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Review: Fun and lighthearted ‘The Marvels’ improves on its predecessor

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Left to right, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers and Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios’ “The Marvels.” (Laura Radford/Marvel Studios/TNS)

Superhero fatigue is all too common among moviegoers today. Marvel, in particular, has been criticized for having underdeveloped characters and constant world-ending stakes. “The Marvels” is the type of movie that cures superhero fatigue by straying away from the universal threats and instead focusing on the character dynamics, along with the humor and direction. It also combats the issue of sexism with the main characters being powerful women.

Marvel Studios’ “The Marvels,” which was released in theaters on Nov. 10, follows Avenger and human-Kree hybrid Carol Danvers, better known as Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), as she deals with unexpected effects of her powers and fights a dangerous Kree revolutionary with the help of fellow superheroes Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan, also known as Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani).

“The Marvels” takes place in 2026. The first “Captain Marvel” takes place in 1995. At the end of that film, Danvers makes the decision to destroy the Supreme Intelligence, the nefarious AI that rules the Kree civilization. This decision had unintended consequences that are just catching up to her years later in “The Marvels.”

Larson’s performance in “Captain Marvel” received critical acclaim, but the film didn’t really delve into her character as much as it could have. “The Marvels” rectifies this, showing how Danvers’ decisions have affected her not only as a superhero, but also on a personal level.

“Captain Marvel” also didn’t really have anyone whom Danvers could bounce off of. She had Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos, but they were more acquaintances formed out of necessity than true friends. In “The Marvels,” Danvers’ dynamics with Rambeau and Khan are effortless and heartfelt, which are easily the best part of the film.

Danvers and Rambeau’s relationship provides much of the heart of the film. Rambeau, last seen in the 2021 Disney+ series “WandaVision,” was just a kid in the previous movie. Now, the grown Rambeau harbors resentment toward Danvers for being off in space while her mother, and Danvers’ friend, Maria Rambeau died of cancer during the Blip.

Danvers and Khan also have an endearing dynamic. Khan, who debuted in 2022’s “Ms. Marvel,” is a superfan of Danvers, much like Spider-Man is with Iron Man in “Captain America: Civil War.” Over the course of the film, the young hero from Jersey City learns that even superheroes are not perfect and sometimes have to make hard decisions.

One of the things that made “Ms. Marvel” stand out was how it was just as much a show about family as it was about being a hero. So, I was glad to see that Khan’s family are still major supporting characters in this movie.

In sci-fi, it’s important to have characters who are not used to things like space elevators and teleporting aliens to act as a sort of audience proxy, and the Khans provided that.

“Captain Marvel” has a fair amount of humor, but “The Marvels” has a lot more. Most of it comes from Vellani as Khan. Larson and Parris are great but Vellani just steals the show. Much like her character with the Kree bangles, it seems as if she was born for this role.

My favorite line of hers was when Danvers and Rambeau fly off the Kree spaceship and Khan, who can’t fly, asks the scared Kree who she was just fighting, “So, do any of you have a spaceship I could borrow?”

The funniest scene would have to be when Nick Fury and the Khans, forced to evacuate their space station, resorting to a very unorthodox solution in order to save everyone. “Attention, crew. Stop running and let the Flerkens eat you” is just too good of a line.

Danvers has some one-liners of her own as well. When Fury scolds her for touching the wormhole that caused her powers to become entangled with those of Rambeau and Khan, she complains, “But it was glowing and mysterious.”

Marvel movies are generally not known for their direction. There are a few exceptions, like James Gunn with the “Guardians” films or Sam Raimi with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Up-and-coming director Nia DaCosta makes “The Marvels” stand out from the rest of the MCU with some impressive camera work, particularly when Khan first appears in space and is hurtling toward Fury and the space station. DaCosta, whose previous credits include the 2022 slasher remake “Candyman,” also has some fun with the Flerken sequence.

One thing that “The Marvels” was lacking in was the soundtrack. Laura Karpman’s score was effective, but “Captain Marvel” also had a great soundtrack that boasted the likes of No Doubt, Lita Ford, Heart and Nirvana. “The Marvels” did have a Beastie Boys montage and a show tune from the musical “Cats” during the Flerken sequence, but I wanted more.

While “The Marvels” may have been lacking in needle drops, it more than makes up for it in cameos. I will not spoil any, but I will say that they are wide-reaching and are simultaneously funny and intriguing for the future of the MCU.

Overall, “The Marvels” improves on its predecessor with its character dynamics, humor and direction. I highly recommend it.

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