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The Marvels

MOVIE | Superhero flick is shorter, funnier, and more family-friendly than most Marvel offerings

Marvel Studios

<em>The Marvels</em>
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Rated PG-13
S1 / V5 / L4*

In the last few years, the once reliable Marvel Studios has had just as many misses as hits. Given this spotty record, I didn’t expect much from its latest superhero film, The Marvels. It didn’t help that it’s a sequel to one of my least favorite movies in the franchise, 2019’s insufferably preachy Captain Marvel.

That said—and I almost hate to admit it—but I actually enjoyed The Marvels.

The movie features three cosmically powered female superheroes: Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, played by Brie Larson; Ms. Marvel, aka Kamala Khan, played by Iman Vellani; and Monica Rambeau, who’s still workshopping her codename, played by Teyonah Parris.

In the beginning, each of our heroines is doing her own thing. Carol is in a self-imposed exile in deep space, serving as a galactic peacekeeper. Monica works alongside Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury as a scientist on his space station. And the teenage Kamala sits in her bedroom doodling and daydreaming about what it would be like to meet Captain Marvel.

But things get weird when an alien warlord rips a hole in space.

Monica finds herself on the ­distant planet Carol was exploring. Carol ends up in Kamala’s bedroom. And Kamala surprises Nick Fury by showing up on his space station. Every time the superheroes use their powers, they switch places.

Kamala’s thrilled to be entangled with her hero Captain Marvel, but Monica and Carol aren’t excited. The new team will have to figure out how to manage their malfunctioning abilities before they face the villain who threatens the fabric of existence.

One reason The Marvels succeeds is because the script finds a credible way to rein in Captain Marvel. She’s a problematic character for any story. She’s nigh invulnerable, impossibly strong, flies at supersonic speeds, and can shoot laser beams from her fists. She’s too powerful to be interesting. By causing her to switch places with Kamala or Monica whenever she powers up, the film limits Carol’s ability to solve a problem with brute force.

The antagonist, however, is a somewhat forgettable supervillain, but at least she isn’t just evil for evil’s sake. Like better Marvel villains, she makes valid points when complaining about the state of the universe. She just has a wicked plan for solving the problems she’s identified.

The Marvels contains some brief language and sci-fi action, but other than a few bad words there’s not much objectionable content, making it one of Marvel’s more family-friendly installments. And at an hour and 45 minutes, The Marvels is the shortest movie in the franchise to date, sticking to its own story without wasting time setting up the next Avengers crossover.

Increasingly with Marvel movies, people ask how familiar they should be with the 32 other movies and nine TV series in the franchise. If you want all the origin stories, you’ll need to watch the movie Captain Marvel and the series WandaVision and Ms. Marvel. They can be safely skipped, however, because The Marvels does a decent job getting the audience up to speed on the ­various characters and their relationships.

The biggest problem with the first Captain Marvel movie was that it took itself too seriously. Marvel thought its first female-led superhero movie needed to lean into earnest empowerment. This movie, however, swings in the opposite direction, offering as much humor as action, leaving agendas behind.

Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan brings much of the humor, stealing scenes as the fangirl who made it into the big leagues. She’s especially funny when trying to play it cool. Brie Larson is relegated to playing the straight man, and Teyonah Parris’ Monica gets saddled with the boring exposition.

At points, The Marvels gets downright goofy, and some viewers will probably complain that it’s too goofy. If you want superhero movies to be somber epics, you’re going to hate The Marvels. But I prefer superhero films with a generous dose of levity, and The Marvels turns out to be a fun, light popcorn film to kick off the holiday movie season.

*Ratings from, with quantity of sexual (S), violent (V), and foul-language (L) content on a 0-10 scale, with 10 high

Collin Garbarino

Collin is WORLD’s arts and culture editor. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Louisiana State University and resides with his wife and four children in Sugar Land, Texas.



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