Comic books are art in hundreds of ways, but perhaps the most underrated of those ways – especially in superhero comics – is their ability to make you laugh amid extremely tragic events. occur. Of course, there are sad comics, serious comics, and dark comics, and the same can be said about comic book movies. But if you like that first guy I mentioned the same way I do, I think you’re going to have a great time with The Marvels.
With her inaugural release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Nia DaCosta makes the kind of film that leaves you smiling long after the credits roll. It’s heart, soul and spirit and all the piss and vinegar you’d expect from a story starring three stellar leading ladies. Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is more human than the franchise has ever allowed to date, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) is as bright and bold as ever, and Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) predictably steals the show.
The Gallery of Wonders
Perhaps what’s most refreshing here is the place where Captain Marvel – despite its merits – seemed like a living, breathing advertisement for military recruiting (no, really, there were literal advertisements for the Air Force), The Marvels is the antithesis of that. In fact, the main conflict centers on Carol Danvers’ wartime mistakes and their consequences. Our villain, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), is a survivor of the Kree Civil War that followed Captain Marvel’s destruction of the Supreme Intelligence, the AI that ruled Dar-Benn’s home planet of Hala. As a result, Hala is dying and Dar-Benn will stop at nothing to save her and her people.
While she’s certainly a sympathetic villain, Dar-Benn is unfortunately one of the weaker parts of The Marvels (through no fault of Ashton’s). Marvel struggled with underdeveloped villains in Phase 1, and continues to struggle with underdeveloped villains in Phase 5. She just doesn’t have much to do beyond why Carol , Monica and Kamala are together. Also, a lot of the Kree lackeys look pretty cool thanks to their makeup and costumes, but his right-hand man is just a guy with a bun (Ty-Rone, played by Daniel Ings). It’s strange!
As Carol recognizes her mistakes, she also has the opportunity to be a person. This does not mean that it is the Captain Marvel series: Despite the change in focus in recent trailers, The Marvels focuses largely on its three leads. Each member of the ensemble gets a full character arc, with their final moments giving them the opportunity to find closure, peace, or a way forward. For this chapter, at least.
This is notable not only because screenwriters DaCosta, Megan McDonnell, and Elissa Karasik had the daunting task of fitting three full storylines into the MCU’s shortest film to date, but because The Marvels means a lot to the franchise as a whole. The ending and the post-credits scene set up very consequential events in this universe and beyond, and it leaves you exactly as it should: excitedly wondering where it could all go next.
Perhaps this will be a resolution of sorts for the Skrulls, as watching this species get taken down has become quite tiring. They can’t catch a break, and neither Carol Danvers nor Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) are doing anything about it. On a related note, there may have been a version of this film related to Secret invasion, but it’s not the one coming to a theater near you. There East connective tissue to other shows in the MCU besides Ms. Marvel, but you’ll be hard-pressed to guess which one — and that’s a compliment.
Fury deserves to be punched by every Skrull he encounters, but the fact remains that he’s at his best alongside Carol Danvers. The same can now be said for Monica and Kamala, as he acts as a mentor to the former and a role model to the other. He spends much of his time in The Marvels with Kamala’s family – a surprising and delightful couple.
Marvel’s greatest strength is certainly its ensemble, but the comedy is a close second. A team-up to stop an intergalactic revenge plot isn’t a story that screams “hilarious,” but this one is chock-full of laughs from start to finish. This evokes the stupidity of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow more than once, and even becomes slapstick a few times at the beginning, which plays out quite well and never to the detriment of the more pessimistic moments of the film. The Marvels simply understand that a lot of things that happen in superhero stories – especially this one – are profoundly stupid, or strange, or uncomfortable, and have no interest in being serious about that stupidity and this discomfort. Sometimes the answer is simply to stop running from the Flerken.
Speaking of Flerken, the visual effects here look pretty solid. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when VFX artists have time to cook, and that’s exactly what happened: The Marvels swapped release dates with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, giving more runway to the teams behind this film and their Quantumania counterparts, well…we all saw what happened there. The Marvels has some less-than-stellar pictures but, overall, it’s a big improvement over recent MCU fare.
DaCosta delivers a film without bloat, with lots of heart and endless laughs. You can see bits of his style scattered throughout the film, although the places where the Marvel Machine has taken over are obvious. If we’re very lucky, we may see her return to the MCU for future projects. But, in the meantime, we can say with certainty that this isn’t the end of Carol, Monica, or Kamala’s stories, and The Marvels will immediately leave you wanting to know more.