Capes and Cowls Wanted

Ranking all the MCU Films

The Definitive List, Part 4

Here we are with the films, shows, and specials just about everyone can like. These represent the works from Marvel that are really quite good, but they’re also the ones that some segment or another of the fanbase would argue are still bad somehow. Marvel has produced a lot of content, and not all of it has been perfect. Hell, just going over this list you can see that a lot of it wasn’t perfect (even if most of their movies performed exceptionally well at the Box Office, at least for a time).

This fourth part of the list has winners, but none of them are unqualified successes. Each has little things that someone might dislike, or flaws that keep them back from true greatness. They’re still in the upper categories because they’re all quite watchable, especially in comparison to what’s sitting on part one, part two, and part three of this list. But they’re not the best of the best. Those are next, in the final section of our coverage.

But we have to get through these to arrive at the champs, so let’s do this:

Ant-Man (MCU 12)

Released after Avengers: Age of Ultron, the first Ant-Man was meant as a bit of disposable entertainment, a fun palette cleanser in between larger, world defining films for the MCU. Immediately after it came Captain America: Civil War, which drastically changed the status quo for Marvel's superteam. But in the middle of all that was a small story about heists, tiny heroes, and a father just trying to do right by his little daughter. It's a very different film and, in some ways, showed that the Marvel formula didn't have to lead to massive superhero spectacles. Sometimes it could make room for the little guy.

The production of Ant-Man wasn't easy. Originally it was slated to be helmed by Edgar WrightFamous for his television show, Spaced, Edgar Wright saw his Hollywood aspiration come to fruition with the first of his "Three Flavours of Cornetto Trilogy" films, Shaun of the Dead. The English director, screenwriter, and producer has gone on to have a varied career with wildly dynamic, visually packed films across a number of genres., but the director left the project in its early stages due to creative differences with Big M. Director Payton Reed (of Down With Love fame) was brought in to add his screwball sensibilities, and the result was a fun, silly, frothy little superhero film that did right by its tiny hero. It wasn't the big, huge stories Marvel had perfected, and that was the point. Ant-Man wasn't ever meant to helm big films because he was the little guy.

Considering Marvel would eventually push this pint-size hero over into his own epic film, Quantumania, it's fun to go back and see how the original film handled the hero and his world. It had a lot of fun with this weirdo guy who could shrink down and communicate with ants. Ant armies, giant ants, hell, even giant toy trains (and a fantastic battle sequence on a toy train set) all helped to define the visual language for this film. It didn't take itself seriously and could have fun with its heroes in ways that the other, bigger heroes couldn't. Captain America had to save the world, Ultron tried to destroy it, but only Ant-Man was going around, working at Baskin Robbins while battling tiny villains in his daughter's toy chest. It was great.

This is absolutely the strongest entry in the series. It has the best sense of itself, along with the strongest visuals of the three films. It's also the tightest, with a simple to understand plot and an easy to hate villain in Yellowjacket. The later films would add in easily forgotten villains and really bad visuals, but only this entry had a real sense of itself and the fun that could be had when you're ant-sized. Of the three, this is absolutely the one to watch.

How Essential Is It?

Ant-man would go on to feature not only in his trilogy of films but also in a few of the Avengers-level team-ups. Hell, he's absolutely essential to the plot of Endgame, so knowing his character and where he came from does add a lot when going through and watching all the key movies of the franchise.

And, although I hated how this character looked in his next appearance in Quantumania, this film does introduce Corey Stoll's Darren Cross / Yellowjacket, who would go on to become MODOK in that third film. The later version of the character is trash, a poorly thought-out joke with even worse visuals, but if you want to understand the joke you have to see this film.

While maybe not the most essential film in the franchise, Ant-Man is a great character who appears again and again, and that makes this film required viewing for the faithful. Plus, it's just good fun.

Essential Score: 7.1

Werewolf By Night (MCU 38)

I won't deny that my own biases pushed me to rate this TV special as high on the list as I did. This is really a silly little classic monster special vaguely set in the MCU. It was kind of a proof of concept showing that Marvel could put out holiday specials set in their cinematic franchise and it could work. It does work. I enjoyed the special greatly, but then it was basically targeted to viewers like me.

