Movies, Arts

‘The Marvels’ Is a Fun, Self-Aware Adventure


Imagine a film where the protagonists are singing and dancing in ballroom gowns. The film also spotlights a litter of cats and its journey to find a new home. This movie is not afraid to tackle themes of loss and forgiveness, either.

This movie is not an animated classic or a film adaptation of a Broadway musical. These are all plot points in The Marvels.

The Marvels is the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and a sequel to Captain Marvel. The first film in the series was a stale replica of a typical superhero movie formula. The Marvels is anything but that.

The Marvels, directed by Nia DaCosta, follows Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) at the center of a location-swapping fiasco. Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, finds herself spatially linked to Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) because all three women share light-based superpowers. This means that whenever two of the three heroes use their powers at the same time, they inexplicably swap places. 

Three superheroes swapping places is at first confusing, but it makes for some of the best and most unique fight sequences in the MCU thus far. When the three heroes fight together, they have to coordinate their attacks to account for the location switching. Once they figure out how to do that, the action sequences are impressive and visually cool to watch.

This teleportation problem would likely be easily solvable on its own, but the newly connected trio also has to deal with Kree Empire leader Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) when she starts stealing natural resources from different planets. She destroys each planet in the process, so Dar-Benn needs to be dealt with quickly. 

The Marvels lets itself thrive in this isolated MCU entry which has few connections to any other future projects. The events in The Marvels won’t have a huge impact on the rest of the MCU. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some prior knowledge that audiences would benefit from. 

A lot of context is needed to catch up with each character before the start of the film. Carol, Monica, and Kamala are not yet acquainted before The Marvels. They’ve each had their respective solo adventures in other movies and TV shows. The Marvels recognizes this, and so a portion of the movie is dedicated to flashbacks and explanations to keep a casual viewer in the know, but it fits well with the film’s plot. It’s the perfect way to keep watchers informed, but to not over explain the context to people who already know.

There are some key moments in the film that no other MCU movie would dare to include, and for that, The Marvels should be applauded—the risks pay off. 

One of the best sequences is when The Marvels—yes, the trio starts to call itself that—-arrive on a planet where people only understand language in song. Also at some point in her intergalactic offscreen adventures, Carol became the princess of this planet and all of the citizens adore her. The song and dance sequence that follows is ridiculously wacky and experimentally fun in a superhero film. 

The Marvels continues to display wacky and outside-the-box plot points when Goose, the cat, has a bunch of babies on a space station orbiting Earth. Fair warning, Goose is actually a Flerken, which is an alien species identical to cats. The catch is that Flerkens can eat anything 10 times their size with tentacles that come from their mouths. 

It’s hilarious to watch Flerkens start eating crewmates, and it turns out that this was the only way to successfully evacuate all of the people on the space station where Goose had her kids. People can be eaten by Flerkens and later vomited back up completely unharmed, so Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) runs around the ship ensuring that every crewmember is eaten by a Flerken, and that every Flerken winds up in one of the limited escape pods. 

Unfortunately, the film wasn’t all singing and Flerkens. The emotional depth in The Marvels seemed cheesy at times, especially between Carol and Monica as they try to reconcile their friendship. The emotional stumbles didn’t take away from the film, but the film would have been greatly improved if some of the sentimental sequences were written better.

It was also disappointing to see that Nick Fury and Dar-Benn were limited to such one-dimensional characters. Nick Fury has appeared in countless other MCU projects, so maybe by now there’s not much more development left for his character, but Dar-Benn was newly introduced in The Marvels. Her on-screen presence as the film’s villain was lacking.

The Marvels succeeds in separating itself from the typical superhero film with its fun antics and risks. It might not be the most serious entry in the MCU, but it’s one that will be hard to forget.

November 12, 2023