The Dark Herald Does Not Recommend: The MarvelsThe Dark Herald
I survived this movie. I have to give it that.
Okay, I’ve survived worse but Antman and the Wasp Quantomania wasn’t deliberately trying to kill me. I’m not sure I can say the same about The Marvels.
I’ve made so many Frankenstein jokes about Disney/Marvel/Star Wars movie scrapbooking. I indeed and truly am out of material when it comes to this new one. That said The Marvels is only utterly incomprehensible if you try to pay attention to it. Let the Kenworth truck-size potholes and continuity errors go by unremarked upon by your conscientious mind, and you will only be dealing with catastrophic boredom.
Plus the cringe. Let’s not forget the cringe because I’m sure my face never will, its cringe muscles still hurt hours later and that is something new for me.
The Marvels is in the profoundly unfortunate position of being the primary inheritor of a tontine of abject failure. The all-downhill slope that produced The Marvels started years ago when Bob Iger was first invited into Ike Perlmutter’s office to discuss a possible merger.
Selling out to a company as fundamentally incapable of thinking outside of any box as The Walt Disney Company should have been a complete non-starter if you cared anything at all about the art of storytelling.
Both Marvel and LucasFilm began a one-way rocket slide trip into a cliff face after Trump was elected. Marvel’s fall was held off a little longer than Star Wars because they had a pre-existing pipeline of good movies in production. However, disaster finally arrived with Captain Marvel in March of 2019.
No Marvel movie had ever been really great but they had at least been narratively satisfying, good popcorn entertainment. Captain Marvel wasn’t good at all. It was the first Marvel film that felt like it had been astroturfed into popularity.
Captain Marvel started life just after Wonder Woman had become the first major superheroine movie which freaked out the increasingly politicized Marvel Studios. For a company as completely ideologically captured as The Walt Disney to have come in second place in the feminist Olympics must have been intolerable. There appears to have been a mad scramble behind the scenes to figure out which superheroine could be used to beat DC back into its place. This revealed a problem because back in 2017 most of Marvel’s A-lister heroines had been farmed out back when Perlmutter and Arad hocked the family jewels to keep the doors open at Marvel.
Carol Danvers was sort of a default because she had been made into the most powerful being in the Marvel universe, despite the fact that she had never been a comic book A-lister. The talking heads went on about how Carol Danvers was going to have a power level that was previously unheard of in the MCU. This revealed a surprising narrative clumsiness for Marvel. It was the first hint that the genuine creative talent had been replaced with clueless ideologues like Victoria Alonso. This is the kind of non-talent that believes that Superman without the Kryptonite would be an improved Superman.
It really isn’t, Superman without the Kryptonite is the worst kind of boring Mary Sue. Captain Marvel was a movie about the most powerful being in all existence going on a feminist heroine’s journey. Her entire character arc was built around finding out just how awesome she really was.
While the producers loved it, the actual story writers were constantly having to come up with contrivances that either temporarily nerfed her or just punched her out of the story completely.
She’s a terrible character. Steve Rogers is the guy that was willing to jump and grenade and never stay down when he didn’t have any powers. Tony Stark was a man seeking redemption who always had to guard his heart. Peter Parker’s moral failure cost him his uncle’s life and he was never going to repeat that failure. But who is Carol Danvers? She is nothing but a feminist cardboard cutout.
Speaking of 2 dimensional characters…
The Marvels starts out by meeting our new villain for the very first time; Dar-Benn.
In theory, Dar-Benn was race and gender-swapped to create Woman the Accuser but in this case, there is no resemblance to the comic book Dar-Benn at all. Marvel pulled a random name out of the comic books, put a chick in it, and made her lame and gay.
Dar-Benn and a bunch of Kree soldiers are finishing up a fetch quest. They’ve dug up a statue on some moon or another and then Dar-Benn bonks it on the head with Ronan the Accuser’s Mallot shattering it. This is a terrible villain introduction but is typical for current-year Marvel. Remember the Big Blue Guy from Guardians and how scary bad he was? That was because of his big ass glowing sledgehammer, right? Apparently, having forgotten or praying the audience won’t remember that the reason it glowed was because of an infinity stone Ronan had shoved into it.
Just for reference, this is how you introduce a villain.
Within the statue is a Magical MacGuffin Bangle with “ancient writing” all over it. But oh, no! There is only one of them! Dar-Benn is extremely upset by this despite the fact that she only needed one for her plan to continue. But it does provide a perspective shift to Kamala Khan’s wrist where the second MMB now resides.
The first of many trips to the Memory Store to try and get filmgoers caught up on stuff that the audience never saw in the first place begins. Through flashbacks, the first memory store visit covers all the major plot points of Ms. Marvel. This is to give the audience the slightest fucking clue who Kamala Khan is, and she is a superhero stan who was given her powers for no reason at all.
We go through Miles Morales-style opening credits, then we get a second trip to the memory store so the audience can get up to speed on Carol Danvers. After ten minutes of recap, it’s time for the movie to start.
