The Marvels

Verdict: The Marvels provides lots of fun, thanks to its three female leads' chemistry - but still feels like its using a tiring formula.

  • Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Samuel L. Jackson
  • November 10th 2023
  • Nia DaCosta

The Marvels sees Captain Marvel team up with two new superhero pals.

There was once a time when Marvel Studios could do no wrong – when each release would be a guaranteed financial and critical hit.

Yet in recent times the sheen has rather come off the Marvel Machine – with The Marvels, a sequel to 2019’s Captain Marvel that also builds upon the Disney+ show Ms Marvel, arriving at a time the franchise could do with a shot in the arm.

Brie Larson of course returns as Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, and is this time joined by a team of ‘Marvels’ in Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), the grownup daughter of Carol’s fighter-pilot pal Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) from the first movie.

She has now also developed the power to manipulate energy herself, and the trio is completed by teenager Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), aka Ms Marvel, who can turn energy into a solid state.

The female triumvirate is thrust together by body-swapping teleportation – something is causing them to switch places when they use their powers simultaneously.

It sends Kamala from her bedroom – a shrine to Captain Marvel – into space, and removes Carol from her patrols of the galaxy to make awkward conversation with Kamala’s family (amusingly played by Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, and Saagar Shaikh).

That something is of course an intergalactic troublemaker in the shape of Kree fanatic Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) who obtains an ancient quantum band – part of a pair whose partner is owned by Kamala.

To restore her darkened homeworld of Hala she is using the band to destroy planets and suck up resources – putting the fabric of the universe at risk. It is of course down to The Marvels team to stop her – with a little help from Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury.

Emerging young director Nia DaCosta’s film does suffer from some of the difficulties of many of the later Marvel movies. Namely that the Cinematic Universe is now such a sprawling entity full of endless characters and cosmic stuff that they lack the simplicity and novelty of the all-conquering phase one and two instalments.

An actress of Ashton’s talents should make for a compelling villain, but one can’t help but feel, “Oh we’re doing this again,” when greeted with yet another alien with a grudge in possession of a destructive artifact.

That aside, there’s much to like about The Marvels. Its central trio has great chemistry as a surrogate family – and the body-swapping teleportation adds a new dimension to its fight sequences.

There are some lovely emotional moments between Carol and Monica, who have to reconnect after decades apart, and Kamala, the enthusiastic fan girl who has finally found her true purpose.

There are also plenty of amusing moments – meaning it achieves its primary objective of being lots of fun. One feline-heavy sequence (yes, Goose the ‘cat’ is back) in particular is laugh-out-loud funny – utilising ‘Memory’ from Cats far better than that musical’s own disastrous CGI-heavy movie adaptation.

Therefore, it’s a film that will please its target audience – younger comic book fans who in Kamala now have a hero who is very much one of them. Plus there are some lovely Easter eggs for Marvel devotees.

However, it may not completely shake off speculation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s decline, as charming as it is at times, it does little to change a formula that is now looking decidedly old hat.

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