Will The Marvels reverse Marvel‘s recent run of meh?
Not according to the early critic reviews. The latest Marvel Cinematic Universe title is getting rather mediocre notices with a just-out-of-the-gate Rotten Tomatoes score in the mid-50s, which would make it one of the weakest MCU titles ever.
But what’s interesting is that many reactions to The Marvels are also intensely polarized — with some insisting the film is delightful fun while others are calling the movie “abject misery,” “turgidly mindless” and “a new low” for Marvel. In general, the more traditional news outlets tend to skew against the film (Hollywood Reporter’s review excluded) while some of the more fan-focused entertainment sites are much more positive. Overall, it seems like the more one has invested in watching all the previous MCU movies and TV shows, the more likely they are to dig The Marvels — and understand it.
In The Marvels, Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) teams up with Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), and Carol’s estranged niece, astronaut Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), to save the universe. Tuesday night’s first social media reactions were, per usual, largely gushing (“some of Marvel’s best action & comedy to date!”). Critics came in with a more negative take, on balance, though gave high praise to the film’s cast, particularly Vellani.
Here are some of the critic reactions:
The Hollywood Reporter: “Larson, Parris and Vellani have a natural and infectious rapport. Their undeniable chemistry anchors one of the stronger threads of The Marvels, which wrestles with Carol’s isolation and ego … [but] The Marvels takes on more than it can responsibly handle in its brisk runtime, which means abrupt endings and discarded threads.”
The Telegraph: “The superhero franchise sinks to a new low. The shortest of the [MCU] films yet is also the most interminable, a knot of nightmares that groans with the series’ now-trademark VFX sloppiness.”
The Wrap: “It’s silly and makes little sense, but it’s such a fun time at the movies. And isn’t that why we go to see movies in the first place? Vellani is magical and the film captures the pure essence of why superheroes are so beloved. Parris and Larson are also good, but they really just back up for Kamala Khan to, rightfully, shine. Take the kids, have fun and don’t think too hard about it.”
Associated Press: “As is often the case with Marvel’s girl power attempts, it feels a little pandering in all the wrong places and doesn’t really engage with any specific or unique female point of view. When our three heroes suit up, they do so off screen and come out with fresh hairdos and makeup. They look like their best selves and will continue looking like their best selves throughout a harrowing battle, which leaves some of their uniforms torn but not an eyelash out of place. I thought we’d reached a pro-hair tie place with our female superheroes.”
USA Today: “The Marvels is that rare superhero adventure seemingly tailor-made for cat lovers, people really into body-swapping shenanigans and those who live for jubilant song-and-dance numbers.”
The New York Post: “If you thought Eternals and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania were low points for the limping Marvel Cinematic Universe, strap in for the ride to abject misery that is The Marvels … Once again, we get an MCU film that’s littered with insider technobabble and is impossible to follow … Once again, we get an MCU film that we’re told cost $250 million to make, yet appears as pricey as a Season 5 episode of Stargate SG-1.”
IndieWire: “… charming stars (like the full-force charisma of Iman Vellani and the appealing vulnerability of Teyonah Parris), sprightly action, and zippy humor” [but also a] “scattered, choppy, and often incoherent film … stinging reminders of what could have been (a better film) and what needs to happen now (a total MCU reset).”
Io9: “Marvel Studios’ latest film in Phase 5 of the franchise is genre-bending, mind-melding, and found-family-building joy — with an all-timer post credits scene … All in all, The Marvels is a fun cosmic chase across the stars with exciting new directions for our heroes. It’s an endearing, smartly contained popcorn flick that’s about characters first over mythology building.”
The Washington Post: “There’s a lot of fighting, and the fate of the world is said to hang in the balance. But when you look at the screen, all you see is a bunch of people trying to grab some shiny things from one another … The film progresses turgidly and mindlessly, with respite granted only by two delightful interludes.”
The production is tracking toward a modest $60-$65 million weekend opening, which is down from its previous estimate of $75-$85 million from a few weeks ago — which would make it one of the lowest MCU openings ever out of 33 installments (the lowest is 2008’s The Incredible Hulk with a $55.4 million domestic opening, not adjusted for inflation). The Marvels box office will likely be impacted by the actors strike, which kept the cast from doing any publicity in the runup to the release.
The Marvels is also noteworthy because its predecessor, 2019’s Captain Marvel, inspired Rotten Tomatoes to overhaul its audience score to make it less susceptible to review bombing. RT has since eliminated prerelease audience reviews, and no longer displays a percentage showing how many readers “want to see” a film.
The Marvels follows up on Disney+’s latest Marvel entry, season two of Loki, which opened 39 percent lower last month than its debut season premiere, per Nielsen. But it did have a hit this summer with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which earned $845.6 million globally.