The Marvels start switching places at random intervals for no apparent reason. Kamala gets to fangirl on Nick Fury and even help him fight some Kree that get teleported along with the Marvels for some reason that I can’t remember but was made-up bullshit anyway so it really doesn’t matter. Although it does bring up the problem of Nick Fury.
The Marvel continuity timeline is now a complete trainwreck. I am positive that Secret Invasion was supposed to follow The Marvels chronologically. Fury shouldn’t be on that station anymore. Regardless, he is now and it’s kind of sad. Samual Jackson can do comedy, no problem there but Nick Fury can’t. And Samual L. Jackson can’t do Nick Fury anymore. In 2008 he had just 60 when he started his turn as Fury. Now that isn’t too old for an action part if you’ve kept in shape. He’s 75 now, moves creakily, and has obviously aged out of the role.
Gearshift! Back to Dar-Benn. She is now so powerful she punches hyper-space bypasses permanently open, which is probably a bad thing but only audience testing knows for sure. Through the power of lame contrivance opening up that hole in the universe links Monica Rambeau, Kamala Khan, and Carol Danvers’s powers. They switch places if they use them at the same time.
This provides humor (I guess) as well as a needed nerf to the ludicrously OP Captain Marvel. It also forces all three women to stay together. I am willing to grant that this isn’t a terrible way of forcing three people who have outstanding issues with each other to confront them.
Except that Marvel scrapbooking is a terrible way to resolve anything because you can never establish anything. Monica’s problem is an abandonment issue with Carol. Captain Marvel fucked off into the starry infinite and didn’t come back until after Monica had been Snapped away by Thanos. The heart of this issue is that Carol and Maria Rambeau were coded in subtext as being lesbian lovers, making Carol second-mommy. Okay, parental abandonment is a bad thing but the movie never comes up with a reason that Carol did it other than, “I had a lot of stuff to do. A whole l-o-t-t-a stuff.” Plus, Marvel is too half-assed to nail down what Carol and Maria’s relationship was. Mom’s good friend left me isn’t much of a childhood trauma. It just doesn’t work. Particularly when you are using scenes that had been left on the cutting room floor to try and tell that story in the Memory Store.
Kamala’s issue is her way overboard hero-worship of Captain Marvel. Now that should have been easy to work with. Kamala’s image of Captain Marvel is shattered by some action or the discovery of a moral failure and then she has to come to grips with Carol Danvers as a person who is as fallible as any other. The closest they got to that was Carol snapping at Kamala which made her feel bad but then Carol apologized so they group hugged.
Carol’s issue is that she did have a moral failure. She destroyed the Supreme Intelligence on the Kree homeworld of Hala which was a really bad idea because the Supreme Intelligence controlled the entire ecology of the planet to include the sun itself somehow. We find out about that during Dar-Benn’s Memory Store shopping trip.
The fact that most people have stopped watching Marvel anything at this point actually works in this movie’s favor because if (like me) you have been forced to keep up with everything, then you would have been left wondering when the fuck did that happen? Whereas the average audience just writes it off as something else that happened in a movie or show that they didn’t see.
It honestly feels like there is an entire sequel missing. When you know what to look for it is obvious that the destruction of the Supreme Intelligence was something integral to The Marvels at one time that got scrapbooked away several versions ago but they did have some footage leftover.
Dar-Benn is now using the Magical MacGuffin Bangle with “ancient writing” all over it, to both save Hala and punish Captain Marvel by stealing air and water from planets that Carol has called home in the past.
The first is a Skrull colony. Dar-Benn attacks there is a fight scene but the good guys lose and the air gets vacuumed away to Hala. Without the vacuum. The problem is that Hala still has an atmosphere, it’s just unbreathable is all. You can’t suck away a good atmosphere to make bad air breathable. Look I’m not expecting good science here but something that isn’t openly insulting my intelligence and breaking the cringe muscles in my face would be appreciated.
This would have been a good place for Kamala to get the wind taken out of her sails about Carol Danvers. “Sorry kid, sometimes in this heroing business, saving a few people may be the best you can do.”
“But you save everyone all the time! You’re Captain Marvel!”
“No. I. Can’t. Dipshit.”
Except, they don’t bother to touch on that. Kamala just accepted the deaths of thousands pretty blandly.
Off to the water planet and I am desperately wishing I could have watched this thing when the theater bar was open.
The next planet they visit has a population that can only communicate in song. Lots and lots of singing. Captain Marvel is the queen of this planet because she helped a prince with a political problem by marrying him.
It is so strange and out of place that I am convinced that Brie Larson made it a contractual requirement. It was like one of those scenes in a long-running TV show when a hard-bitten detective or starship captain starts tap dancing because the actor wants to remind potential employers he can do that.
