The Marvels: When Marvel gets it wrong

The Marvels is a 2023 film directed by Nia DaCosta. PHOTO | POOL

Leaving the theater, my initial impression is that the movie I just watched seemed crafted to capitalize on the established Marvel formula, likely devised by a financial strategist. Consider this: a colossal $270 million budget, a superhero film centred on a female protagonist directed by an African American woman and written by three women, abundant CGI, a cast focused on female leads appealing to a diverse audience.

All of that is supported firmly by Kevin Feige, the Marvel executive producer who has consistently advocated for a female-led comic book movie. This movie goes to great lengths to emphasize its "feminine" elements, from its villain to the extras to the prominent use of pink as the background in the Marvel logo. On paper, this movie appears meticulously tailored for success, particularly in terms of profitability.

Yet, as I stand outside the cinema, I can't ignore the reality that The Marvels is a convoluted and mediocre piece of work— a production that feels out of place for Marvel Studios, especially given the recent controversies that have surrounded them over the past three weeks.


Before diving into the intricacies of this film, it's crucial to acknowledge the exceptional performances delivered by the cast, with Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau, and Iman Vellani as Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan) leading the way. However, their character arcs may come across as somewhat conventional and uninspiring when compared to previous Marvel productions.

Despite the film's somewhat chaotic editing, the actors undeniably seem to have a great time on screen. Their chemistry when they share scenes provides some of the movie's most memorable moments in the film. Despite their shared core abilities, the actors manage to inject some genuine entertainment into the narrative, even though they grapple with a somewhat lacklustre script.

Kamala Khan as Ms Marvel particularly stands out, she is relatable and immediately reminds you of Peter Parker. The character and her family bring humanity into this overly sci-fi comic book movie that just makes Kamala a likeable character. The potential for the character's development in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is something we can all eagerly anticipate.

The Marvels

Extraordinary abilities, people with an offbeat way of speaking, and cats involved in unusual antics. The Marvels is a 2023 film directed by Nia DaCosta, an African American female director who previously directed "Candyman" (2021) and serves as the 33rd movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s produced by Marvel and distributed by Walt Disney, boasting a jaw-dropping budget of $270 million. For context, the creator (2023), a visually stunning 2023 sci-fi film had a budget of $80 million.


After freeing herself from the oppressive Kree and seeking vengeance against the Supreme Intelligence, Carol Danvers, also known as Captain Marvel, inadvertently triggers a universal upheaval. Tasked with addressing this newfound responsibility, she ventures through an unexpected wormhole tied to a Kree rebel. Her powers merge with those of two other superheroes, leading to the emergence of a powerful trio known as the Marvels.

Flawed "fun"

This film appears to have been under the control of both the director and the Marvel team during pre-production and production, but Disney seems to have taken a more active role in shaping the film during post-production, resulting in a blend of Marvel and Disney elements. The movie's tone and pacing are inconsistent, with a focused and well-defined first act, but the second and third acts introduce numerous mini-plots, making the overall experience needlessly convoluted, despite being marketed as "fun."

In this film, "fun" is characterized by fast-paced but poorly edited action sequences set to generic upbeat music. The lack of a more serious approach to what could be exciting action sequences diminishes the overall impact of these action set pieces. Don’t get me wrong there are some set pieces that are really good and must have taken time to prepare and execute.

This movie had a big antagonist problem, now I can go deep into why the character was gender-swapped but to put it simply, Dar-Benn ranks among the weakest villains in any Marvel production to date. Her lack of presence and inconsistent motivations aren't a reflection on the actor, Zawe Ashton, but rather a consequence of a poorly written, directed and developed character.

As mentioned earlier, this film focuses on a "female"-"-centric perspective, which could have been a great angle if the storytelling had not been sidelined. While diversity and inclusion are important, they should complement the narrative rather than overshadow it. A strong story should always be the core of any film, yet in this case, it seems either neglected or never properly established.

Marvel had previously crafted an engaging story around Captain Marvel. While characters like Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan) and Monica Rambeau are appreciated, their inclusion in this film feels more like a business move to attract a younger and more diverse audience. With a runtime of only 105 minutes, managing three story arcs becomes challenging, evident in the hurried editing and abrupt scene cuts.

Extending the movie's duration to 2 hours and 15 minutes would have allowed for a more in-depth exploration of the characters and a fuller realization of the director's vision. However, in the film industry, shorter runtimes often mean more screenings and higher earnings for the studios.

Still on the story, Marvel undeniably had an intriguing arc for Captain Marvel. Despite my absolute adoration for Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) and Monica Rambeau, it feels as though this movie should have solely served as a sequel to Captain Marvel. The inclusion of these characters appears to have been a strategic move by the studio to attract a younger and more diverse audience.

Given the film's concise runtime of 105 minutes (1 hour and 45 minutes), the impact of three separate story arcs on the editing process becomes quite evident. As a result, the movie comes across as having been hastily edited, leading to abrupt scene transitions. In my personal opinion, extending the film's duration to 2 hours and 15 minutes would have allowed for a more in-depth exploration of the characters and a more complete realization of the director's creative vision.

Nevertheless, it's important to look at it like a studio executive, a shorter runtime translates to increased screenings, ultimately resulting in higher profits.


The Marvels comes across as a studio-driven project primarily focused on maximizing profits. This intention is transparent through its aggressive marketing strategies, particularly the final trailer that teases beloved legacy characters to entice fans, as well as the incorporation of post-credit scenes catering to typical Marvel fan expectations. These elements are strategically crafted to attract a broad audience. While the film's saving grace lies in the strong performances of the three main actors and the quality cinematography, its overall execution is hindered by messy writing, editing, and pacing issues.

These shortcomings signal a clash between the director's creative vision and the established Marvel formula, notably during post-production. It falls short in terms of its structure, and the intensity of its conflicts, and overall, it doesn't convey a profound sense of repercussions. Consequently, I wouldn't readily recommend watching this movie on the big screen; it might be better to await its release on streaming platforms or simply opt to skip it.

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