THE STORY – Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, has reclaimed her identity from the tyrannical Kree and taken revenge on the Supreme Intelligence. However, unintended consequences see her shouldering the burden of a destabilized universe. When her duties send her to an anomalous wormhole linked to a Kree revolutionary, her powers become entangled with two other superheroes to form the Marvels.
THE CAST – Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton, Park Seo-joon & Samuel L. Jackson
THE TEAM – Nia DaCosta (Director/Writer), Megan McDonnell & Elissa Karasik (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 105 Minutes
According to the internet, Marvel has a problem as of late. Everyone knows this. Evidently, following the grand conclusion of the Infinity Saga in “Avengers: Endgame,” the Disney-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe has been wrestling with a pronounced phenomenon known as “superhero fatigue.” With multiple lackluster television shows, films centered around secondary characters with poor visual effects, and an antagonist played by an actor embroiled in horrible controversy, Marvel is in dire need of damage control or a break from popular culture so it can get out of everyone’s crosshairs. Additionally, the pre-reception around the 33rd film in the MCU, “The Marvels,” has been less than appealing, giving Nia DaCosta’s latest film (“Little Woods” & “Candyman“), a sequel to two Disney+ shows and the $1 billion grossing first film “Captain Marvel,” a formidable challenge to its prospects of achieving success.
For audiences who haven’t consumed all of the MCU’s additions, it may be difficult to pinpoint precisely where “The Marvels” takes place within the jumbled timeline of producer Kevin Feige’s ever-evolving cinematic universe. But in the simplest terms, it occurs after the events of the Infinity Saga and Disney+ shows “WandaVision” and “Ms. Marvel.” Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) find themselves in their respective locations, continuing their everyday lives and randomly, accidentally swapping places. Kamala switches with Carol, who then swaps with Monica. Monica and Nick Fury realize that since the three women’s powers are associated with light, they are becoming entangled. This is due to a villain manipulating various energies to save her planet, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), a Kree warrior revolutionary armed with an Accuser’s hammer and a bangle identical to Kamala’s. She is determined to return her homeland to its former glory following a devastating civil conflict. Reluctantly, the three women join forces to figure out how to untangle their powers and defeat Dar-Benn.
Despite all the negative pre-buzz surrounding it, what makes “The Marvels” as enjoyable as some of the original MCU films is the trio of women at its center. Larson, Vellani, and Parris form a great team with fantastic electric chemistry. In particular, Vellani, making her feature film debut, pronounces herself as a star. Her performance exudes sheer delight, deftly delivering every comedic element while convincingly portraying Kamala’s endearing blend of mild stress and starstruck wonder. Parris, serving as the emotional anchor of the film, contributes compelling dramatic and comedic moments, ensuring the heart of the narrative remains firmly intact in her portrayal of Monica. Larson, to her credit, seems more relaxed in the role than ever before and is finally able to do more with Carol as she navigates human relationships and readjusts to the dynamics of team collaboration after several decades of solitude. The sequences that center around Carol, Kamala, and Monica constantly switching and figuring out how to control their problem are the film’s best moments. Moreover, the choreography of the action sequences and the adept camera work elevate the material, making this one of the most fun entries in the MCU yet.
However, the story surrounding the trio is less engaging than their performances and chemistry. This is probably due to Marvel having prerequisites for their films, which is a significant fault in the current phase of the MCU and the franchise altogether. DaCosta, who also has a writing credit on the film, provides enough exposition to fill in audience members who might have missed the Disney+ shows featuring Kamala and Monica. Still, the same cannot be said for the main storyline, which revolves around the Skrulls, Kree, and space exploration. In previous Marvel films, any audience member could enjoy and follow a new entry with no additional homework required other than maybe seeing the other films featuring the main characters, but this is simply not the case in “The Marvels.” Consequently, individuals uninitiated with the MCU post “Avengers: Endgame” or Phase 4 may find it challenging to grasp and follow the overarching storyline fully.
Nevertheless, there is an impressive amount of world-building to be found within “The Marvels.” Most of the film takes place away from Earth as the team travels to a number of different planets that have their own ecosystems and environments. Each world has a unique portrayal, from the infrastructure to the creatures that inhabit it. Additionally, the camera and stunt work are also engaging, with the best action sequences involving hand-to-hand combat as opposed to Captain Marvel simply glowing in flight and using her power to evaporate her enemies with ease. In line with several recent Marvel productions, the coloring and visual effects can be inconsistent and, at times, dull. But then, at other times, they can also be appealing, which only highlights the struggle these visual effects artists must be going through to turn around such large-scale projects in such a short period of time.
Admittedly, “The Marvels” is a lighthearted movie. There are a lot of jokes that land and ridiculous moments throughout that mix levity with absurdity, including a few musical numbers. It can be silly, and as such, it doesn’t need to be taken as seriously as some of the other entries within the MCU. With a brisk runtime of 105 minutes, there is no time for exhaustion or boredom compared to other superhero films that have been pushing the two-and-a-half to three-hour mark. The direction is tight, the fight scenes are vibrant, and the villain is surprisingly amusing due to how much Zawe Ashton commits to the character’s wickedness.
Ultimately, “The Marvels” has been created to delight a broad audience, especially children. It successfully accomplishes this goal despite the undue, sometimes misogynistic criticism and negative pre-publicity that has shrouded it. Despite all these unfair and negative thoughts that may surround the film, both pre-and post-release, “The Marvels” may be one of the most surprising movies within the MCU or in 2023 overall, especially considering how it changes the course of the entire MCU for the future. It is a wonderfully endearing portrayal of female friendship and collaboration that will likely entertain the masses for days to come.