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The Marvels Review: Director Nia DaCosta Delivers a Winner Thanks to a Formidable Heroic Trio

In 2019, Marvel StudiosCaptain Marvel became a global blockbuster that made $1.1 billion worldwide and amped Oscar winner Brie Larson further into superstardom as Carol Danvers aka the superhero, Captain Marvel. It was quite inevitable that movie would eventually get a sequel, just as it was that she would come in to save the day against Josh Brolin’s Thanos in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. The Marvels essentially is Captain Marvel 2, but it brings in a few other important characters from the MCU under the guidance of director Nia DaCosta (Candyman) to create something far more epic than anyone might be expecting.

30 years has passed since Captain Marvel with Danvers mostly in space, but also out there is Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Monica Rambeau, the daughter of Danvers’ air force colleague, as played by Teyonah Parris (Wandavision).The new Kree supremor, Dar-Benn, played by Zawe Ashton, has gotten her hands on a cosmic band not unlike the one worn by Iman Vellani’s popular Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel. This causes Kamala, Carol and Monica to all switch places in time/space whenever they use their powers. Dar-Benn has a masterplan, and that’s to bring the Kree planet Hala back to its former greatness as her people have been suffering, but she ends up stealing resources from other planets, putting millions of others in danger.

Teyonah Parris in The Marvels (Marvel/Disney)

It took some time to really get into what the filmmakers were trying to do with The Marvels, because we do seem to be in a general phase for the MCU where it has settled into a proven formula of what it thinks fans want. That hurts The Marvels at times, but it also allows DaCosta to take this terrific trio of heroic women and do some fun things with them.

Kamala Khan is quite a handful, spending much of her earliest appearances in the movie either crying or screaming or fan-girling out over her hero, and it takes some time for the three women to grow together as a team and for Khan to take her rightful place as the heart of the film. It might be even more surprising for those who might not have taken to her in her Disney+ series that she ends up stealing much of the movie, and her family also give The Marvels something quite different from anything we’ve seen in the Marvel movies.

That’s not to take anything away from Parris, whose Rambeau will become another fan-favorite — though does every Marvel movie have to involve trying to find a superhero name for a character? — and Larson really has grown into her role as Danvers, giving her the much-needed humanity needed to insure she doesn’t lose her own movie to the newer characters. You also can’t go wrong giving Jackson more screen time and more one-liners, as The Marvels does.

Zawe Ashton (center) in The Marvels (Disney/Marvel)

Sadly, the worst part of the movie, and one that’s quite unforgivable, is Zawe Ashton, as an incredibly weak Marvel villain that’s almost a direct copycat of others, delivering a performance so hackneyed it doesn’t help a story that seems like every other planet-destroying plot we’ve seen in previous Marvel movies. It’s like someone at Marvel thinks there’s only one general superhero plot, despite having many decades of comics out there to prove otherwise. The script itself is okay, though things like Dar-Benn’s dialogue makes one think the writers haven’t read many comic books… or too many.

There was some controversy earlier this year when The Marvels was delayed from its planned July release to early November, and most people just assumed the worst. Maybe the movie needed help or maybe it just needed more time for its abundant VFX, but there’s also a good chance that Marvel just wanted to put some time after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, another outer space epic with lots of big VFX-driven set pieces to avoid comparisons. 

Goose the Flerken in The Marvels (Disney/Marvel)

With just her third movie (and biggest budget to date) DaCosta has created something that’s on par with other top Marvel movies. Much of that comes from the great crafts work on display from the creative production design and the costumes, especially in a particularly fun musical sequence, but also the visual FX – Emmy-nominated WandaVision VFX supe Tara DeMarco heads this one – which is on par with those Guardians movies, particularly things like Goose the Cat (actually a Flerken), whose odd characteristic is taken even further. DaCosta’s not-so-secret weapons include DP Sean Bobbitt (12 Years a Slave) and Composer Laura Karpman (also from Ms. Marvel). The action scenes are as good as any others from Marvel.

Fans of Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel should enjoy this latest installment, maybe women even more than men, since there’s just some great female bonding, and even a musical section, things that confirm The Marvels is meant to be entertaining fun despite the high stakes at the story’s core. Ultimately, it’s a fine addition to the MCU that wraps things up nicely from the characters’ earlier appearances, but also offers a promising future for most of the characters that hopefully will be delivered on sooner, rather than much later.

Talent: B+
Story: B
Crafts: B+
Awards Potential: Possibly sound, visual effects, production design
Box Office Potential: $125 to 150 million domestic, much more overseas
Renewability: Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and Rambeau are very likely to return in other Marvel movies, including the planned Avengers movies.

Overall Score: B+

The Marvels hits theaters via Disney on Friday, March 10 with previews on Thursday night.

Studio: Marvel Studios/Disney
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton, Gary Lewis
Director: Nia DaCosta
Screenwriter: Nia DaCosta, Megan McDonnell, Elissa Karasik
Producers: Kevin Feige, David J. Grant
DP: Sean Bobbitt
Production Design: Cara Brower
Costume Design: Lindsay Pugh
Editors: Catrin Hedström, Evan Schiff
Score by: Laura Karpman

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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