THE MARVELS Delivers with Great Protagonists, Lots of Laughs, and a Zippy Runtime

Much has been made of the perceived high barrier of entry for Marvel’s newest film, which follows up not only as a sequel to Captain Marvel and the wider Avengers-tangential corner of the MCU, but three different Disney+ miniseries as well: An adult Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), previously seen as a child in Captain Marvel, gained superpowers in Wandavision. Ms Marvel introduced new teenage superheroine Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), and the story of Nick Fury and his relationship with the alien race known as the Skrulls was picked back up in Secret Invasion.

Thankfully, rumors of the film’s inaccessibility have been greatly exaggerated. Speaking personally, I’ve watched Wandavision and only took in a couple episodes of the others, and I can confirm: Viewers who haven’t caught up on all of that stuff will be fine. The film quickly catches you up with the major characters and where they are now, and much like picking up a new story arc of a long-running comic book, you don’t really need every scrap of backstory to jump into the current adventure.

The film, directed by Nia DaCosta (Candyman), teams Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), with the two other heroines in a shared story, brought together by circumstance because their powers – all three of which are described as “light-based” – have become entangled. This introduces a displacement mechanism in which they can unexpectedly swap places (even from across the galaxy) when they attempt to use their powers. Meanwhile, a threat from Captain Marvel’s past is now menacing the galaxy as a vengeful, decimated planet uses artificial wormhole technology to to steal natural resources from other worlds.

Yeah, it’s basically the plot from Spaceballs. But this is a film that’s more about its trio of characters than the specific plot they’re navigating or the somewhat undercooked antagonist they’re facing off against.

Ms Marvel is a huge highlight here, and I think a lot of viewers who missed the show will be going back to catch up on it, because she’s delightful. Before gaining superpowers, Kamala was a fangirl, and modeled herself after her favorite heroine, Captain Marvel, giving them a humorous chemistry when they meet. Her overbearing but loving family also features prominently, providing a lot of very recognizable family comedy. Enthusiastic Kamala serves as a counterpoint to Rambeau, who similarly looked up to her mother’s friend Carol Danvers a child, but resents that as Captain Marvel, Carol left Earth and never returned.

I was taken a bit by surprise at how funny this movie is, and I think its overall lighter and zippier tone is a nice change of pace. Lately a lot of Marvel films have tended to have long runtimes and complex multiverse-based stories, and while I love that stuff, it’s nice to see one take the opposite approach with an hour-and-a-half adventure full of hearty chuckles and gags, like a musical-style planet where inhabitants sing their dialogue, and the return of fan-favorite Flerkens (alien cats who harbor a hidden talent), used to great effect.

If you’re hungry for another Avengers, The Marvels probably won’t scratch that particular itch for you. But it is a great time at the movies.

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