Legitimately, I don't know how many people out there would care about an obscure Marvel character like Werewolf by Night (or, for that matter, his partner in heroics, Man-Thing). I don't know how many people would have tolerance for a black-and-white monster special done in the style of the classic Universal MonstersThis franchise, started off with Dracula and Frankenstein in 1931, was a powerhouse of horror cinema for close to two decades, with many of the creatures continuing on in one-off movies years later. horror films of the 1930s and 1940s. I question how likely most viewers would be to sit through the whole thing once it came up on Disney+Disney's answer in the streaming service game, Disney+ features the studio's (nearly) full back catalog, plus new movies and shows from the likes of the MCU and Star Wars.. I did though, and I have to admit, it was great.

This is a silly little bit of fun Halloween horror. It's goofy, B-level entertainment that doesn't try to take itself too seriously. But, like Ant-Man, that's kind of the point. As a TV special it didn't have the pressure to grab big ratings or be a massive success at the Box Office. It could just exist as a way for Marvel to sneakily introduce monsters into their franchise and get people used to their existence. Then, when Blade comes out down the road, everyone is like, "oh, right, werewolves and vampires exist here. Okay."

Of course, now I desperately want other horror specials. Is it too much to ask for a Tomb of Dracula Halloween special, Marvel? Throw a classic monster fan a bone, guys.

How Essential Is It?

I would call this one an "on the fence" ruling for now. None of the characters in this special are, as yet, referenced in later works, and there has been no mention of if Werewolf By Night or his monster friends will appear again. Hell, there isn't even another Halloween special currently on the release calendar, so it's hard to know what will come next. Thus, for now this special exists in a little self-contained pocket.

If you want monsters in the MCU (and I surely do) then this is a great bit of fun to watch. But no one else really needs to care until more monsters make their way into the universe.

Essential Score: 2.4

Hawkeye: Season 1 (MCU 31)

Let’s be honest: Hawkeye hasn’t exactly been a key character of the MCU. He keeps showing up in movies but he’s always been the blandest part of the Avengers ensemble. People cheer when Black Widow or Hulk or Iron Man arrive on the scene. People go, “oh, that’s that arrow guy,” when Hawkeye comes on screen. Part of that is because Jeremy Renner is just a bland, unimpressive actor, but the MCU could have also tried to do more than make him the leading backup hero for all the other guys on the team.

Thankfully Hawkeye changes all that. Giving our Hawkguy his own story allows the hero to come to the forefront and actually shine for once. Helping matters is, of course, the fact that Hawkeye doesn’t have just one but two Hawkeyes in the story: Renner’s Clint Barton and Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. Loosely based on the Matt Fraction and David Aja comic series about Hawkeye, this show finds the energy, and fun, in the characters, making us actually enjoy Hawkeye for once.

Is it perfect? Absolutely not. It’s a little slow in places, taking longer than it needs to for us to get both Hawkeyes working together and having fun as a team. And the series is also very concerned with setting up other installments of the MCU, like making sure we remember that Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova (aka Black Widow II) exists all to set up the eventual Thunderbolts* movie (aka the anti-Avengers) whenever that happens. But when it gets down to business and focuses on Clint and Kate the series sings. It’s fun enough that I really would love to see more from these two, together (even if Marvel steadfastly continues to call this just a mini-series). Hell, Kate showing up in The Marvels was great since it promises something more to come.

In short, this mini-series did what I thought was impossible: it made me enjoy the MCU Hawkeye. That’s no small feat.

How Essential Is It?

Well, that is certainly up for debate right now. Before the release of The Marvels we could easily have seen this adventure happening and then there being no followup on the series afterwards. With new Avengers getting introduced and the old crew steadily being retired, it’s possible that Clint’s Hawkeye might have passed into the good night. Kate could truly replace him, or the MCU could forget about Hawkeye altogether. Either was likely.

But because of The Marvels it at least felt like the intention was to bring Kate back as part of the Young Avengers (even if that project hadn’t been put into production, or even announced, just yet). Of course, then The Marvels bombed so who knows what the suits are going to do. I’d call this more essential than one might have expected, but we do have to put a pin in it until we know for sure. later.

Essential Score: 5.4

What If...?: Season 1 (MCU 28)

With the announcement of Phase IV of the MCU Marvel went hard on the concept of “the multiverse”. Hell, their second trilogy of phases was even called “The Multiverse Saga” with the intention of having the Avengers eventually having to fight some multiversal villain at the culmination of the saga (Editor’s Note: this would have been Kang but Marvel isn’t even sure about that anymore and, even after it’s announced who the villain will finally be, we’ll probably forget to edit this later). And to really sell people on the idea that there was a multiverse and that anything could happen in some pocket somewhere they brought out a television version of their long-running side-story multiversal tales, What If?.

