Marvel Studios has been under much scrutiny from fans and critics alike. Perhaps I am lenient with comic book movies, but I usually temper my expectations for these types of movies. I want to have fun when it comes to this brand of cinema. It is always a wonderful surprise when a comic book-inspired film defies these expectations and excels beyond. The latest entry from the MCU will probably not appease fans wanting more, but The Marvels delivers amusement, laughs, and excitement.
Following the events of Marvel’s Captain Marvel, Wandavision, and Ms. Marvel, something strange happens to Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani). Somehow, their powers have become entangled, and whenever they use them, they can trade places. Meanwhile, agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his new team, SABRE, have been dealing with the peace talks between the Kree and the Skrulls. However, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), the newly appointed leader of the Kree, seeks a powerful weapon similar to the bangle that Kamala holds in her possession and has been using for her heroics. Dar-Benn wishes to use this formidable power as a weapon to defeat the Skrulls once and for all and restore her home world of Hala.
Written and directed by Nia Costa, who co-wrote with Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik, The Marvels delivers plenty of laughs, heart, and high-energy action but suffers from weak development of its story and characters. In addition, the CGI used to create the movie’s otherworldly scenes looks low-budget. Low budget? How in the world can a movie owned by Disney can look so bad? This issue has frustrated me with several of Disney/Marvel’s recent films and series. I am trying to understand how a company with so much money can fail to invest in the right technology to pull their artificial visuals so poorly.
On the more positive end, the movie works for me because of the comedy and the heart that comes from including the Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel character and her family, Kamala and her family, are the heart of this movie, and their inclusion makes the stakes feel more palpable and genuine. I wish to say the same about the drive and the stakes that motivate the villain of Dar-Benn. The film glosses over these story and character elements, making it seem weak.
I was mostly pleased with the entire cast of the movie. Still, the real standouts are Iman Vellani, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, and Saagar Shaikh, who reprise their roles from the Ms. Marvel series as Kamala Khan and her family. They are crucial to making this movie lovable, enjoyable, and full of heart. Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris are fine as Carol Danvers and Monica Rambeau, but the writing needs to allow their characters to shine as they should. The same goes for Zawe Ashton, who portrays villain Dar-Benn, whose development as a character is weak, as I mentioned above.
Though I have given The Marvels a somewhat low rating, I still laughed a lot and adored what Kamala Khan and her family bring to this story. The Marvels doesn’t save the MCU, but it is, hopefully, a small step in a more promising direction.