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“The Marvels” is a stellar, wildly fun sequel that outshines its predecessor in nearly every way and paves the way for a bright future ahead.

The Marvels

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Brie Larson infamously provoked the wrath of internet incels when she addressed the lack of diversity amongst mainstream film critics, which often puts films made by and for diverse audiences at a severe disadvantage — especially when 67% of the top critics are white males.

“[Audiences] are not allowed enough chances to read public discourse on these films by the people that the films were made for.”

Despite having the wherewithal to repeatedly stress that she does not “hate white dudes” — not once, not twice, but three times — men’s rights activists immediately targeted the bright and outspoken actress.

Labeling her an extremist, man-hating feminist, they began “review bombing” the Rotten Tomatoes page for Larson’s film Captain Marvel, the first-ever female-led feature film in the Marvel Comics universe, flooding the site with bad reviews before the film was even released.

This hateful campaign led to Rotten Tomatoes disabling the comments section across the site before films hit cinemas.

Brie became public enemy number one when she said that she didn’t “need a 40-year-old white guy” to tell her what was wrong with a film that wasn’t made for him.

Now that she’s back in another big-budget swing at a beleaguered Marvel property, sharing the screen with two incredible women of color and surrounded by a highly diverse supporting cast (actual white guys in this film are few and far between), get ready for more 40-year-old white guys telling you how trite and silly and uninspired the whole thing is.

(Early critic reviews immediately made this the third worst-reviewed film in the MCU.)

But, as Larson once reasonably suggested and got crucified for, it’s probably not for them.

As a female critic and comic book/superhero fan, I’m here to tell you this movie was made for me… and I loved every damn minute of it.

I’m a big fan of Marvel movies, and, up to a certain point, they were unabashedly fun popcorn flicks that provided some much-needed escapism and indulged in over-the-top spectacle in the best possible way.

Eventually, however, things got much darker and heavier.

These films opted to be something much more than mindless entertainment. They were weighty, emotional, and monumental — none of which, of course, is bad. However, watching them no longer promised the same joy, laughter, and low-stakes fun of the early MCU.

The success of the core films led to an onslaught of less memorable or effective Marvel movies, as well as numerous Disney+ shows/spinoff properties, some invariably stronger and more memorable than others. That, combined with DC’s less-than-stellar showing, led to what many refer to as “superhero fatigue”.

Maybe we just don’t care anymore. We, humans, are a fickle lot who passionately love you one day and then love to hate you the next.

Or, maybe, in a post-COVID/pre-WWIII world, we simply yearn for a time when dropping our hard-earned money and sitting our butts in front of a massive theater screen made us feel joyful, hopeful, and just plain happy to be there.

The Marvels, as many critics have gleefully pointed out, is a slight movie in comparison to its high-stakes predecessors; I’d argue that’s a huge part of its charm.

The threat never feels particularly menacing, and the focus never strays far from humor and a heavy dose of humanity.

It’s a feel-good film with likable characters, wildly fun and well-choreographed action scenes, and enough moments of good-natured fun to keep you smiling from ear to ear.

If all that sounds absolutely repugnant, then yes, this film is not made for you. And that’s perfectly okay. The audience it’s meant for will likely love it, and that’s okay, too.

The plot of The Marvels revolves around three superhero women with a shared form of light power.

Each of these women arrives on the scene with considerable backstory, which viewers may or may not be familiar with, given only one of them — Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel — has received cinematic screen time in the MCU.

Both Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) got their introductions in Disney+ shows, WandaVision and Ms. Marvel, respectively.

Familiarity with these properties certainly aids in the viewing experience of The Marvels, especially given how quickly the characters are reintroduced and how swiftly the plot moves — wasting no time at all throwing the women together in a quest to save the world from the path of destruction forged by Kree warrior Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton). 

However, don’t fret if you’re showing up to this film without the benefit of that history.

Director and co-writer Nia DaCosta, writer Elissa Karasik, and WandaVision writer Megan McDonnell do a stellar job quickly catching us up.

We’re given all we really need to know to ensure investment without heavy exposition, and the filmmakers smartly trust the audience to fill in the blanks, allowing us to get to know these characters through their actions and interactions with one another.

Horror fans may be familiar with DaCosta due to her excellent handling of the 2021 Candyman remake. She was an inspired choice to helm this film that automatically comes saddled with a great deal of baggage and an uphill battle to win audiences over.

In an effort to do just that, she focuses on the strength of her capable cast and lets the electric chemistry of her leads take center stage.

The on-screen dynamic between the trio of women is magnetic, and everyone looks like they are having a blast, especially Vellani.

A real standout and an unmitigated delighted, she plays a teen who has recently discovered her powers and fully idolizes her hero, Captain Marvel. As Ms. Marvel, Vellani plays the young protégé with such genuine enthusiasm that it’s utterly contagious; I defy you not to smile whenever she’s on screen.

