Captain Marvel prefers to fly "higher, further, faster" than her fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes, but The Marvels is threatening to bring Brie Larson's ultra-powerful alter ego down to Earth. Current box office tracking for Marvel Studios's latest installment have the film opening between $60-65 million domestically, and $140 million worldwide.
That's well behind 2023's other big-screen offerings, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which debuted to $120 million in the U.S. over a four-day holiday weekend in February, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3, which cleared $118 million in May. And it's even further behind 2019's Captain Marvel, which racked up $153 million domestically in its opening weekend on its path towards the billion-dollar mark globally. Those numbers already have the online trolls, who have plagued Larson since the first film, gleefully anticipating a box office wipeout.
It doesn't help that The Marvels is landing in theaters on a wave of negative headlines about the once-mighty Marvel brand, which has seen its creative and commercial fortunes challenged in recent years. Variety recently reported that the $250 million movie went through four weeks of reshoots, and director Nia DaCosta moved to England during the lengthy post-production phase to begin work on her next movie, Hedda, starring Tessa Thompson, while editing The Marvels remotely.
The Candyman director later clarified those reports, noting that it's not an uncommon practice for directors juggling multiple projects. "For me personally, it was literally just that they moved the date of the film four different times," DaCosta told Jake Hamilton. And so, instead of it being a two year process, which I was deeply committed to, it became a three-and-a-half year process."
In a separate interview with Digital Spy, DaCosta also addressed concerns about the film's 105-minute runtime — making one of the shortest Marvel movies ever and suggesting that many scenes might have been left on the cutting room floor. "I really wanted it to be under two hours," the director noted. "I just feel like there’s no need to have it long if you don’t need to, because 1 hour 45 minutes is pretty average for a movie, so we were all really excited."
Due to the Screen Actors Guild strike, the movie's three stars have been unable to publicly promote the film, which finds Captain Marvel unexpectedly teaming up with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) to combat a vengeance-seeking Kree warrior. Recent trailers for the film have sought to connect The Marvels to the studio's legacy of hits like Avengers: Endgame, teasing cameos and plot developments that will have major implications for the MCU going forward.
Meanwhile early screenings have yielded a wide range of reactions, with enthusiasm for the film's humor and brevity balanced by complaints about rushed storytelling and a forgettable villain. Here's a sampling of what critics are saying about The Marvels as you plan out your weekend moviegoing.
The Marvels is better than the headlines
[The Marvels] has the bad luck of unfortunate timing, sustaining the one-two punch of this fevered discourse about a glut of Marvel content and the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, which hasn’t allowed the cast to even things out with a promotional charm offensive. It’s too bad, because The Marvels is quite entertaining for the most part, like all the MCU movies tend to be. As with Captain Marvel, it is a decidedly feminine project, which can be a tough sell in a cinematic universe largely aimed at young men. But DaCosta is unapologetic in her approach. — Katie Walsh, The Los Angeles Times
So ignore the toxic fans
Misogynist Nerd Twitter has been doing what it can to pollute feeds with derision since the sequel was first announced. And there have been what feels like a half-dozen books and exposés in recent weeks detailing the worsening problems with the once-mighty MCU machine. But as the tight-n-bright, 105-minute movie got unspooling, I found myself smiling, and even bursting with laughter at points, because The Marvels is the most wall-to-wall fun Marvel movie or series since Spider-Man: No Way Home. — Matt Webb Mitovich, TVLine
When in doubt, Iman Vellani comes to the rescue
The cast is why you watch The Marvels, specifically 21-year-old Iman Vellani. She broke out as the fangirl Kamala Khan on the equally darling Disney+ series Ms. Marvel and continues to show why she’s a star here. Every expression on her face is pure joy. Kamala is in the presence of her idols and she reminds the audience why they’ve followed their characters for nearly two decades. If anything, The Marvels feels like a great continuation of Ms. Marvel, with Kamala’s arc really cementing her own identity as a superhero and her daffy parents’ acceptance of it. — Kristen Lopez, The Wrap
But the movie's seams are showing
Frenetic and slapdash, the film appears to have undergone considerable post-production patchwork renovations, albeit to no avail; at multiple points, DaCosta cuts between mismatching shots, implying — as does her zig-zagging plot — that vital material was left on the cutting room floor... Just as The Marvels’ story is hurried, some of its signature CGI shots look half-finished; putting a glowing outline around a flying Captain Marvel, for example, does not offset the film’s chintzy green-screen effects. — Nick Schager, The Daily Beast
The story is all over the place
It’s best described as a poorly-knitted sweater — pull one loose end, and it all unravels. There are choices made that never come together, narratives that feel too easily dropped, and an ending that contains some satisfying beats but also some genuinely confusing plot holes. At this point, MCU fans are used to a few unresolved storylines at the end of a film, but there’s at least one big unexplained issue at the end of the film, perhaps explained in a scene cut for time, that is frustrating in the extreme. — Liz Shannon Miller, Consequence of Sound
And it suggests that the MCU needs an overall reboot
There are long stretches in The Marvels in which I had no idea what was going on, perhaps because I’m (somehow) not up on every Marvel machination, but likely because the film feels edited and snipped and trimmed within an inch of its life. Moment to moment, scene to scene, beat to beat, there are — there have to be — promising patches of cut material on an editing bay floor somewhere. — Kate Erbland, Indiewire
The Marvels premieres Friday, Nov. 10 in theaters.