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At The Movies: “Marvels” Cinematic Malaise

“The Marvels” may be the first theatrical motion picture example of deep-fake cinema.

I am kidding. Sort of.

There’s the Marvels Comics logo, unraveling right up there on the screen. So this must be the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Still, as I sat there watching “The Marvels,” reclining in a luxurious seat, with superior image and sound in the Dolby Cinema at AMC, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing.

And I am not only talking about the movie-goers. There were maybe six persons, including myself at a recent matinee in the Dolby theater at AMC Center Valley 16.

What’s missing in “The Marvels” is the plot. Or rather, “The Marvels” has lost the plot, as they say in Australia. It’s gone off the rails. It’s an MCU train wreck.

“The Marvels” is incoherent, chaotic and dumbfounding. It’s one of the worst movies I have seen so far in 2023. The year is getting on. “The Marvels” may yet lay claim to this dubious distinction.

Setting aside the often impressive special effects, computer-generated animation, and numerous fight scenes, “The Marvels” essentially invokes the tired Hollywood body-switching trope.

You know: the old switcheroo. They include “Big” (1988), starring Tom Hanks; “Freaky Friday” (2003), starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan; “All Of Me” (1984), starring Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin, and “Turnabout” (1940), a Hal Roach comedy.

This can work when you have two people switching bodies.

It doesn’t much work when you have three people, as in “The Marvels,” where Carol Danvers-Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) seemingly body-swap at will, or against their will. The characters themselves and those around them express confusion and disbelief. Ditto for the movie audience.

Another plot device in “The Marvels” has to do with cats, which at one point threatens to turn the movie into perhaps the world’s most expensive cat video.

It starts with Carol Danvers’ cute tabby, Flerken, which projects octopus-like tentacles that suck in anything within eyeshot, and then regurgitates, giving a whole new dimension to the term hairball. This reaches its slow-motion apotheosis when dozens of cats swallow crew members of the S.A.B.E.R. space station, the better to allow them to escape, we’re told.

Oh, and by the way, this scene is accompanied by the 1981 recording of Barbra Streisand singing “Memory” (the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Trevor Nunn song by the character Grizabella in the musical “Cats”).

The third plot element in “The Marvels” has to do with Quantum Bands, or Bangles. No, not the 1980s’ female pop band, although the group’s hit song, “Walk Like an Egyptian” (1986), would have played well during scenes with Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), who wields the Accuser’s hammer and leads Kree warriors outfitted in Egyptian goth. Call her Thor-ette.

“The Marvels” frequently has the sense of a “Star Wars” film with several scenes set on the space station presided over by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) with the aplomb of Steve Harvey on TV’s “Family Feud.”

“The Marvels” is directed by Nia DaCosta (“Candyman,” 2021; “Little Woods,” 2018) from a screenplay she cowrote with Megan McDonnell (TV’s “WandaVision,” 2021) and Elissa Karasik (TV’s “Loki,” 2021; “Lessons in Chemistry,” 2023).

“The Marvels” seems to be an attempt to meld the universes of TV’s “Hawkeye,” “Ms. Marvel” and “WandaVision.” It doesn’t work.

In supporting roles in “The Marvels” and making no particular impression whatsoever, are Gary Lewis (Emperor Dro’ge, leader of the Skrull colony on the planet Tarnax, who get the makeup award for the year’s worst); Park Seo-joon (Prince Yan, prince of the planet Aladna, with its denizens breaking Bollywood style dance moves); Zenobia Shroff (Muneeba Khan, Kamala’s mother); Nohan Kapur (Yusuf Khan, Kamala’s father), and Saagar Shaikh (Aamir Khan, Kamala’s older brother). The Khan family seems to serve no function other than to have their house destroyed.

Cameos include Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Lashana Lynch (Maria, Monica’s mother), Hailee Steinfeld (Kate Bishop) and Kelsey Grammer (Dr. Hank McCoy-Beast).

