The Marvels” and the Paradox of the Superhero Franchise.
When the best part of a superhero movie is the screenplay, you know you’re in trouble. “The Marvels” has a lot going on – enough situations with dramatic potential, ample room for imaginative powers, and modes to develop several good films. Unfortunately, due to informational indifference, it was cut, clipped, jammed, and stuffed into the movie, lacking even the pace quality. The terrifying waste of formidable talents enlisted to portray this story with careless haste on screen.
There are many underdeveloped elements here, but fundamentally, one is the dramatic morality: one way of distress is the struggle of virtues, but in “The Marvels,” there is hardly any villainy, and almost everyone has their reasons.
Directed by Nia DaCosta (who co-wrote the screenplay with Megan McDonnell and Elisa Karasik), the film is a sequel to the 2019 movie “Captain Marvel.” Here, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), a U.S. Air Force pilot who gained superpowers (and the nickname) Captain Marvel, finds herself trapped in a war between two intergalactic beings, Kree and Skrulls.
In the sequel, the accused Denvers, burdened with guilt, trapped in self-imposed space exile for an inadvertent act of extinguishing the sun, is called back for the maintenance of the so-called “jump point,” a kind of space portal. She joins the mission with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), a space voyager introduced as a child in the previous film.
Their work brings them in contact with a peculiar web connection, reaching out to Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a teenager from Jersey City, a huge fan of Captain Marvel comic books and who possesses hidden powers, along with a special glowing weapon to prove it.
Gauntlet is part of a pair, with the other piece under the control of a Kree warrior named Dar-Ben (Zawe Ashton). She despises Captain Marvel for the destruction of her planet and seeks to maximize her powers by seizing the challenge of Kamala. Meanwhile, when Monica and Captain Marvel meet at the jump point, they, along with Kamala, end up swapping places, resulting in an unexpected battle between them.
The outcomes include a handful of performances – a Khan family drama, various outer space escapades – and some daring deeds with space vehicles. There are also some light-hearted family sitcom moments involving Kamala’s parents (Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur) and her elder brother (Sagar Sheikh), who are still unmarried due to their parents’ disappointment.
There’s some quirky and flawed comedy related to Captain Marvel’s engagement with a prince from a planet, and Kamala’s peculiar fangirling over Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel’s cat has a special feature: its mouth contains long, tentacle-like creatures that can swallow multiple beings and regurgitate them.
Skrulls, now refugees, reflect the political aspects of trying to find their home. The best part is the inclusion of some powerful pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo in the space-time continuum, making the movie a self-contained universe of special effects that might just work and should indeed be.
Out of these various elements, one, although clear and familiar, can function as a framework for a popular action fantasy. The fact remains that none of the main characters is significantly wrong; they all achieve their goals in various ways, which also complicates things.
Another reason why I had high hopes for it is that Dacosta’s previous film, ‘Candyman,’ the fourth installment of a long-dormant horror franchise, was written with exploratory enthusiasm and was filmed with simple yet theatrically supercharged effects.
However, ‘The Marvels’ doesn’t allow any notable comparison and gradually sinks beneath the weight of assembly, formula, and routine. The scenes of the film’s battles are mundane, with no sense of weaknesses in the heroines, nor any indication of what can be saved and what cannot.
Particularly, the best effects are the simplest – the sudden presence of each of the three women in each other’s places, whether it’s teleporting across galaxies or just across the room. (There is nothing in such scenes that couldn’t have been done by Georges Méliès in the late 1800s.)
What happened to superhero movies? How did a style steeped in wonder, strangeness, and amazement become a standard, familiar, and worldly? The controversy with superhero franchises is that it transforms fans of myth into consumers of a brand – so much so that often, the stories behind its position in the realm of brands and current media scenes become more intricate, emotional, and compelling behind the curtain than anything shown on the screen.
This surprises me that the main Marvel producer, Kevin Feige, with his lifelong love and deep knowledge of comics, has become the man. Somewhere along the line, the suits of authority became more powerful in marketing the superhero than the superheroes themselves.
You can see it in this way, that “The Marvels” harshly diminishes powerful actors like Brie Larson and Paris, along with newcomer Zawe Ashton (in her first film role). Their expected performances are merely to depict emotions in a moment like human emojis. Larson does it with a kind of rigid severity that is far removed from mere humanity, which I wish she would unleash.
Remembering her performance as a troubled caretaker for troubled teens in the 2013 independent film “Short Term 12,” I’ve always found something inevitably martial in her manner. I doubt she finds a superhero role more artistically satisfying compared to many actors at her level, and I wish the film gave her the space and time to explore it. (She said that allowing the simple power of theatrical performance to flourish in films like “The Marvels” could puncture the space-time continuum of their internal consistency.)
Recent developments in the Marvel franchise have aligned with highly specific filmmakers like Taika Waititi, Chloe Zhao, and Peyton Reed. It should have promised a cinematic expansion guaranteeing a constant expansion of the universe, not just their personal artistic dominance onto the franchise production systems. For all the efforts to make creative teams in superhero films expansive and diverse, their primary producers are a distinct group of formidable and older white men.
Certainly, I’m mentioning the United States Congress, which extended copyright terms in 1976 and again in 1998 so that works published before 1978 could be kept under corporate control under the guise of the Mickey Mouse Protection Act. Decades of control. Consequently, many classic comic book superheroes are still decades away from the public domain, decades away from liberation from corporate rights holders.
The buzz and scope of comic book stories – the very imagination they have for this expanded universe and the emotional devotion that inspires them – undoubtedly make them contemporary equivalents to ancient religious scriptures.
However, as long as individual studios hold copyrights, it feels like all characters and stories of the Bible were controlled by the Vatican. The result is keeping superhero films and much of Hollywood in an immature state that seems impervious to aging. The expanded universe of films is more confined than life.
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To watch the amazing trailer of The Marvels