The latest Marvel Studios chapter in the overarching narrative thrives due to the values of simplicity – the ability to be viewer-friendly while acting as a dip into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which is reinforced by its non-stop pure adrenaline approach and the creative choice to utilize a no-filler (just killer) mentality, carried by a one hour and 45 minute runtime.
Viewers will be enthralled and captivated by the brutal fluid action crafted and inspired by various animes while feeling practical and bearing a story within the context. It was reinforced by tight stunt choreography that utilized the movement and power sets of the three leads while outlining the story and making every choice feel vital and in service to the narrative.
Still, other films and series throughout Phases four and five have introduced characters with grace and the essence of lingering smoke, coming as one-offs and questionable breadcrumbs-post credit scenes, all meant to give the viewer a taste of what to come, but for some were tired and turned away from the prospect sent to herald.
Of course, even though Marvel struggled with flaws for a time, they have critical acclaim and success that advanced the mythology of the fabled timeline and gave creators a chance to flourish—resulting in a tie with the outcome coming to light, with the fulcrum quickly pumping the brakes and finding a point to reflect and stave off future consequences. Kevin Feige and company realize the foundational vision of understanding that comic books are heightened extensions of our reality, and the source material can be honored but at times tweaked to better or tarnish the experience.
Nonetheless, I can confirm that “The Marvels” is a kinetic and heartfelt charismatic explosion that resides as a living comic book with the integrity of a Saturday morning cartoon brought to life from the precision and vision of auteur and director Nia Dacosta. It’s refreshing to know that Marvel Studios is finally getting to the point of showcasing the multiverse while finally reveling in the pure concept and notion of what made the MCU shine brightest.
From the first opening frames to when the credits roll, we are thrust again back into the MCU voyage, with the main cast of actors feeling like our favorite heroes or characters plucked from the historical panels and frames of the countless animated series. It’s easy to notice that DaCosta took the audience on a journey that not only expanded on the established lore while invoking emotional euphoria but showed themes of grief, anxiety, and struggle while filling in the gaps from the first film.
Joining the evergrowing sandbox is the infectious conduit and heart of the film, Kamala Khan, who continues to be portrayed to perfection and grace with the heroics and charisma of Iman Vellani, who oozes pure star ability and eats up the screen anytime she graces the frame. I can confirm that Khan will be a significant player as Marvel looks toward the future, and the film not only expands on her story but shows that the foundation for deeper stories are planted.
By positioning the film in the present day, we see Captain Marvel(Brie Larson) take on not only a mentor role, but the audience witnesses the character of Carol Danvers, vulnerable, struggling to adapt, and facing the ghosts of her past, something her arc in the MCU desperately needed. It was a refreshing take, and her chemistry with Parris was some of the best in the film, which bears tension, so once they bury the hatchet, the moments of glory and adapting to work as a team feel warranted, allowing the leads in Larson, Vellani, and Parris’s real-life chemistry to come off as organic and tangible, similar in the same vein to three sisters.
Carol is the older sister, detached, trying to set the example; Monica is the middle, with emotional resentment; and Kamala is the budding beacon of joy, with hands squeaky clean, unstained from the raw reality of war, and the blood-soaked responsibilities of being a hero. Even despite the hardship, she still trudges forward, akin to bearing the Spidey oath, bestowing pride and compassion to everyone Khan meets, including her mentor, who got lost trying to hide and shelter the pain of lasting mistakes, only to realize powers don’t diminish human beings, and the flaws we contain.
The audience knows and understands through the emotional input that Carol isn’t a monster; she was angry and lashing out at the Kree. It was always going to be a redemption story that she had to travel. Monica felt her only family in Auntie Carol abandoned, especially during the blip when her mother passed away, not from a gratuitous simple universe-defining snap from a Mad Titan(Thanos) but the silent pain of cancer. Kamala wants to be a hero and find her place, but she’s 16, and the responsibilities keep arising.
Each member of the Marvels has a story to be told and expressed because these heroes are real, and their humanity is the key to inspiring each and every one of us. Invoking representation matters, and narratives of characters like Khan are the first steps to a better tomorrow for all. Building to the justification that all three are necessary to thrive and succeed, to elevate and exemplify the qualities of going higher, further, and faster than ever before.
In addition, long-time MCU component and mainstay Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, who, if honest, felt out of tone, akin to Spider-Man: Far From Home, because it feels his arc and redemption is a little disjointed, knowing that this film is supposed to take place in the aftermath of the Secret Invasion Disney+ series, but one thing to note is the film glosses over any impact from that story thread. Instead, Jackson has a smoother, diminished role that will get a few laughs out of the audience, and I don’t feel like spoiling because it will tarnish the experience or turn away a few due to the creative insanity of it.
A central element worthy of praise is the set design and the ability for the sets to feel tangible and practical, most notably when the audience is taken into Kamala Khan’s room, the camera pans and circles around to Khan in thought, but before this, we notice her designs, respect, and glory for Captain Marvel, establishing her connection to the story, and knowing who the character is without having a single line of dialogue ever uttered or having the rich, vital context from the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series. It tells the viewer that you can join the fun with either outcome.
Carol’s ship is a mainstay set, and we see the Avenger following the exploits of her past and struggling to find closure, but as the film progresses, her environment begins to open and feel warmer. Now, The Marvels does jump in terms of story, having a limited run time, but each planet does get a moment to shine, and the characters of each world give depth with various colors, different camera choices, and a few surprises.
At times, certain moments felt similar to the writing and scope of Phase 1, and it benefitted in the film’s honor, including easter eggs that will have fans jumping with joy and major cameos to salivate the unsatiable taste of what’s next, which are worth the price of admission alone.
Even though “The Marvels” may not be for you, that’s ok. Let the little girl in the Kamala Khan costume or the room filled with Captain Marvel chant and take in the nostalgia of a time still being written. Reflect and relate to what these heroes and icons mean because one day, this film or these characters will be what the equivalent of Superman and Spider-Man are to me.
Heroes may be an old-fashioned denotation, but they are the moral guardians of what we strive and achieve to be.
“The Marvels” is a fast-paced dip into the MCU for those who have never seen it, and it’s bursting from the seams with colors, heart, and cosmic fun. It’s a living comic book brought to life that lays breadcrumbs of what the MCU is building toward in this overarching multiverse saga.