and so unrelieved it feels like an insult, especially to all the women here who do so much hard work.
It is the 33rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which continues to expand even as its cultural interest and resonance has waned. Miracles will dominate the box office, of course, at least in its opening weekend, just because it will flood theaters. It’s pointless to complain, I know (trust me), but it’s disappointing how weak this movie is, because director Nia DaCosta (“Little Woods,” “Candyman”) has talent, the cast is attractive, and there’s a slightly gonzo scene that shows you what the remaining 100 minutes could be. It’s as if the suits at Marvel Studios know that it doesn’t matter if their movies are good.
Brie Larson once again stars as Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, a former Air Force pilot who inadvertently gained superpowers once. She continued to fly through the decades, albeit sometimes without a ship, drifting through space and fighting alongside the Avengers while maintaining her sweetly youthful appearance. When she first appears here, she’s hanging out with her scene-stealing orange tabby, Gus (played by Tango and Nemo), on her spaceship, doing something seemingly important. Soon, with Goose perched on one shoulder—no spacesuits here—this very special cat lady heads to a planet and embarks on another over-hyped, over-extended escapade.
This time she’s joined by two superpowered creatures from the small screen: Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel (Iman Velani), a Jersey City (and Disney+) Captain Marvel superfan; and Monica Rambo (Teyonah Parris), an astronaut (introduced as an adult in the “WandaVision” series) who is part of SABER In the interest of moving this review along – and because I had no idea what Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) was doing in space with a bunch of uniformed lackeys (minus barking orders with their usual gruffness) — here’s how the film’s production notes describe SABER: “a space station secretly acting as Earth’s first point of contact and defense against a rapidly expanding universe.”
Written by DaCosta, Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik, “The Marvels” reunites old friends and foes while introducing new characters and developments, all of which will likely be folded into future installments, as is the Marvel way. The big battles and minor tension are mainly generated by the villainous Dar-Ben (Zawee Ashton), the ruler (or, in Marvel parlance, the Supreme) of the Kree people; she wields a powerful hammer and harbors a grudge against Captain Marvel. In one of the larger sets, Dar-Ben takes brutal aim at other enemies. As terrified men, women and children flee and buildings fall, the scene briefly evokes visions of our world that the film otherwise stubbornly ignores.
As is always the case with Marvel directors, DaCosta’s main job seems to be keeping the greased gears moving as she folds in countless close-ups of happy, sad and crazy faces, all of which are meant to remind viewers that their heroes are just like us, only super. To emphasize this point, Kamala’s fandom goes on too long; the heroine draws images of her idol when the film opens and a little later wears a T-shirt emblazoned with the image of Captain Marvel. Once the character calms down, so does Velani, an engaging performer with comic timing who bounces off both Larson and Paris well. They, in turn, are given an unfortunate surrogate mother-daughter dynamic that is thankfully underdeveloped because all you really want to do is watch Goose, which is really golden.
Rated PG-13 for bloodless cartoon violence. Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes. In the theaters.