The threads of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have become as long and tangled as the tentacled mouth of a Flerken. Everything was fine when there was only a handful of movies that built towards a singular conclusion, but in recent years the MCU has expanded far beyond that with both films and now series that cover an ever increasing amount of characters, timelines, and multiverses with no clear goal in mind. It’s a lot to keep up with, even as a fan. The Marvels looks like that on its surface. It’s a sequel to Captain Marvel but also continues the stories from WandaVision and Ms. Marvel. At the same time, however, it’s a much more contained and focused story that feels more reminiscent of the early days of the MCU. Iman Vellani shines as the wide-eyed Kamala Khan who brings a light-hearted joy to every moment while Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris do the heavy lifting as Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau. The Marvels is a simple and fun film, albeit a little rushed. Not everything lands cleanly, but once the film gets a rhythm going, it’s difficult not to get caught up in its Marvels. Simply put, it’s a Flerken good time.
After destroying the Supreme Intelligence at the end of Captain Marvel, a civil war broke out on the Kree planet Hala, and the world was drained of its resources. In an effort to save her people, the newly appointed Kree ruler Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) travels across the universe in search of the Quantum Bands which can create jump holes in space. After finding one of the bands, Dar-Benn embarks on a crusade to save her homeworld, but must drain other planets of their own resources in order to do so. Meanwhile, her use of the jump holes creates an entanglement between Carol Danvers, Monica Rambeau, and Kamala Khan, who all now switch places whenever they use their light-based powers. The three are forced to team up and work together if they are to stop Dar-Benn from destroying other worlds and potentially ripping the entire fabric of the universe apart.
Audiences are no strangers to the big picture plot of The Marvels. There’s a bad guy – or in this case girl – threatening to destroy the planet and the only one who can stop them are our titular heroes. There’s nothing special about. Dar-Benn is your standard, cookie-cutter MCU villain as well. She means well in that she wants to restore Hala and save her people, but the film doesn’t have any time to actually develop any sympathy for her character. The Marvels is a brisk 105 minutes, making it the shortest MCU film to date, and that works both for and against the film.
On one hand, the film moves as fast as Captain Marvel can fly and doesn’t waste any time getting caught up in the bigger Marvel universe. For the most part, this is Carol, Monica and Kamala’s story, and it sticks with that. The Marvels is a lean cut of meat and doesn’t let anything go to waste. That being said, it could have greatly benefited from a slightly longer runtime to expand and develop on some of its moments, especially in regards to Dar-Benn. As fast as things are, there simply isn’t enough time to really explore her motivations. She’s just an angry villain wielding a magical band and giant space hammer. By the time you really start to think about anything relating to the plot, they’ve already moved on to the next big scene.
Thankfully Carol, Monica, and Kamala are handled slightly better. Iman Vellani in particular is the heart and soul of the film. As one of the newer characters brought into the MCU, Ms. Marvel represents the new generation of heroes. Kamala sees Captain Marvel as her own personal hero and icon; she’s the inspiration for her hero name after all. So when she finally meets her and they become a team, her inner fangirl takes over and the results are downright adorable and heartwarming. Vellani captures that excitement and wonderment that has been missing from the MCU for a while now, and it’s difficult not to share in giddiness. I’ve become hardened and overwhelmed these past few years with just trying to keep up with how much Marvel there has been. Ms. Marvel is a reminder that its good to just take a breath and enjoy the moment. There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun.
And The Marvels doesn’t shy away from having fun, either. As straightforward the main plot might be, the film does have its wild and wacky moments. Director Nia DaCosta takes some big swings, including a whole musical number that is dropped out of left field that strangely works for me personally. There’s also the fan favorite Flerken Goose whose role is bigger and better than ever this time around. Get ready for some shockingly hilarious moments.
The Marvels is far from the best of the MCU, but it cuts down on a lot of what has been plaguing the franchise lately to deliver a fun and charming film. It doesn’t get wrapped up in the bigger picture, although there are still plenty of teases and hints at what’s to come in typical Marvel Studios fashion. We still get a mostly self-contained story filled with memorable moments. The Marvels is proof that maybe the MCU is back on track and isn’t in as much trouble as it would seem.
The Marvels is a simple and fun film, albeit a little rushed. Not everything lands cleanly, but once the film gets a rhythm going, it’s difficult not to get caught up in its Marvels.