When the script gets out of the way, The Marvels understands the pure joy of seeing charismatic superheroes share the screen together. When the three heroes finally come together on Carol’s ship, the movie thuds to a stop for Carol and Monica to work through some contrived problems between them. The movie wants us to believe that they talked it out and got through, but we don’t.
However, director Nia DaCosta wisely follows that scene with a montage sequence set to “Intergalactic” by the Beastie Boys, in which the trio practices with their powers and plays jump-rope. That playful, non-superheroic, frankly banal sequence did so much more than any of the nonsense about Carol feeling uncomfortable about hero worship or Kamala wanting a team. They were friends, and we like to watch our friends, whether they’re eating shawarma or jumping rope.
Let Directors Direct
For as much doom and gloom that dominates modern MCU talk, the fact of the matter is that the franchise released one of the top-four-grossing and most well-reviewed movies of the year. Audiences came out in droves for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and, unlike other blockbusters Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, they left happy as well.
All three movies brought back beloved characters, and all three were made by filmmakers who have crafted successful and striking films in the past (check out Down With Love, Peyton Reed haters). But Guardians 3 stood out because it felt not just like a Marvel movie, but a James Gunn movie as well. Viewers came to see Gunn’s specific take on Star-Lord, Rocket, and Gamora. They came for the filmmaker’s mix of inappropriate humor and heartfelt moments. They came for bizarre imagery such as the space station made out of flesh and hair.
By this point, it’s no secret that Kevin Feige is the auteur of the MCU, an approach that has served the company well up until this point. But the success of Dune, Barbie, and Oppenheimer has only increased the film literacy of younger audiences, helping them see how a director’s vision creates a good story, beyond just the characters.
The Marvels director Nia DaCosta came to the project with an award-winning indie in The Little Woods and then with a visually stunning update of Candyman. She has an exciting cinematic eye and a sense of character that works across genres. And yet, very little of that flavor appeared on screen in The Marvels. Yes, she used the flat lighting and silly costumes to give the Kree warriors a campy Doctor Who vibe, and yes, she sneaked in some split-screens straight from ‘80s anime.