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Review: The Marvels

Although it had the lowest opening weekend ever for the MCU, The Marvels isn’t a total disaster but it is kind of a mess lifted by its main trio of stars and some fun action.

Continuing from Captain Marvel, Wandavision, Ms. Marvel, and (allegedly) Secret Invasion, The Marvels sees Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Paris), and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) getting their light-based powers entangled when the new leader of the Kree, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) finds the other “Quantum Band”, of which Kamala has the matching bangle.  Trying to rip open new “jump points” to drain natural resources from other planets for a devastated Hala, Dar-Been threatens to cause a galaxy-wide catastrophe if she isn’t stopped.  One of the biggest issues of The Marvels is the plot.  It feels like the creative team was working off some version of previous projects but then they changed, but no one told them.  This is most noticeable in the characterization of Nick Fury, who is stationed on the SABER space station.  In Secret Invasion, he was a grim, tired shell of his former self dealing with his failures to live up to his promise to his Skrull allies but in The Marvels, he’s a vivacious and wise-cracking quip machine that is completely at odds with what we just saw.  There are also plots involving the Skrulls and Kree that feel like another Captain Marvel movie is missing from the MCU canon, as most of the major plot and emotional beats that drive the story happen off-screen or in brief flashbacks.  What’s odd is that the movie perfectly continues the Ms. Marvel storyline, with Kamala and her family feeling exactly how they were on that series and the movie picking up from that show’s cliffhanger finale.  The movie is by far one of the shortest MCU movies but it makes you wonder if there are big chunks of plot that got removed and then quickly explained with dialogue or a quick scene.  Dar-Benn is also one of the most boring and generic villains ever in the MCU, definitely in the same category as Malekith and other forgettable villains.  It’s nothing against Zawe Ashton but she has basically nothing to work with as far as motivation or dialogue and her fights against The Marvels are also not that impressive.  It’s ironic because Ashton is married to Tom Hiddleston, arguably the greatest villain or just character in general in the MCU.

The main thing keeping The Marvels more on the fun side than a messy slog is the main cast.  Larson, Paris, and Vellani have a great dynamic and Vellani especially is a delight throughout.  If you were a fan of Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel, she brings that same charm and energy to The Marvels, maybe even more so now that Kamala gets to fight alongside her hero.  Brie Larson gets to have the most fun she’s had in the MCU as Carol Danvers but the character is still a bit rudderless as far as what her actual role in the universe is or what her personality is supposed to be.  Teyonah Paris is great as well and carries over what she brought to Wandavision while also having the most effective emotional subplot.  As mentioned above, Samuel L. Jackson feels like a completely different character than the one we most recently saw but he has some good quips and I prefer this version to the sad and defeated version in Secret Invasion.  Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, and Saagar Shakih return as the Khans from Ms. Marvel and it’s a hilarious blast to see them get dragged into the wider MCU.  The other thing The Marvels has going for it is the action.  The gimmick of The Marvels switching places when they use their powers at the same time leads to some fun and creative set pieces, especially the first big one of the movie, and the movie is also at its best when it gets cosmically weird, like when the trio visits the aquatic world of Aladan where everyone communicates via singing and the movie turns into a Disney musical.  There’s enough entertaining action and funny dynamics to carry the movie, even when the plot feels rushed or incomplete.

The Marvels is far from the worst MCU movie and it’s definitely better than a lot of the recent offerings, either theatrical or on Disney+.  The plot is a mess and it feels like big chunks were taken out or there were different versions of the projects that preceded this movie but they changed and no one on The Marvels got the memo.  Iman Vellani is still a gem as Kamala and Brie Larson and Teyonah Paris are great as well.  I don’t know if you need to rush out and see this one in theaters but it should make for an entertaining watch when it hits Disney+.

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