Captain Marvel harnesses something called the Supreme Intelligence. In “The Marvels,” it comes off as the Supreme Stupidity.

The trio of Carol Danvers-Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan switch places through something called quantum entanglement. It comes off as quantum confusement.

The Quantum Bands, aka the Bangles, have the power to tear open a jump point in space.

“The Marvels” tears a hole in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“The Marvels” is not deep-fake cinema. It’s simply deeply-bad cinema.

Who can be fixing the hole in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

“The Marvels” is the 33rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Will the 34th film be the charm?

Somebody had better solve the Marvel malaise.

“The Marvels,”

MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned: Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.) for action-violence and brief language; Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy; Run time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. Distributed by Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios.

Credit Readers Anonymous:

In “The Marvels” mid-credits scene, Monica meets an alternate version of her mother. And Dr. Hank McCoy appears. At the end of the credits, the meows of Flerken are heard.

At The Movies:

“The Marvels’ was seen in Dolby Cinema at AMC Center Valley 16. The standard format would suffice.

Theatrical Movie Domestic Weekend Box Office,

Nov. 24-26: “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” continued at No. 1 for the Thanksgiving Day weekend, with $28.8.6 million in 3,776 theaters, with leftovers going to “Napoleon,” opening, $20.4 million in 3,500 theaters, and “Wish,” opening, $19.5 million in 3,900 theaters.

4. Trolls Band Together” dropped two places, $17.5 million in 3,893 theaters, $64.4 million, two weeks. 5. “Thanksgiving” dropped two places, $7.2 million in 3,204 theaters, $24.1 million, two weeks. 6. “The Marvels” dropped two places, $6.4 million in 3,070 theaters, $76.8 million, three weeks. 7. “The Holdovers” stayed in place, $2.7 million in 1,601 theaters, $12.8 million, five weeks. 8. “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” dropped two places, $2.3 million in 946 theaters, $178.2 million, seven weeks. 9. “Five Nights at Freddy’s” dropped four places, $1.7 million in 1,754 theaters, $136.2 million, five weeks. 10. “Saltburn” moved up four places, $1.7 million in 1,566 theaters, $3 million. two weeks.

Movie box office information from Box Office Mojo as of Nov. 26 is subject to change.

Theatrical Movie Domestic Weekend Box Office,

Nov. 17-19: “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” satisfied at No.1, opening with $44.6 million in 3,776 theaters, with “Trolls Band Together” opening at No. 2 with $30 million in 3,870 theaters, and “Thanksgiving” opening at No. 3 with $10.3 million in 3,204 theaters, as “The Marvels” dropped three places from its one-week run at No. 1 with $10.1 million in 4,030, $64.9 million, two weeks.

5. “Five Nights at Freddy’s” dropped three places, $3.5 million in 2,829 theaters, $132.6 million, four weeks. 6. “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” dropped three places, $2.7 million in 1,573 theaters, $175.6 million, six weeks. 7. “The Holdovers” dropped one place, $2.6 million in 1,478 theaters, $8.3 million, four weeks. 8. “Next Goal Wins,” opening, $2.5 million in 2,240 theaters. 9. “Priscilla” dropped five places, $2.3 million in 1,802 theaters, $16.9 million, four weeks. 10. “Killers of the Flower Moon” dropped five places, $1.9 million in 1,714 theaters, $63.6 million, five weeks.

Movie box office information from Box Office Mojo as of Nov. 19 is subject to change.


Dec. 1:

“Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé,”

No MPAA rating: Beyoncé directs the documentary film of her “Renaissance” concert tour.

Movie opening information from Internet Movie Database as of Nov. 26 is subject to change.

One Popcorn Box out of Five Popcorn Boxes

CONTRIBUTED IMAGE BY WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES Three-in-one, plus one: Iman Vellani (Kamala Khan), Brie Larson (Carol Danvers-Captain Marvel), Teyonah Parris (Monica Rambeau), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), “The Marvels.”