The concept of What If…? (the TV series) is simple: take moments from the MCU but then change one detail somewhere in the history so that events we know play out very differently in the long run. Questions like, “what if Thor was an only child?” or, “what if Doctor Strange lost his heart instead of his hands?” leads to worlds where Thor throws a giant, planet-wide kegger while, in a different dimension, Doctor Strange loses the love of his life and commits to the darkest of magics just to try and find a way to revive her, leading to the end of his homeworld. They’re interesting stories that, for the viewers, make you think about the consequences of the world of the MCU if just one thing went differently.

Honestly, sometimes these stories are better than the main stories we did get. Like “What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?” which allows us to have Killmonger (frankly, the best character in Black Panther) back for another story, and one where we get to see the ruthlessness of the character on full display. There are some solid episodes here, only let down by a small selection of weak entries, and it makes for an overall pretty satisfying season of television.

Plus, it brought Captain Carter to the MCU and I will always enjoy her as a character. More Captain Carter, all the time, please.

How Essential Is It?

Well, outside of Captain Carter (for whom a variant version showed up in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness), most of these stories aren’t essential. They’re essential to themselves, sure, with What If…? having its own internal continuity, but because all these shows exist in their own pocket universes (and only crossing over with themselves so far), this season isn’t really essential to the MCU at all. With that said, Captain Carter is a great character, and she carries over into the second season… and maybe one day beyond, so you can’t discount this season entirely, either.

Essential Score: 6.1

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (MCU 29)

The start of Phase IV was marked by a set of shows featuring characters we knew, and one movie that wasn’t even really set in the fourth phase at all. While WandaVision and Loki were good shows, it was hard to know just how much bearing they would have on the MCU as a whole. Plus, TV added a new layer to viewing for the MCU. Now you didn’t just have three movies a year but also a lot of side-story shows that may or may not have any bearing on the universe as a whole. It was a lot to keep up with, not helped by the fact that the one movie released was for a character that was already dead, in an adventure no one really cared about. Four projects into the new phase and it already started to feel like Marvel was making us do homework. We needed something new and fresh and interesting. Thankfully, the second movie of the phase gave us just what we wanted.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings delivered the first truly new lead hero of the MCU that phase, Simu Liu’s titular character. Shaun / Shang-Chi is a fun character, a slacker who just so happens to also be a well-trained assassin. His father, by chance, is Wenwu (aka “The Mandarin”), a powerful overlord with mystical rings who has dreams of world conquest. Wenwu wants Shang-Chi to rejoin him, to use a Shang–Chi has so that they can open a gate to another dimension and bring back Shang-Chi’s dead mother. But it’s a lie, and evil creatures from the other side have been temptin Wenwu for years. It’ll take the son fighting against his powerful father, with all the skill and abilities he’s picked up, to maybe just become the hero his culture (and the world) needs.

Credit is due to Marvel for taking this character, and many other associated (problematic) characters and reinventing them to bring this setting, this world, into the MCU. Shaun is an enjoyable character, joined by his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) on his adventure, and the movie is able to carry a light tone to make for a fun movie. It’s a great starting spot for a new hero in the universe and, if Marvel were running things properly, we would have seen far more of him in the other films and shows of Phase IV to make sure we remembered who he was and why we should care about Shang-Chi.

With that said, the film isn’t perfect, having a last act that feels more like CGI power-slop than a proper culmination of Shang-Chi’s story (which, truly, is a problem most Marvel films fall into). But what really fails the movie is that, after this, Shang-Chi has been missing from the MCU for three years (and it looks like we won’t see him again until maybe even Phase VI). A great character needs more adventures after his introduction and while Wenwu showed up in What If…? Season 2, his son has been conspicuously absent from all MCU media after this film. It’s odd and absolutely lessens the impact of this film on the universe as a whole.

How Essential Is It?

As noted, Shang-Chi has been conspicuously absent from the MCU after his introductory film. This speaks to a lack of a focused plan from Marvel for much of "The Multiverse Saga" as a whole, especially in its early phases. If Marvel wasn’t going to do much with his character early on then they should have waited to introduce him until it really mattered. This leaves us wondering what the point was of bringing Shang-Chi, or the Ten Rings, in at all except to make up for the awful version of the Mandarin we got in Iron Man 3. We didn’t need a whole movie to fix one error, but right now that’s the whole of the impact of this film.

