The Marvels Review
The Marvels brings everything you want in a comic book team-up movie to the table: far-reaching stakes, a dynamic ensemble – here a trio made up of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), and Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) – and high energy adventure rife with action-, tragedy, trauma-bonding, and hilarious shenanigans.
It takes a certain eye when pulling the right elements of comic story mechanics and superhero tropes together to design a narrative that has both the emotional inconsistency integral to making room for humor and heartache and a willingness to embrace real but non-linear character development in the midst of what is obviously a universe-shifting mission. The Marvels broadens our understanding of both Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel’s power level and Carol’s emotional core. The scene-stealing Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel embodies the giddy delight (and danger) of meeting your heroes while also stepping boldly into your purpose. Captain Rambeau is simultaneously the smartest person in the room and an empathic woman coming to terms with her past even as she explores her own emerging superpowers. Anyone saying that director/co-writer Nia DaCosta is anything less than an inspired choice that paid off is lying to you, or perhaps basing their assessment of The Marvels on what they think should’ve been how second installment of Captain Marvels’ journey unfolded or where they decided it was leading the MCU. For the rest of us, Nia DaCosta's The Marvels is a delightfully entertaining reminder that it's alright to laugh as hard as you cry because it's about the journey.
Larson, Vellani, and Parris are a charismatic trio with exactly the right chemistry to anchor this highly watchable film. DaCosta rightly embraces their energy to present relatable, yet, distinct types, of women united in purpose but each with their own insecurities and strengths. In DaCosta’s hands Danver’s second outing brings her face-to-face with the fallout of her wartime actions. It’s a savvy antidote to the heavy handed military-mindset of the first movie. The bloody-minded villain here, Kree Suprema Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), exists as a direct consequence of Carol’s choices. Dar-Benn’s quest for vengeance leads to the trio’s powers becoming entangled and sets them all on a collision course. Ashton’s performance is an ironic juxtaposition to Captain Marvel because her tunnel vision mirrors the more withdrawn Danvers before breaking her Kree chains. It’s a cold intensity that’s easy to overlook amongst the chaotic action and more outsized emotions of the other women. Some may read it as a weakness of the character design, but others will peep the sly commentary in their byplay.
The Marvels lays groundwork for the way beneath the surface of these complex women (as well as the franchise). But don’t expect the story to linger and dig into all the emotional turmoil and revelations. This is the beginning of the journey, and these women have layers. The pace is slightly uneven because a few gags linger overlong. It’s not enough to detract but it makes it obvious how much more there is to be revealed. But The Marvels stays mission oriented and as this trio learns how to function as a cohesive unit - and gives some great close-quarters fight choreography - the details are in the dialogue. So don’t fall out of sync with what’s being said. DaCosta doesn’t hide that there’s a lot to unpack even as the plot worldbuilds. The story beats, however, make it clear it’s not an accident we’re not taking any of those side quests here. The character arcs for each member of the ensemble are complete (and leave you wanting more); allowing the overall narrative to stay on brand with this phase's theme: there’s a reckoning for everyone in offing.
The few glitches and hiccups in CGI make it clear that the franchise could still benefit from slowing down production timelimes but it's not enough to discount from the amazing visuals of space and the transitions smoothing out the interactions between the ensemble. The Marvels has flavor and flair. It's cultural beats are eclectic, relatable, yet still undeniably inflused with a warm Blackness in the most unexpected moments. There's something for the fans deep in the lore, and an easily digestable story for the more casual fans. It's far from perfect (more of that come spoiler chat time) but, The Marvels is giving the kind of fun meant to leave you enthusiastic and smiling at the end of an enjoyable ride. So, if you come away from it thinking it has a narrative problem, that’s a you problem; not an MCU problem.
Listen and Kriss, Phenom and Ro discuss.
Director: Nia DaCosta
Writers: Nia DaCosta, Megan McDonnell, Elissa Karasik
Starring: Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton, Gary Lewis, Park Seo-joon, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh, Samuel L. Jackson
Runtime: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
Synopsis: Carol Danvers gets her powers entangled with those of Kamala Khan and Monica Rambeau, forcing them to work together to save the universe.
The Marvels opens in theaters worldwide on Nov. 10, 2023.
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