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Review: The Marvels (2023)

The Marvels (2023)

Directed by: Nia DaCosta

Premise: A follow up to Captain Marvel. Superheroes Carol Danvers and Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan (Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris and Iman Vellani) have their powers intertwined, causing them to switch places. They must work together to stop a warlord (Zawe Ashton) from destroying planets.

What Works: The Marvel Cinematic Universe is highly interconnected and The Marvels brings together the hero of Captain Marvel with characters seen in the television programs WandaVision and Ms. Marvel. Despite drawing from a few different sources, The Marvels is mostly a standalone story and viewers who haven’t kept up with every piece of the MCU ought to be able to follow it (although familiarity with Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel definitely helps). The three leads are distinct and they have a likable rapport. Carol Danvers and Monica Rambeau, played by Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris, have history that goes back to the first Captain Marvel movie and there is unresolved tension between them while Kamala Khan, played by Iman Vellani, is the newbie. Vellani is such fun to watch in part because her character is so enthusiastic and earnest but also a bit naïve and she is a foil to the coolness of her older counterparts. The story of The Marvels solves Carol Danvers’ Superman problem. By the end of her origin story and again in Avengers: Endgame, Danvers was so powerful that she was uninteresting. The premise of The Marvels limits Danvers powers in a way that increases the stakes. The action scenes emphasize the heroes’ attempts to save people which gives the set pieces a human touch amid all the digital fury.   

What Doesn’t: A lot of these kinds of fantasy series suffer from an overabundance of exposition but The Marvels is a little too light on context. We get enough information to make sense of what the villain wants and why but the background is rushed through and the magical properties of the MacGuffin are not clear. We find out that Carol Danvers had some history with the planet Hala and the villain Dar-Benn. This backstory is not from a previous Marvel movie or television show and it comes across tagged on and lacking dramatic weight. The resolution of the climactic fight is especially confusing. The evolution of the Marvels team is abrupt. Danvers and Rambeau and Khan work together right away. Unlike the team up of the first Avengers movie, there’s little drama in them learning to cooperate. This part of the story would be more dramatically satisfying if they had a greater learning curve and overcame personality conflicts.

Bottom Line: The Marvels is a fun but middle-tier entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The plotting is spotty but the leads are likable and The Marvels possesses enough action and humor to make for an enjoyable comic book adventure.

Episode: #974 (November 19, 2023)