“The Marvels”: A Mixed Bag with a Shining Star

A Faltering MCU Seeks Reignition
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been grappling with a decline in its once-dominant pop culture status, and “The Marvels” arrives as a critical attempt to rekindle the franchise’s supernova. Directed by Nia DaCosta, the film is a blend of highs and lows, juggling multiple characters and plotlines with varying degrees of success. The film’s most radiant element is Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, played by Iman Vellani, who emerges as the MCU’s brightest hope for the future.
Kamala Khan: A Beacon of Hope
From the moment she appears on screen, Kamala Khan injects “The Marvels” with much-needed energy and joy. Vellani’s performance is infectious, and her character’s enthusiasm is a delightful burst of optimism. Even for audiences unfamiliar with the Disney+ series “Ms. Marvel,” Kamala’s introduction through her Captain Marvel fan-fiction immediately establishes her as an engaging and relatable protagonist. Her excitement about meeting her idol, Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), and the ensuing quantum entanglement that swaps her places with Carol and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) bring a fresh and humorous dynamic to the film.
A Juggling Act of Characters and Plotlines
The premise of “The Marvels” reflects the intricate continuity of the MCU, with each of the three leads originating from different projects. Carol Danvers, the central figure, remains somewhat bland, while Monica Rambeau, despite her breakout role in “WandaVision,” feels underdeveloped. The film’s narrative tries to balance these characters, but it often feels disjointed, with friction between the heroines quickly brushed aside to move the plot forward.
Visuals and Humor
One of the film’s standout sequences is an energetic fight scene where the three Marvels switch places due to their quantum entanglement. This scene, which unfolds across a space station, an alien spaceship, and a Jersey City apartment, showcases the film’s playful and slapstick tone. Kamala’s family, including Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur, adds to the humor and warmth, as they adapt to the chaos with amusing resilience. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) also contributes to the film’s lighter moments, adding a touch of the familiar MCU charm.
Weak Villain and Structural Issues
Despite the film’s strengths, it falters with its villain, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), who lacks depth and impact. Dar-Benn’s character feels like a throwback to earlier, less compelling MCU villains, failing to provide a significant threat. The film’s third act, hampered by delays and apparent reshoots, feels rushed and disjointed, with several lines of dialogue seemingly rerecorded and the villain’s motives unclear despite multiple exposition attempts.
Conclusion: Kamala’s Promise
“The Marvels” is a mixed bag that showcases both the strengths and weaknesses of the current MCU. While the film struggles with its complex narrative and underwhelming villain, it shines through Kamala Khan’s infectious enthusiasm and relatability. Vellani’s performance is a beacon of hope, suggesting that the future of the MCU may rest on the shoulders of newer, fresher characters. Despite its flaws, “The Marvels” succeeds in laying the groundwork for an exciting future, with Kamala Khan at its heart.

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