While Vellani gets to reflect the wonder and awe of the superhero journey, Parris and Larson explore more complex emotions and the inherent loneliness that comes from a life of servitude and commitment to the greater good.

Larson is given a chance to shine in a way she wasn’t entirely afforded in Captain Marvel, and it’s a joy to see her explore a lighter, more playful side of her character.

She shows off her range and considerable acting chops and offers us a more fully realized, emotionally investing, strong but sensitive character with as much capacity for love and laughter as she has for kicking ass and defending the universe.

While Carol has been forced to shoulder the weight of the universe on her shoulders, with only her alien cat Goose to keep her company, Monica has been nursing extreme resentment towards Carol for leaving her alone as a young girl following the death of her mom, Carol’s best friend and former colleague. Meanwhile, Ms. Marvel embraces her newfound powers with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of someone untainted by the horrors of the world.

Due to an encounter with a space-time rift caused by Dar-Benn in her attempt to save her dying planet by stealing precious resources from other planets in the galaxy, the powers of the superheroes become entangled. This causes them to swap places every time they attempt to use their powers, no matter where they are or what they are doing.

The conceit is brilliant, and it’s executed flawlessly. DaCosta, showing off her flair for comedic timing, leans into the wackiness of the situation early on, milking the film’s smart setup for maximum laughs and jaw-dropping spectacle.

Speaking of spectacle, the VFX work is mightily impressive.

Combined with stunning set pieces, a meticulous eye for detail, and expertly choreographed action sequences — scenes that deliver fast-paced, frenetic energy without ever feeling messy or chaotic — THE MARVELS is a sumptuous visual treat that makes its mesmerizing worlds feel authentic and captivating.

The Marvels is also not afraid to get weird in the best possible way, delivering a heavy dose of irreverent whimsy and uniqueness that makes the movie exceedingly memorable.

DaCosta takes big swings, which won’t land with everyone but elevate the film far above the type of paint-by-numbers formulaic films that have led to a significant cooling of the superhero hype.

There are standout scenes I’m desperate to coo about but will refrain from spoiling so that you can enjoy the film with the same amount of surprise and marvel (pun intended) I was afforded.

While the success of this film hinges largely on the charm and chemistry of its three leads, the supporting cast is phenomenal.

The Marvels

That includes an especially witty and entertaining Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur as Kamala’s endlessly endearing parents.

The character that suffers the most from the film’s shorter run time and heavy focus on its trio of superheroes is Dar-Ben, who isn’t given a chance to be much of a powerful presence or a truly intriguing villain.

Because The Marvels really prioritizes its humor and lighthearted nature, the antagonist takes a back seat. Honestly, it works for the film, but any comic book fans hungry for a more substantive foe will be justifiably disappointed.

I personally loved the uncharacteristically brisk runtime, even if it meant some elements felt a bit underdeveloped. The film moves at a furious pace and leaves you feeling exhilarated rather than exhausted.

It’s honestly one of the most fun Marvel films in years. It maintains its commitment to joyful celebration without diminishing any of the film’s impact or emotional weight. I’m thrilled Larson was given a chance to really make Captain Marvel her own, endowing her with much more heart and humanity than we’ve previously seen.

And, if you weren’t already in love with Vellani’s Kamala, I’d wager quite a bit that you will be after The Marvels. She’s an absolute breakout star, a gifted comedic actress, and a shining light who brilliantly illuminates the path forward for Marvel.

Despite Marvel’s past missteps, with someone like Vellani at the forefront, the future for the MCU looks very bright indeed.

Final note: It might go without saying, but be sure to stick around for a thrilling mid-credits scene that left my jaw on the floor and made me positively giddy about what’s next on the horizon.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4

4 Comments

4 Records

  1. on November 12, 2023 at 1:58 pm
    Daniel wrote:
    Disater! It is evident that you understand absolutely nothing about cinema.
    Reply
    • on November 13, 2023 at 7:26 pm
      Stephanie Malone wrote:

      I certainly understand that not everyone will agree with my opinion. And I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. However, liking a film you obviously dislike does not equate to me knowing nothing about cinema, and a stronger far more respectful counter-argument could certainly be made. I’ll note that the film is currently fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a very high audience score. So, although you may have hated it and are very much entitled to that opinion, there are plenty of people who are finding much to love about the film. Let’s agree to disagree on this one.

      Reply
  2. on November 17, 2023 at 9:26 am
    Dave wrote:
    The future is bright? "With someone like Vellani at the forefront, the future for the MCU looks very bright indeed" are you seeing the same numbers I'm seeing? This is actually extremely worrying.
    Reply
    • on November 17, 2023 at 10:26 am
      Stephanie Malone wrote:

      Worrying that I have a different opinion? It’s polarizing…I get it. It’ not for everyone. I get that, too. But I stand by my opinion and personally find the unwarranted vitriol towards this film extremely worrying.

      Reply

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