The Marvels poster with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), and Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani)

‘The Marvels’: An Imperfect, Lighthearted Premise Is Dividing Critics

The Marvels is set to premiere on November 10, and early reviews have started rolling in on social media and Rotten Tomatoes. So far, the reviews are mixed, with some critics giving the film glowing reviews and others panning it.

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The Marvels is the third and final Marvel Cinematic Universe film to arrive in 2023. Serving as a direct sequel to Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel, the film sees Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) team up after their powers mysteriously become entangled. While learning to work together as a team, the trio must contend with the threat of Kree revolutionary Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton). The film also introduces Prince Yan (Park Seo-joon) to the MCU and features the return of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

While The Marvels features exciting new characters, a major crossover, and three immensely talented leads, its path to the theater hasn’t been very smooth. The film was delayed over a year from its original release date, resulting in it arriving in the middle of the SAG-AFTRA strike, thus limiting promotional activity. It also comes at a time when superhero and franchise fatigue is setting in, with Disney, Marvel, and DC experiencing multiple box-office flops this year. And given that it’s a female-led film, there have already been sexists dislike-bombing the film’s trailer and trying to spread negativity around its release.

It’s important that viewers pay attention to reviews from those who have actually seen The Marvels rather than being swayed by all this talk of box office predictions or the “anti-woke” crowd.

The Marvels reviews are mixed but leaning slightly positive

(L-R): Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, and Teyonah Parris as Captain Monica Rambeau in Marvel Studios' THE MARVELS. Photo by Laura Radford. © 2023 MARVEL.
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Early reviews of The Marvels have been mixed but are leaning slightly more toward the positive side. As of the writing of this article, The Marvels‘ Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 57%, with 67 “Fresh” reviews from critics and 49 “Rotten.” The positive reviews described the film as “fun,” “refreshingly different” from other formulaic MCU films, filled with “girl power,” “hilarious,” and elevated by the “chemistry” and “heartwarming dynamic” between its three talented leads. Several of these reviews concede that there are some plot, script, and villain problems, but also indicate that the components mentioned above make up for any flaws.

On the other hand, the more negative reviews mainly criticize the film for being too “silly” and “messy,” with a poor plot. Some of the criticism is directed more at the MCU than The Marvels, as some critics feel it is exactly the kind of formulaic Marvel film that audiences are quickly tiring of. RogerEbert’s Christy Lemire writes, “Maybe we don’t need some sort of Marvel product in theaters or on streaming at all times,” while Den of Geek‘s David Crowe suggests it’s time for the MCU to “rethink the formula.”

The topic of The Marvels‘ female representation also divided critics. Associated Press‘s Lindsey Bahr writes that the film “doesn’t really engage with any specific or unique female point of view.” While some reviewers claim the film is for “fangirls,” others praise its female-focused plot. Insider‘s Kirsten Acuna writes, “Regardless of any hiccups, The Marvels satisfyingly gets its larger message across, that women should lean on each other, and know they’re higher, further, faster—and stronger—together,” while Geek Girl Riot‘s Sherin Nicole praises the film’s “PowerPuff vibes.”

Most Rotten Tomatoes critics disagree on the chemistry and personas of the three leads, as well as whether it’s a refreshing or formulaic Marvel film. However, most positive and negative reviews are in agreement that the plot, script, villain, and pacing are lacking but that the film is entertaining, features strong lead performances, and at least attempts to be something new.

What to make of The Marvels‘ mixed reviews

Given how mixed The Marvels reviews are, fans should be wary about leaning on just one person’s take on the film. It’s also worth noting that a lot of the negative reviews come from men, while more of the positive reviews come from women. There’s a possibility that some bias could sneak into reviews, too, especially those labeling the trio a “B-list team,” complaining about Ms. Marvel being “annoying,” or being unnecessarily harsh by labeling it the “worst” MCU film ever and giving it zero stars.

Another reason viewers should be cautious of these reviews is that critics often take these films too seriously. Based on the positive reviews, The Marvels is intentionally lighthearted, fun, and hilarious. Its humor has even drawn comparisons to Thor: Ragnarok. While critics might label it too “silly” or “goofy,” there’s nothing wrong with a film just being pure, wholesome fun. Meanwhile, many glowing reviews of The Marvels have also surfaced on social media.

Ultimately, The Marvels may not be a perfect film and seems to have some script and villain problems. However, with teases of fantastic performances, a lighthearted premise, humor, and speedy runtime, it seems like a very watchable film. After all—as recent movies like The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Five Nights at Freddy’s illustrate—the lighthearted, fun films that divide critics often turn out to delight audiences the most.

(featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.