Essential Score: 4.5

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (MCU 37)

If you visit certain corners of the internet She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is the worst thing to happen to the MCU. “Unfunny,” and “unlikable lead,” and “the MCU dies here.” But, the show actually isn’t that bad. It’s good. It’s high on this list because it’s funny, with a lead heroine that is likable and amusing. The complaints that a certain segment has about the show, “why is she talking to the screen. It ruins it for me,” can also be leveled at Deadpool except, no, they don’t complain about that film. Huh, I wonder what it is about She-Hulk that pisses them off.

It’s because she’s a woman. That’s the reason. This certain segment hates female lead characters, and especially hates female lead superheroes. It’s not really a secret.

I’m not going to argue that She-Hulk is a perfect show. It does have an uneven story, and it pretty clearly went through a ton of editorial massaging behind the scenes during production (supposedly there were a ton of rewrites, and the whole villain arc for the series was rewritten after initial production was done). This is balanced out, though, by the show’s light tone, fun characters, and amusing writing. Tatiana Maslany is great as the lead, Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk, and the show has a lot of fun contrasting her superhero persona with the person she wants to be, a solid and competent lawyer that isn’t also a giant, green, rage machine. As the first Hulk property we’ve gotten in years (ever since the failure of The Incredible Hulk, see part one), She-Hulk delivers.

Sadly, due to the high production costs, and the fact that the TV shows haven’t been as successful as the movies, it’s doubtful we’ll ever get a second season. A real pity as it felt like the show was finally getting into its own right as it ended. Hopefully we get to see She-Hulk in other works and her character isn’t just forgotten.

How Essential Is It?

Like many of the newer works on this list, the essential-ness of this show is debatable. On the one hand the series does give us a new Hulk work, and it ties itself nicely into The Incredible Hulk in ways that almost (but not quite) redeem that film. It brings back Tim Roth’s Abomination and makes him into a fun and enjoyable character. It lets Mark Ruffalo have more screen time as his Smart Hulk persona, which is great. And, yes, it shows that the Hulks still have a place in the MCU even if the rights to the characters are weirdly tied up with Universal.

Most importantly the show brings back Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock / Daredevil after a brief, cameo appearance in Spider-man: No Way Home. He’s getting his own series, one that presumably ties into both the Netflix Marvel continuity as well as the main MCU, so hopefully his time dating She-Hulk in this series carries over as well.

Still, since we’re not getting a second season, and there’s been no note from Marvel about whether She-Hulk will show up in other shows, this may also be the end of the road for the Hulk part of the continuity. I’d like to think we’ll get more with Jennifer… but only time will tell.

Essential Score: 6.3

Loki: Seasons 1 & 2 (MCU 26 & 44)

To be clear, I prefer rating different seasons of the MCU shows separately on this list. We’ll get to What If…?: Season 2 further down this list even though season one of that show appeared above. The way the Marvel continuity works, so many movies and shows are coming out all the time and the stories build on each other, even between shows and seasons. Unless a series is so interconnected on itself that it can ignore the rest of continuity, we have to evaluate each season almost like it was its own movie.

In the case of Loki, those caveats actually do apply. This series exists in its own pocket of the MCU that, so far, only Deadpool is also able to visit (see Deadpool and Wolverine). The two seasons (so far, assuming we don’t get a third) exist as a combined single tale for the God of Mischief, and, in the process, it effectively ties up his story and sets the stage for a different adventure to come (either for the other denizens of the MCU, or maybe for Loki himself). They are like one, long mini-series, and even as I wrote this list I struggled to decide if season two should come before or after season one. In the end they were so close to each other, and they built on each other, I just decided combining the two together made the most sense.

But for the record, if I listed them separately, I’d give the edge to season one over season two. That’s if you want a truly itemized list of every single MCU release.

Loki focuses on a variant version of the God of Mischief who, due to time travel, escapes from Avengers tower (see both The Avengers and Avengers: Endgame). Captured by the Time Variance Authority, Loki is taken to the TVA headquarters which exists outside of space and time where he is set to be processed and eliminated… except, instead, Morbius M. Morbius sees potential in the variant. The goal is to have this Loki hunt down another Loki variant, Sylvie, who is causing issues on the “Sacred Timeline”. Loki and Sylvie, though, bond, and go off on an adventure together, but when the two of them meet the man at the center of it all, He Who Remains, Sylvie kills him, setting off a chain of events that might just end the world (in the second season). And then Loki has to pick up the pieces.

