I consistently enjoy a new outing within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At the same time, the more recent efforts, especially as they navigate the Multiverse and their latest buildup, has been a bit of a bumpy ride. In some ways, I miss the simplicity of the first few phases of the MCU. Well, The Marvels is here to be a bit of a throwback. In terms of how self-contained it mostly is, it’s similar to a middle of the road Phase One or Phase Two release. It ends up being a mid-tier Marvel outing, but that does mean that it’s a substantial amount of fun at its best.
The Marvels is much lighter on its feet than Captain Marvel, leaning into some very overtly comedic elements. One of the shortest MCU outings, it’s definitely a bit thinner than others, only really tying into the broader story with a very big swing of a credits sequence. Other than that, it’s just an adventure, almost like a Star Trek episode (or Star Trek Beyond, which did that pretty well, too). You’re not going to be blown away, but you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the good time this offers up.
Picking up the story of Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), she’s gone up against the Kree and taken down their Supreme Intelligence. Of course, unintended consequences almost are immediate. Her actions have destabilized the universe and brought forth a vengeful Kree revolutionary named Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), one who has come into great power, using it to open up dangerous wormholes. These wormholes connect her powers with those of Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), as well as Carol’s estranged niece, S.A.B.E.R. astronaut Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris).
Entangled together, Carol, Kamala, and Monica must work together not just to take down Dar-Benn, but to save the universe as they know it. With guidance from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the trio team up for a galactic adventure, one that’s surprisingly fun, as well as almost quaint by comparison. By lowering the stakes just a tad, Marvel is going back to what has worked in the past. It’s messy, but the fun is there, especially involving the lovable Goose.
Brie Larson slips back into her Captain Marvel role with ease. She’s forceful and compelling to watch. Teyonah Parris gets to have some nice scenes with her, while Iman Vellani is best in show. Vellani brings an energy to the flick that just isn’t there otherwise. Her enthusiasm is infectious. Together, they really work well together, especially as they become more of a team. Zawe Ashton didn’t leave much of an impression, but the script fails her more than the performance, while Samuel L. Jackson is just a reliably entertaining presence. Supporting players include Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh, and Zenobia Shroff as Kamala’s family, as well as Abraham Popoola and Park Seo-joon, among others.
Director Nia DaCosta brings a sense of fun to the story. Co-writing with Elissa Karasik and Megan McDonnell, DaCosta has some comedic highlights. There’s a sequence on a planet that speaks in song that’s a riot, while a Goose scene involving a Cats song is one of the funniest things all year to me. At the same time, this group falls into the old MCU habit of having a lame villain, while the action sequences are a bit ordinary. There’s a sense that some things happen just to happen, but when we’re hanging out with the trio, the movie is on rather firm ground.
The Marvels can be a bit messy and it’s ultimately somewhat forgettable, but in the moment it’s a pretty good time. This feels like Phase One of the MCU, which is mostly a compliment. The film is tracking to open on the weaker side, and it’s a shame, since this almost has more in common with an earlier Guardians of the Galaxy than something like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Your mileage may vary, but I enjoyed this one a fair amount.