The Marvels is an undeniable flop. The Captain Marvel sequel took $47 million at the domestic box office in its opening weekend, which may sound like a truckload of cash, but it ranks as the lowest initial haul for a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie ever.
The superhero team-up movie can’t even comfort itself with particularly strong reviews either. Its 61% score on Rotten Tomatoes is enough to push it into the “Fresh” category, but it’s a far cry from the 90%+ scores the MCU enjoyed at its peak. The Marvels' CinemaScore, which averages the opinions of regular moviegoers into a letter grade, comes in at an underwhelming B, which is tied for the lowest among MCU movies.
I was feeling Marvel fatigue before it was cool, and I have the opinion pieces and the angry comments in response to prove it. So you might think that I’m primed to join the chorus of voices declaring The Marvels another unmitigated disaster in a franchise that appears to have spun majorly out of control. And yet, I can’t help but feel that of all the recent MCU projects to underperform, The Marvels is perhaps the least deserving of such a dishonor. It's not top-tier Marvel, but it has its charms.
The power of three
The Marvels most certainly has its faults (some of which I’ll address later in this article), but its core cast is not one. The eponymous trio of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Kham (Iman Vellani) are a delight, and the abundant chemistry between the co-leads elevates some pretty corny jokes into gags that had me audibly laughing.
Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel, a Captain Marvel superfan who finds herself on an intergalactic quest with her idol, steals every single scene she’s in thanks to her infectious optimism and perfect comedic timing. Vellani was great in the Ms. Marvel show on Disney Plus, and it’s great to see her given a chance to shine on the big screen as this underdog character.
I also enjoyed Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel more in The Marvels than I did in either the character’s 2019 solo movie or her brief appearance in Avengers: Endgame. Until now, Carol Danvers has been a character that was hard to care about thanks to her overly stoic demeanor, but in The Marvels not only do we get to see a more carefree side to Danvers, but a more vulnerable one as well. Consider me keen to see more from this version of Captain Marvel in the future.
Throw in the spiky but likable Monica Rambeau, and you’ve got a great team that’s very easy to root for. In its very best moments (of which there aren't quite enough for my taste), The Marvels captures the same spirit of the excellent Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy as an unlikely team of misfits coming together to fight an evil villain and bounce off each other in seriously enjoyable fashion.
Surrendering to the silliness
The Marvels is a very silly movie. I’ve seen a few social media commentators single this aspect out for criticism, but I found its zany tone surprisingly endearing once I surrendered to the ridiculousness of the proceedings.
A mid-movie sequence where The Marvels travel to a planet where all the inhabitants communicate through singing was a personal highlight of mine. If anything, I was disappointed the characters didn’t spend a little longer on the planet’s surface, as I would have loved to see an even bigger choreographed musical number that featured the entire cast breaking into song. Sadly, it’s a relatively brief part of the movie, but it leaves a noticeable impression.
I’ll avoid major spoilers but there is another equally absurd part of the movie toward the end that involves a litter of feline-like Flerkens and is scored to the song “Memory” from the iconic musical Cats that had me in near disbelief. It’s one of the most farcical scenes in the entire MCU, but by this late point in the movie, I’d long embraced the silliness of The Marvels and was having a total blast.
The Marvels isn't the MCU’s redemption
All of the above being said, I cannot declare The Marvels an especially good movie. It’s got all the hallmarks of a messy production cycle with the numerous reshoots and choppy editing all too apparent — not to mention its villain is among the MCU’s weakest (which is saying something). Plus, the two post-credit sequences did not get me excited about the future of the MCU; the second one reeks of Marvel's desperation.
However, considering the current state of Marvel’s interconnected comic book universe, I went into The Marvels with almost zero expectations and came away having enjoyed myself more than enough to justify a trip to my local movie theater. For that reason, it feels a little unfair that The Marvels is on course to be the MCU’s biggest bomb when the likes of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Thor: Love and Thunder are significantly more deserving of that unwanted label.
Compared to the MCU’s high point, The Marvel is still a considerable step down, but its three leads and its jovial tone kept me entertained even when its writing came up short. The movie may not have cured my MCU fatigue — and there’s no doubt executives at Disney will be hugely concerned by its box office performance — but it’s at the very least a modest step in the right direction. And that’s more than I was expecting to get when I purchased my movie ticket on opening night.