The Marvels (PG13)
105 minutes, now showing2 stars
The story: In this sequel to Captain Marvel (2019), the Kree revolutionary Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) and her army are bent on finding new powers. Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) stands in her way, aided by space station director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). During the battle, an anomaly causes three women – Danvers, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) – to become cosmically entangled.
After Avengers: Endgame (2019), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has struggled. At first, it was going to build new stories on the concept of the multiverse, with heroes fighting a multiversal supervillain. That appears to be on the back burner for now.
Now, it is all about melding different universes – namely, the Disney+ platform and the MCU. The Marvels is the first to substantially blend a streaming character – Kamala Khan, or Ms Marvel, from the 2022 miniseries of the same name – with characters first seen on the big screen. Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) from the Disney+ series Loki (2021 to present) popped up in Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania (2023), but his appearance was brief compared with Kamala’s.
Rambeau, first seen in the Disney+ miniseries WandaVision (2021), is also in the mix, with a brief explanation of how the normal human child character glimpsed in the Captain Marvel movie is now an adult with superpowers.
Director Nia DaCosta, who helmed the horror remake Candyman (2021), hides the streaming-cinema joints smoothly – the whys and whos of Kamala and Rambeau are not spewed all at once, but sprinkled throughout in handy chunks.
Handled with much less grace is the storytelling. The flaws here are similar to the ones that plagued Eternals (2021). There is a lot of convenient “just is” magic at work to explain the circumstances behind the creation of the three-woman fighting force. It is the same kind of supernatural sloppiness that underpinned Eternals, but without the soporific ponderousness.
And as with Eternals, the feeling that something random can occur at any moment because of scientific-sounding magic gives the impression that the storyteller has lost control of the story.
Tonally, The Marvels lurches from family comedy when Kamala is in focus, then into melodrama when it is Rambeau’s turn in the spotlight, then into grim action-martial arts when it is Captain Marvel’s time to shine.
The jumbled tones harm the chemistry between the three lead characters, of course. DaCosta takes an admirable aesthetic risk with a sequence set on an alien planet that features South Korean actor Park Seo-joon. The short scene, with Park appearing only briefly and saying barely anything, is meant to be adorable, but has the opposite effect.
Hot take: This attempt at laying the groundwork for a larger The Marvels franchise tries to break free of the superhero movie formula, but ends up feeling chaotic and undercooked.
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