I kind of feel sorry for Brie Larson at this point. Her mother moved to Los Angeles when she was six to “support Brie’s dream of becoming an actress.” If only my family had moved to the Bahamas to support my dream of becoming a pirate. As I’ve said before child actresses are like Vegan cats, we all know who made the choice. Larson was homeschooled to make her an actress and she is useless for anything else in life to include being a human. I get the feeling she is on the Autism spectrum but has been trained all her life to pretend to be human so it almost doesn’t show. Except when it does and then it’s a disaster. Anyway, she started out as an almost pop star but got diverted into a serious acting career by an Oscar win. Captain Marvel was supposed to be her chance to be the new Robert Downey Jr. And instead, it’s turned out to be a gigantic resume stain. Her career was doing much better before she signed up for the part of Carol Danvers. Marvel has been a disaster for her.
Marvel movies have always had a little too much humor in them. It tends to break the tension before it should. They didn’t before they got bought by Disney but they do now. This time, they have deliberately made their first superhero comedy. It may not have been plan A but it could have been a default when nothing else tested well. It doesn’t change the fact that this is Marvel’s Batman and Robin.
There is a fight with Dar-Benn and her soldiers which the Marvels lose badly and now Dar-Benn has Kamala’s bangle of OP as well as her own.
Dar-Benn heads off to the Solar System to steal Solis itself.
There is a bumper plot going on at SABER’s space station involving a bunch of space cats. The subplot’s only purpose is to provide a break between scenes involving the Marvels. Well that and give Kamala’s comic relief family members something to do. Why yes, it is utterly pointless, how did you know? Are you a wizard?
There is a final boss fight and Dar-Benn is killed, I think. Anyway, Captain Marvel punches the Kree home world’s star super hard and that restarts it. Yet, somehow the helium flash which should have fried Hala to ashes doesn’t happen. Don’t argue with that, it’s science.
There is also the problem of the hyperspace bypass that needs to be closed. Captain and Ms. Marvel fire lots of lighting effects into Monica Rambeau and she flies into the rift and closes it from the other side trapping her in an end-credit scene.
Time to wrap things up. Captain Marvel flies off into space again like Poochie the Dog and for the same reason. Kamala has what I am certain was supposed to be the original end-credit scene mimicking Nick Fury’s first meeting with Tony Stark. Except it’s Ms. Marvel recruiting Kate Bishop. Kamala is starting up a teen team supreme. Well, if they keep the budget way down maybe.
Marvel appears to have decided it wasn’t interesting enough. At least they were right about that and had another cut scene with Monica waking up in the X-Men universe run-up.
So we have yet another multiverse storyline. I’ve lost track of how many different and unconnected multiverse stories Marvel has introduced. None of them have anything to do with any of the others except that Kang gets killed in whatever universe he’s in, so he’s really not that threatening.
Dar-Benn was hopelessly miscast. The actress isn’t remotely intimidating and doesn’t have the kind of presence needed for the part even if the director had the slightest idea what to do with a supervillain. She has acted in British rom-coms. That’s her resume, however, she’s also Tom Hiddleston’s wife. I suspect but can’t prove that Tom wouldn’t come back for the second season of Loki unless they coughed up a major role for his wife. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me but that hardly means anything when you are talking about Marvel.
This movie was hacked into another dimension in the cutting room. All Marvel films are scrapbooked to death these days but this one was a special case. It is like watching a fever dream. You will see Kamala in her Ms Marvel costume in a scene, then the camera cuts away and when it comes back she’s in street clothes. This is in the same scene. Kamala gets the second bangle and then in the next scene, it’s gone again with no explanation. There is even a scene where Kamala uses her powers after she has lost her bangle. But then she gets both and loses one again. Look you have to accept a certain degree of “fill in the blanks yourself” when you are watching a superhero movie. I accept that but what I will not accept is having to fill in such a vast amount of plotholes that it look like the result of a WWII carpet bombing run. That is not my job as an audience member, even in a Marvel movie.
Also, the costuming is nothing short of hideous. This was a $300 million plus movie with Babylon 5-level props and costumes but not storytelling and plot coherence. This thing looked dirt cheap. Since I know it wasn’t, this means that Marvel has had it’s key talent links in costuming and set design broken. Nobody half way decent will work for them anymore.
Was there anything I liked? I’ll go with Iman Vellini. She came across as sweet and lovable as usual. She is clearly just happy to be there and is having the time of her life. She is possibly the only Ms. Marvel fan in existence and she has her dream job.
That’s it. That is the only part of the Marvels that I could like even when I was trying.
In summary, The Marvels is a barely coherent comedy that feels like it’s forty percent flashback scenes that came from Captain Marvel 2 (which keep in mind, does not exist). The characters are weak. The attempts at providing a genuine character arc are appreciated but the foundational material is so broken that is impossible to build anything but the flimsiest of structures on it. It was ridiculously expensive but managed to look ludicrously cheap. This last appearance of Captain Marvel was as unwanted as her first. If a choice was forced upon me I would honestly prefer to watch Batman and Robin again.
The Dark Herald Doesn’t Not Recommend (1/5)