Review: ‘The Marvels’ just another mediocre super-hero movie

Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Teyonah Parris in The Marvels (Marvel Studios)

If I didn’t know better after watching “The Marvels,” I’d figure it was the latest superhero parody and would be wondering how the film escaped a straight-to-streaming release.

Unfortunately “The Marvels” is the latest multi-million dollar misstep by Marvel to the tune of a reported $219 to $250 million budget. The confused mess of a movie has a certain degree of charm thanks to a strong cast, but it is wasted by a lack of direction.

The movie is less of a story than a collection of random scenes without much rhyme or reason. It’s as if the heft of the studio’s success over the last 15 years is a burden to carry rather than a platform for success.

The film, directed by Nia DaCosta, plays like it was edited by a Benihana table chef, but definitely not that tasty. Unfortunately this dish is best described as bland or possibly even spoiled with the best elements of the movie revealed in exposition or flashbacks, while slapstick scenes are featured throughout.

Literally the most interesting aspect of the movie is Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel revealing how shame over a devastating mistake she made on a previous adventure has kept her away from Earth and her surrogate family for a decade or more.

Now that’s an adventure I would have liked to have seen in full, but instead, Marvel serves up what amounts to a road comedy with a few fight scenes sprinkled in for good measure.

Much like last year’s Marvel mishmash “Thor: Love and Thunder,” this movie feels like there was a much better film shot, but it was left on the cutting room floor. “The Marvels” has a cobbled-together feel, reminiscent of DC Extended Universe movies like “Batman v. Superman” and “Justice League,” just with a much lighter comedic tone.

There’s nothing wrong with a well-executed road comedy, except when you bought a ticket for what purportedly is a super-hero action movie.

It’s a shame, too, because Larson has excellent chemistry with co-stars Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau/Photon, and Iman Vellani as Kamal Khan/Ms. Marvel. All three are talented, but they aren’t well served by the bulk of the movie.

The bonding scenes between the three almost save the film until you realize the threat they team together to oppose is basically ripped off from “Guardians of the Galaxy,” just with a female Kree warrior named Supremor (Zawe Ashton) rather than a male.

Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is basically used as a straight man throughout the film. Some if not most of the jokes land because of his comedic talent and timing, but it is so out of step for his character coming out of Marvel’s espionage series “Secret Wars” from last summer.

Marvel has made the interconnectivity of its films and streaming serials a key component of its storytelling. It’s on the studio when characters like Fury come off inconsistently from project to project.

As scattershot as the movie is, it does find a bit of firm footing with its climax. A sacrifice is made by one of the three Marvels that works as a springboard to perhaps the most interesting aspect of the movie, the mid-credit scene.

The eXciting scene points to the direction the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be moving toward in the future as the film series ramps up for two Avengers movies “Kang Dynasty” tentatively set for 2026 and “Secret Wars” for 2027, if plans are not changed drastically because of the lackluster performance of several recent Marvel projects.

Some critics have labeled this the worst Marvel movie since the franchise began in 2008 with “Iron Man.” I feel their pain, but I think the film is more fun than “Iron Man 2” and “Thor: The Dark World,” mainly because of the performances of the three leads.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 45 min.
Grade: C-

‘Scarface’ Returns to the Big Screen

Al Pacino in Scarface (Universal Pictures)

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Brian De Palma gangster film “Scarface” returns to theaters for a limited engagement at 4 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Malco Razorback Cinema in Fayetteville and the Malco Pinnacle Hills Cinema in Rogers.

The movie written by Oliver Stone and starring Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Robert Loggia has become a cultural touchstone for a generation of movie fans who enjoy the over-the-top nature of the film.

This is the first time in years the film is available to be seen on the big screen, the way it was intended.

New in Local Theaters – Nov. 10, 2023

  • The Marvels (PG-13) 1 hr. 45 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Starlight)
  • Japan (NR) 2 hr. 37 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square)
  • Journey to Bethlehem (PG) 1 hr. 38 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne)
  • It’s a Wonderful Knife (NR) 1 hr. 27 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne)

Classic Corner – The Barefoot Contessa

Ava Gardner was one of the classic beauties of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and this is never more evident than in 1954’s “The Barefoot Contessa.”

In the film written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Gardner portrays a smart but petulant dancer Maria Vargas plucked from a show in Madrid by tycoon film producer Kirk Edwards (Warren Stevens) to star in his film.

Edwards leaves Vargas in the hands of screenwriter Harry Dawes (Humphrey Bogart) and publicist Oscar Muldoon (Edmond O’Brien) to develop her talent, and shortly thereafter the beautiful woman becomes a star.

The successful and gorgeous Vargas is courted by many suitors, but she seeks a relationship like the one Dawes enjoys with his wife Jerry (Elizabeth Sellers), and she believes she has found it in the chivalrous arms of Count Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini. The Count proposes, but he’s hiding a secret.

Gardner is excellent in the role of a beautiful woman who seeks true love but tends to fall in with the wrong lovers. She knows how to use her sexuality to get what she thinks she wants, but always ends up being treated like a possession.

Bogart is characteristically Bogart in the supporting role of her world-weary friend and father figure. However, reports say the two did not get along that well during the filming.

Evidently Gardner enjoyed the nightlife while on location in Rome, and Bogart reported that back to his friend and Gardner’s husband Frank Sinatra, which did not sit too well with the starlet.

Any off-screen tension doesn’t show up in the movie. O’Brien won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, while Mankiewicz was nominated by the Academy for Best Original Screenplay.

The movie can be streamed for free on the Roku Channel, Pluto, and Tubi. It’s for rent on Prime Video.