The Marvels is Delightful

Laura J. Burns
Laura J. Burns writes books, writes for TV, and sometimes writes TV based on books and books based on TV. She will never, however, write a poem. She’s the managing editor of The Antagonist.

The Marvels began streaming on Disney+ this week, which means you can finally see for yourself why nobody flocked to the theater to watch the MCU’s far-too-delayed sequel to Captain Marvel when it was first released. Just kidding! What I mean is you can watch it and realize all that nonsense was just because of sexism. And MCU exhaustion.

This movie is adorable! Is it perfect? No. Is it the worst Marvel movie in existence? Hell no! Did it deserve the shellacking it got upon release? Absolutely not, that was just a bunch of BS spilling over from the fanboy hatred of Brie Larson, an Oscar-winning actress who had the temerity to be a feminist while also starring in an MCU movie. The Marvels is a lovely little romp of a film that’s as funny as it is forgettable. Also, it’s so much better than Ant Man: Quantumania that they shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence, but here we are.

Brie Larson is fine as Carol Danvers, who’s been away from Earth–and her found family–for too long once again. It’s a bit of a retread from her first movie, and she’s not given much to do, and honestly Larson seems a bit over it all. Hard to blame her, Marvel hasn’t managed her character well, which is something I’d probably say about most of the women who’ve starred in their movies thus far. Teyonah Parris, playing her “niece” Monica Rambeau, is a welcome sight. She was one of the best parts of WandaVision and it’s terrific to see her growing into her superpowers here, although the relationship beats between her and Carol aren’t fleshed out nearly enough. With two such capable actors, we can only imagine how moving they could–nay, should–have been.

So what makes this movie work so well? Two words:  Iman Vellani. If you watched Ms. Marvel on Disney+, you already know what a hoot she is, perfectly cast as a fan of comics, the Avengers, and Captain Marvel in particular…and also just a regular, insecure teenage girl dealing with family issues, romance, and the fact that she’s a mutant with superpowers. Oh, and an otherworldly powered wristband. Plus a hilarious, overbearing immigrant family. Vellani played it all effortlessly in her series, and she brings that same energy to the big screen.

The Marvels picks up right where the series finale of Ms. Marvel left off, and immediately we’re on an adventure with Kamala Khan, who keeps unexpectedly switching places with both Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau. Those two women happen to be in space, while Kamala is in her bedroom in Jersey City, but while Monica and Carol are thrown by what’s happening, Kamala is thrilled to pieces. Finding herself suddenly floating in a spacesuit outside a space station, Kamala’s reaction is not to panic but rather to fangirl over seeing Nick Fury staring at her from inside the station. Her sheer delight at being in the game–meeting her idols, fighting bad guys, joining a team of superheroes–is infectious.

Along for the ride are Kamala’s parents and older brother, whose presence add a layer of humor to Fury’s part of the story that isn’t usually his vibe. Add in Goose, the tentacle-spewing catlike flerken who has a few surprises up her…um…butt? I don’t even know…and the result is surreal and hilarious. You should definitely have an edible before watching this movie.

The story isn’t terribly compelling, although Zawe Ashton does her best as the main villain. She’s not served well by a muddled script that wants to be too many things and doesn’t manage to completely achieve any of them. All of the characters would have benefitted from one more pass at the story, honestly, and the musical numbers (you heard me) could easily have been sacrificed for a bit more character development.

Even so, Vellani’s happy warrior carries us through every scene. She’s such fun that the box office disaster of The Marvels makes me sad only because it means we likely won’t be seeing her Kamala Khan again. I’ll be shocked, though, if we don’t see a lot more of Iman Vellani.

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