Marvel and Disney are always scouring the press to get a good pull quote for their films. So for The Marvels, this is what they can use from us here at Digital Trends: “If you want people to stop making comic book movies, then you should make more movies like The Marvels.” If superhero fatigue wasn’t a thing before this film, it soon will be. The current box office projections for The Marvels show that it may come in at $47 million for its opening weekend, if not lower. That would place it well below many of 2023’s other lackluster superhero flicks like The Flash.
What went wrong with The Marvels? The studios will claim that the actors strike didn’t allow them to properly promote the film. But come on, it’s not like superhero and Marvel fans didn’t know it was coming. They just didn’t show up, and those that did, won’t have much of a reason to come back and see it again. That’s disastrous, because superhero films thrive on repeat customers.
The real reasons why The Marvels failed to connect are within the movie itself, and they serve as a prime example of why Marvel is in some very real trouble. Marvel’s once impeccable brand is no longer as invincible as it once seemed to be. These are the five reasons why The Marvels failed.
Warning: There are spoilers ahead for The Marvels!
Brie Larson is a very good actress, and sometimes, she’s even great. That Oscar she won for Room was well-earned. But why is she so stiff, wooden, and lifeless as Carol Danvers?! Is it the writing? The direction? Or simply the choices that Larson made in her performance? It’s completely mind-boggling to see someone of Larson’s talent fail to make her character seem like a real person with feelings and hidden depths.
The Marvels may not be called Captain Marvel 2, but this was Larson’s movie more than anyone else’s. Larson has the superhero look down, but Captain Marvel’s persona is not easy to like. That ultimately comes down to Larson herself. If she could have shown more flashes of personality, this movie could have been a lot better.
Regardless of what you think about Larson’s performance in The Marvels, she’s Ms. Personality compared to Zawe Ashton’s Dar-Benn. This is a villain who may make you nostalgic for Christopher Eccleston’s flat turn as Malekith from Thor: The Dark World. A great superhero movie needs a big bad who is worthy of that position, and someone who is compelling in their own right. Dar-Benn is none of those things, and she commits the greatest movie sin of them all: She’s boring.
This could also go under the script’s many problems, but Dar-Benn’s entire evil plan is a lift from Spaceballs. Next stop, Planet Druidia!
A lot of Marvel movies have scripting issues, but The Marvels feels like it was filmed from the first draft of script that should have been sent back for more work long before it ever reached production. The initial conflict between Carol and Monica felt very forced and unbelievable, as did their fairly quick reconciliation. Early in the film, all three of the main characters witness the loss of thousands of innocent lives that they failed to save… but they’re having soon having a bonding party like that didn’t even matter.
Calling this movie “toothless” would be a compliment. Aside from the titular team, it doesn’t justify its own existence and it lacks any substance at all. And it’s still not the worst MCU movie of the year! Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania still holds that crown.
Thor: Love and Thunder and The Marvels share a common problem: The directors were so focused on making everything funny that the humor completely kills the stakes of the film. During a desperate evacuation of a space station late in the movie, The Marvels flips right into farcical territory when the entire rescue plan hinges on Flerken kittens swallowing people.
Then there’s the musical interlude on Aladna, which even features Carol going full Disney Princess and singing awkwardly alongside the prince. Those kind of frivolous scenes make it impossible to take the movie’s main threat seriously when it seems like even the characters don’t care very much about it.
Late in the movie, it’s casually suggested that Carol can reignite the sun of a dying planet. And sure enough, as an afterthought, that’s exactly what Carol does…but in a way that completely lacks drama or urgency. I’ve seen people put more effort into passing gas than Carol did by passing through a star.
How are we ever supposed to believe that Carol is ever in jeopardy when she just shrugs off a flight through a sun? At least Superman looks like he’s straining to catch an airplane or lift a giant island of scraggly rocks in Superman Returns, for example. Superman performs heroic feats that even he can barely pull off. Carol doesn’t even break a sweat, and that doesn’t make her seem more heroic. It makes her seem less.
It’s also worth noting that the Kree basically won in this movie. They stole a planet’s atmosphere, and another planet’s ocean, and now they get a rejuvenated sun just because Carol feels guilty. It’s never even addressed that the Kree brought their fate upon themselves through their own choices, and they even get to skate by this film without suffering any consequences for their actions. It’s yet another reason why The Marvels feels so empty.
The Marvels is now playing in theaters everywhere. But with this kind of box office, it’ll be on Disney+ soon enough.