It’s a great and engaging story made better by a solid cast of new characters and a weird, twisty adventure that keeps surprising the audience. Season two does get off to a rocky start, and takes a few episodes to get back in the groove and really feel right. Once it does, though, it builds to a fantastic conclusion that also works as a proper finale for the God of Mischief. It’s great.

How Essential Is It?

Well, a lot of that depends on the next actions for the MCU. He Who Remains is, in fact, a variant, one of many versions of the multiversal villain Kang. All versions of Kang, that we know of, were played by Johnathan Majors but, after legal trouble and a conviction, Majors was fired from the role by the MCU. The studio could recast the role but, right now, it seems more likely that Kang is done in the MCU and will be replaced by a new villain, like Doctor Doom. So using Loki to introduce Kang and set him up as a villain seems to have been a missed opportunity.

That said, the series does end (so far, assuming we don’t get a third season) with Loki going out into the multiverse to pull all its random strands together, taking over the throne at the center of the universe and, in effect, giving birth to Yggdrasil, the tree of life. This is even shown again in What If…?: Season Two, with a hint that some further adventure could be coming over in that series, if nowhere else. So I would say this show is pretty essential to the fabric of the MCU, even if Kang is completely wiped away after this.

Essential Score: 8.2

Thor: Love and Thunder (MCU 36)

I am not one of those people that hated the fourth Thor film. While I won’t deny that Thor: Love and Thunder isn’t as great as the third title, Thor: Ragnarok, I don’t think it deserves nearly as much hate as it gets. It’s a flawed but fun film, and that describes many of the mid-range movies for the MCU. But when you compare it to the two Thor films that came before, Love and Thunder is absolutely head and shoulders above. It’s a light and amusing movie that lets its leads shine as they go on an amusing adventure. Its pros certainly outweigh its cons.

The pros are its cast, with Hemsworth returning as his characteristically amusing God of Thunder, Portman coming back as the new, Thor-powered Jane Foster, and Thompson reprising as Valkyrie in a more light-hearted turn for the character. The script has a lot of fun just being silly and letting the weirdness of the Thor world fly. And it has a fantastic climax that lets “The Power of Thor” become more than just something the main hero lusts after. That all works really well.

Working against the film was a middled shooting schedule complicated by COVID, and Marvel’s current trend of not bothering to finish scripts before shooting, going in for extensive reshoots that sometimes leave films worse off than when they started. This comes at a detriment for the film’s villain, Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher, who is a great character in search of a solid story. Bale acts his heart out but the film does waste him a bit. I would have loved a longer, deeper story for him with maybe 15 to 20 minutes added to the film to make the villain stick. I think more of his darker, more sinister story to balance the goofy weirdness at the heart of the film would have helped.

Still, when it comes to MCU movies this film is far better than the hate it gets. And when you look at the thin sliver of Phase IV productions (and the even thinner sliver of just Thor movies) it really is a big winner. Not great, but solid all the same.

How Essential Is It?

The film does promise that more Thor, and even more Jane, could be in the offing. I love Portman’s turn as the Mighty Thor here and if the series really does bring her back again I think that would be great. Valkyrie continues on as the King of Asgard, even appearing in The Marvels (see below) even if some of her scenes were edited out of that movie (due to reshoots and Disney politics). It doesn’t feel like Asgard is going anywhere in the MCU continuity, and these characters will continue on, in some form, for some time, so while this particular adventure might be slight, it has a solid place in the universe’s continuity.

Essential Score: 7.5

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (MCU 40)

I’ve gone back and forth on this work because I really enjoyed it when it came out but, at the same time, I have absolutely no desire to watch it again. The special (movie? single episode? I’m actually not even sure exactly what to call it) is a fun bit of fluff that takes place at Christmas right between Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. It marks the fun return of James Gunn to the MCU after Disney tried to fire him (and then backtracked later on that whole decision) for tweets he’d made (and then deleted on his own impetus) years before. He already knew he’d fucked up even before someone went out there and found the stuff he wrote. Disney really didn’t need to follow up on it especially since he was doing all the right things to show he really knew he fucked up way back in the day. Every once in a while someone can really change and Gunn seemed like the guy that did.

Besides, DC was more than happy to snap him up and it was Disney, and not Gunn, who realized they’d fucked up. And so they brought him back, with the promise that not only could he make his third movie but he could also make a silly, sappy holiday special. And so he did.

