Upon the release of the 2019 film, Captain Marvel, Disney faced significant challenges. Brie Larson, the actress portraying the lead character, made remarks during the movie’s promotional tour that some found polarizing. Consequently, a portion of the audience critiqued the film’s perceived feminist undertones and Larson’s statements, resorting to posting negative reviews even before its premiere.

Moreover, fans raised concerns about the film’s setting in the 1990s, as they felt it introduced elements that clashed with the established Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) continuity. Additionally, some viewers thought the movie’s pacing was inconsistent, believing the storytelling could have benefited from a tighter structure and execution. While the movie was a financial success, it was still seen as an early stumbling block in the course of the MCU.

Subsequently, Carol Danvers only made two brief appearances: one during the climactic battle against Thanos in Avengers: Endgame and another in the mid-credits scene of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. However, the character remains a significant influence on the young Kamala Khan, who enthusiastically preserves Captain Marvel’s legacy through an array of drawings and memorabilia adorning her room in the Disney+ series, Ms. Marvel. In this show, Kamala inherits extraordinary powers from a mystical bangle passed down by her grandmother. This apparent withdrawal of the character from the MCU narrative might have been a deliberate move to rebuild Captain Marvel’s public image.

Fast forward to 2023 and Disney releases The Marvels. This film sees the return of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) to the silver screen, once again tasked with saving the universe from impending doom. Joining her are Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), who was last seen breaking through the reality-altering hex wall created by the Scarlet Witch in WandaVision. The three heroes find themselves mysteriously interconnected, swapping places each time they use their powers, leading to intense and perilous situations, particularly for the young Khan.

Delving into the cause of their powers gone awry, they discover multiple wormholes in space-time have been unleashed, a consequence of Dar-Benn’s actions. Played by Zawe Ashton, she’s a Kree warrior in possession of Kamala’s second bangle who will stop at nothing to restore the Kree homeworld, devastated by Captain Marvel’s actions.

The Marvels is a film that remains stuck in first gear throughout its duration, lacking any significant shifts in pacing or plot development. The movie’s narrative is filled with numerous interruptions and abrupt changes in focus, creating a jarring viewing experience. To avoid spoilers, I won’t provide specific examples, but one instance involves an attack on one of Dar-Benn’s targets, with no resolution or explanation offered. This lack of closure leaves the audience hanging, even though it’s a pivotal moment in the story.

The film attempts to juggle too many plot elements, resulting in underwhelming payoffs and failing to engage the audience effectively.

On a positive note, Disney deserves credit for its efforts to make Captain Marvel a more relatable and likable character. In the previous movie, one of the most significant criticisms of Carol Danvers was her perceived lack of depth and complexity. Her character appeared overly one-dimensional and overpowered, making it difficult for viewers to form an emotional connection. Unlike characters like Tony Stark or Steve Rogers, who have well-defined arcs and vulnerabilities, Captain Marvel lacked these humanizing traits. She came across as almost flawless, akin to Superman, but without the exploration of her more relatable and human side.

However, in The Marvels, the film peels back some layers, providing insight into her struggles with loneliness and episodes of depression, where she revisits moments that she’d like to change. This glimpse into her vulnerabilities humanizes the character and reveals her desire, albeit unspoken, to be a part of a team. Her easy connection with Kamala and Monica contributes to making Captain Marvel a more appealing and relatable character.

The Marvels earns two out of five stars. Captain Marvel is a much more likable character than she was before, and Kamala Khan is great, but the film lacks any sense of cohesion or pacing. One minute the main characters are saving a planet from destruction, the next they are dancing in a Bollywood-like scene, and the next they are herding cats. The film is all over the place, and it only vaguely makes sense. Even when the final climax is reached, it holds little to no emotional response, because there was no build for it. So much of the film feels like it is on the cutting-room floor that would have tied more of the stories together, making more sense. But this is all we get.