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The Daily Tar Heel

'The Marvels' performs low at box office, reflects 'superhero fatigue'

'The Marvels' is currently being shown at the Varsity on Franklin Street.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated the box office and pop culture throughout its 15-year existence, but its grip on audiences may be slipping, as indicated by the performance of “The Marvels,” its latest release.

"The Marvels" brought in the lowest opening box office numbers in the franchise’s history, and half of the MCU’s more recent entries, after its hit “Avengers: Endgame,” landed in the bottom third of the revenue pile.

This underperformance probably has more to do with some viewers’ 'superhero fatigue' and aversion to diverse casts than with the movie itself.

Part of the audience has tuned out for the post-Endgame era of Marvel. Additionally, some reviewers targeted four of these latest movies — including “The Marvels” — for being too political due to their female and/or minority characters, despite this diversity being wholly beneficial throughout the film.

Regardless, “The Marvels” falls short of benchmarks beyond, and more important than, making money and pleasing everyone.

The movie follows Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel and Monica Rambeau as their powers become entangled, causing them to switch places at inopportune times.

Together, they fight the leader of an alien race that is stealing natural resources from other planets to save her home world, which is on the brink of ecological destruction.

While this sounds like an interesting conflict that could comment on real-world issues of environmentalism, “The Marvels” simply isn’t that kind of movie — instead, it focuses on the friendship of its three protagonists and the ensuing humor.

The teenage Ms. Marvel and her family excel in these comedic moments, giving voice to characters that are both unique and relatable. Captain Marvel and Monica balance Ms. Marvel’s youthful excitement while still adding to the fun.

The trio tackle a silly plot, complete with space cats and a musical number that is enjoyable, even if excessive.

The place-switching concept is fully utilized, providing energetic action sequences and the opportunity for a bonding montage.

Unfortunately, the potential depth of these characters and their relationships goes unrealized in the pursuit of comedy.

Any moments of emotional vulnerability or growth feel unearned and like afterthoughts, sandwiched between jokes and resolved much too quickly. Marvel’s previous movie, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” proves that it's possible to juggle being both fun and profound.

While profundity shouldn’t be a requirement for all films, the lack of it in “The Marvels” is especially disappointing because all the ingredients are present, waiting to be used.

Each protagonist faces issues such as guilt, disillusionment and loss, but the drama of their interpersonal conflicts — how Captain Marvel abandoned Monica 20 years prior and how she must measure up to Ms. Marvel’s hero-worship — are only hinted at.

The plot could have been another source of depth, since the villain is from Captain Marvel’s past, but isn’t given the proper time to impact the characters or audience. This inattention toward character and plot development gives the movie an assembly-line quality, as if Marvel followed a formula to churn it out as easily as possible.

The final scene highlights this quantity-over-quality attitude, choosing to set up future movies rather than firmly conclude this one. While the scene is exciting, it should have been put in the end credits, where teasers belong.

There is one gasp-worthy mid-credit scene, so stick around for that and leave during the black-and-white credits.

With 33 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and dozens more superhero films outside of it, the standards for each new entry are constantly rising.

“The Marvels” doesn’t revitalize the genre, but its charismatic leads, humor and action make it worth a watch if you’re looking for a laugh.

Despite its flaws, it doesn’t deserve to be the lowest-earning Marvel movie — not in a world with “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.”

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@dthlifestyle |

Sarah Monoson

Sarah Monoson is a 2023-24 assistant copy editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a copy editor. Sarah is a junior pursuing a degree in journalism with minors in history and global cinema.