And it’s fun. It’s an enjoyably silly little adventure where Drax and Mantis head off to Earth to capture Kevin Bacon so he can sing for Peter Quill (who is still depressed and broken up over Gamora dying and her time-displaced version not liking him at all). It’s a silly thing, a trifle really, but it has Gunn’s wit and charm and is fun to watch when you have it on. But it’s not really something I feel the need to watch, and would only pull it up if I wanted to do a run of all the Guardians of the Galaxy films back-to-back-to-back. And I wouldn’t want to do that because the second one is… not great.

Still, it does have the song “I Don’t Know What Christmas is but Christmas Time is Here,” and that’s a real charmer, so it does have its moments. It’s fun, it’s amusing, and it was great to have a little holiday special to tide all of us over until the real show, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 came out. But we have that now and, eh, I dunno that I care as much about this holiday treat anymore.

How Essential Is It?

In the grand scheme, not at all. It does set up that the heroes of the team are operating out of Knowhere as their home base, and it gives us the full cast of heroes that will now serve on the team for the third (and final) film in Gunn’s tenure. But again, outside of those minor details (which the third movie also quickly establishes) there isn’t anything that’s really needed here. It’s fun, but slight, and is easily skipped if you just want to get to the meat of the third movie.

Essential Score: 4.2

The Marvels (MCU 45)

Speaking of hate from fans, look no further than The Marvels. This film tanked at the Box Office, making $206.1 Mil against a total budget of $274.8 Mil. That makes this the first film in the franchise to truly bomb, not even getting close to making back its production budget even if you take into account ancillary revenues like home video sales and streaming distribution. People at the time seemed to turn against the movie, whether it was the dudes in the audience who hated Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, or the sect that dismissed Iman Vellani’s Ms. Marvel because she was both a girl and Muslim. And there was a segment of the audience that tuned out because they didn’t want to have to keep up not only with the Marvel movies but also all the TV shows as well. That last segment is fair, with there being a lot of “homework” in the MCU now just to keep up. Marvel Studios expected too much from its audience, and The Marvels suffered.

Still, for those that went to the film and sat for it in theaters (or the ones that went back and watched it on streaming after), the general opinion is that this was, in fact, a good film. It’s light-hearted and fun with solid chemistry among the three leads (Larson’s Captain Marvel, Vellani’s Ms, Marvel, and Teyonah Parris’s Monica Rambeau / Photon). The film mines great material from the meeting, and mixing, of the three, and it rewards viewers of all the works by giving each of these characters their fair due in the film. It does succeed well enough as a standalone work, but I think it is even better if you’ve seen everything that came before.

There are parts of the film that could be better, mind you. There’s an entire setup about Captain Marvel going to the Kree homeworld and destroying their central computer system, an act that was meant to free them but, in the end, destroyed their world. This is legitimately a section of the film that should have been an act on its own (or even its own Captain Marvel film) instead of being given to us as a few flashback scenes. The villain also suffers because of this. Zawe Ashton’s Dar-Benn works at a basic level, having solid motivation to want revenge against Captain Marvel for destroying her world, but because the whole storyline there is rushed, and the villain is introduced quickly into this very slight, 105 minute film, her hate, and her story, doesn’t quite come together.

This film, like so many other works in Phase IV, suffered from rush production, Marvel recalibrating from COVID, and too much tinkering on the film after it was initially shot. You can feel that in the movie as things don’t quite seem together. If this movie had a lesser cast I think it would have sunk the film (see: The Eternals), but the lead trio are great, and there so much fun had that you forgive a lot of it. As an adventure for the three leads, and the delightful chaos that comes in their wake, this film works. Just don’t stress too much about the rest and you’ll leave satisfied.

How Essential Is It?

Well that is the question (something I keep having to say). Marvel was reportedly on the fence about having Larson continue as Captain Marvel even before this film came out, and the crash and burn this film performed at the Box Office basically precludes any kind of follow up, at least in theaters. And with Photon off in another universe at the end of this film, it’s possible this movie could just be quietly set aside and ignored after this… if not for one thing…

See, the tag ending of this film has Ms. Marvel meet up with Kate Bishop’s Hawkeye (in her costume, obviously acting as Hawkeye). The setup is for them to form the Young Avengers, naturally, and whether you loved or hated this film, many think that Vellani is transcendent as Ms. Marvel. It’s doubtful the studio is going to drop her, and she came out of this film smelling like roses. Instead I’d expect some kind of Young Avengers work in the future, and that all comes because of this movie.

Essential Score: 6.2