The worst movie of 2023?
Marvel has been on a downward trend for a long time. Since Endgame, the Marvel machine has slowly been reaching breaking point, sacrificing quality for quantity, and mixing things up with some subjective material that’s not only alienated its long-time fanbase, but actively damaged the brand.
She-Hulk made fun of the formulaic nature of Marvel, while simultaneously taking potshots at comic book fans. Meanwhile, Secret Invasion bungled one of the comics’ more interesting stories and turned it into a melodramatic espionage sludge of terrible writing. And through the haze of awful TV and movie offerings, only Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 has been anywhere near the standard we’ve come to expect.
That leads us along neatly to Captain Marvel 2. Or, The Marvels, as it’s been rebranded to. With a budget reported of $270 million, plenty of reshoots, script rewrites, backstage drama and four date pushbacks, Phase 5 is well and truly underway – and what a way to showcase that declining quality. Tis is not only one of the MCU’s worst movies, but also one of the worst films of 2023 too.
Written by Nia DaCosta (who also directed), Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik, The Marvels’ story is an incoherent and inconsistent mess, that bungles its own quirky premise. The idea, on paper, is a good one.
Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel and Monica Rambeau all find themselves inexplicably linked through some sort of cosmic issue, brought about by bland villain Dar-Benn. In essence, whenever our trio use their powers they switch places…until they don’t.
You see, the script constantly breaks its own established rules. The characters switch places but only when the script calls for it. Flying has no impact on this. Certain moves will trigger it but not always; the rules really aren’t all that clear.
Early on we see this play out in a fight sequence that has the trio switch places. However, when they do they each get to use their own powers before switching again. This sounds nit-picky but when your entire film is built on this one premise to stand out, and it’s broken within 15 minutes, that’s not a good sign.
But then this extends to other aspects of the film too. Late on, Carol Danvers and co. show up on a planet which, as Carol herself explains, is a “matriarchal society” that thrives based on singing. It’s a neat idea…until we learn Prince Yan (a man) is in charge and he doesn’t have to sing either for… reasons? So not only is this not a matriarchal society (there’s also a male who announces the Marvels’arrival too), the singing isn’t even consistent.
The script issues don’t stop there either. With so much going on, the film forces you to do your homework before you even step foot in the cinema. You need to have watched Captain Marvel, Wandavision, Ms Marvel and Secret Invasion to even understand what’s happening fully. But then the latter actually contradicts some of the story involving the Kree late on so perhaps skip that one!
So not only do we have a story that doesn’t stick to its own worldbuilding and rules, we also have half an audience in the dark over who these characters are and why we should care about them. There is an attempt to recap the three key projects you need to watch (Captain Marvel, WandaVision and Ms Marvel) but it’s literally 1 minute of quickly projected scenes for each before we move onto the next.
Having said that though, some of the banter between the three isn’t all that bad. There are a couple of neat moments, and the few times where Monica and Carol get to catch up over the past hint toward something deeper here but it’s never explored too deeply, which is a shame.
There have been plenty of poor villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but Dar-Benn is arguably the worst. In fact, her scenes and inclusion in the movie are easily the worst parts of the entire picture. There’s definitely glimmers of a Freaky Friday-esque teeny bopper comedy here (thanks in part to Kamala Khan’s hyperactive squeaks and chirps) but then Dar-Benn comes in with a melodramatic, dour story that’s honestly just completely ill-fitting with the whole vibe.
Whether it’s the direction or the acting, Zawe Ashton looks like she wishes she was anywhere else other than a Marvel greenscreen. But hey, we have tentacled-cats and silly humour thrown in the fold so it can’t be that bad right?
Well, for a film with a budget of 270 million, The Marvels looks bad too. Some of the CGI is genuinely terrible and the lighting at times is outright awful. This isn’t helped by the soundtrack, which can’t make up its mind whether it wants to go for quirky hip hop beats and rapping, or more of an orchestral soundscape to heighten the drama. In choosing both, this only accentuates the tonal issues this film has in abundance.
The Marvels is an absolute disaster. The film is all over the place in terms of structure and cohesion, while the worldbuilding is inconsistent to say the least. If this is a sign of things to come, the future certainly doesn’t look very Marvel-lous for the MCU.
Verdict - 3/10