Don’t Write a Story Like “The Marvels”

“The Marvels” is the latest Marvel superhero movie and it’s just gotten mediocre reviews while struggling just to break even from its production budget. If you’ve seen this movie, you can learn some valuable lessons from its failure.

First, look at how many characters are involved. There’s Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and Monica Rambeau, an astronaut with superpowers of her own. The real hero isn’t any of them but all three as a team like the Avengers. However, the movie focuses far less on their emotional change than on simply putting them in action scenes. That means we don’t really know or care about any of them.

So the first lesson is to know who the hero of your story is and force them to deal with an emotional problem so they become a better person in the end. In “The Marvels,” nearly everyone is the same person they were in the end as they were in the beginning, making the entire movie more an action spectacle than an emotionally satisfying story.

Second, if you didn’t see the Ms. Marvel TV series, the appearance of Ms. Marvel in the movie assumes you already know and care about her. This is the same flaw that “Doctor Strange 2” had when they assumed you had seen the “WandaVision” TV series and thus understood the Scarlet Witch’s motive.

“The Marvels” (like most recent Marvel movies) failed to tell a complete story. Watch the early, highly rated Marvel movies and you’ll see that they tell complete stories. Watch the latest Marvel movies and you can see that they rely too heavily on TV shows and past movies to assume you know what’s going on. That’s simply sloppy story telling and that’s what helps sink “The Marvels.”

Third, the action in “The Marvels” has no meaning. The three women can change places but in the climactic fight scene, they’re simply punching and hitting the villain. It doesn’t matter who’s hitting the villain because the action doesn’t change the emotional state of any of the characters.

Consider far better movies like “The Karate Kid” and “Star Wars.” In both of those movies, the heroes take dramatic action to pursue a goal and change emotionally. Because “The Marvels” doesn’t change any of its main characters emotionally, the action exists solely for visual entertainment but it means nothing.

When we see Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star in “Star Wars”, we see how he finally trusts himself and the Force to triumph. In “The Marvels,” there is no similar moment of emotional change because there is no emotional change. That’s why all the action in “The Marvels” is ultimately meaningless except to grab and hold your attention through visual effects and fighting. You might as well just watch two people slug each other in t he streets for all the meaning the action scenes in “The Marvels” gives us.

“The Marvels” isn’t a bad movie, but it’s far from being a good movie. It’s something to watch and study to see where it went wrong because Hollywood gets it wrong all the time when they focus too much on action and far less on giving us an emotionally meaningful story.

Superhero movies aren’t dead. Telling complete stories with a meaningful emotional change is what the latest superhero movies lack. When Marvel can get back to their original formula of telling great stories that are complete, they can get back to winning us over once again.

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