Given the decline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the oversaturation of related movies and television series, it’s not surprising that casual fans are feeling jaded.
It also doesn’t help that, to know the backstory of certain newer protagonists, you’ll have to watch one or two series on Disney+.
This is certainly the case with “The Marvels”, which requires you to have seen “WandaVision” and “Ms Marvel” on the streamer to fully comprehend these characters. This isn’t to say you can’t still watch this film, but you’ll likely feel lost at certain plot points.
So, what’s it about? Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), a warrior of the alien race Kree, retrieves a quantum-powered bangle that allows her to create wormholes through time and space to save her dying home planet, Hala.
But there’s another bangle she wishes to get a hold of – currently in the possession of Jersey City-based teenager Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani).
While investigating the wormholes, an electromagnetic bond is forged among Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Tenoyah Parris) and Kamala, causing them to switch places every time they use their powers, which results in some wacky scenarios.
What follows is a space adventure where the trio try to stop Dar-Benn from leaving destroyed planets in her wake, while figuring out how to work together as a team, entangled powers and all.
The interaction among the three leads proves to be the movie’s greatest strength: their gradual bond feels genuine, their dynamic and dialogue funny or emotional depending on what has just transpired.
In her second solo outing, Larson’s Danvers doesn’t move away from her stoic persona, keeping a straight and unamused face for most of the film’s 105-minute runtime.
But she at least is given some emotional depth here compared to the first film, and her interactions with fellow superhero Rambeau can be heartfelt, seeing as they’re not fully over the death of Rambeau’s mother Maria, a close friend of Danvers’.
The surprise star, though, is Vellani’s Kamala, who is able to hold her own alongside her two superpowered counterparts. Between fangirling over Captain Marvel and trying to save the universe as a part of the trio, she convincingly portrays an excited teen who finally gets to meet her heroes without being (overly) annoying.
Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury returns but, sadly, he isn’t given much to do except for talking into the communication system and updating the leads about the situation at hand. Hey, at least he gets to pet some (CGI) cats!
Meanwhile, K-drama fans who are looking forward to seeing Park Seo-joon will likely leave disappointed, as he’s barely on screen for more than five minutes in two scenes. Sigh.
As for the villain, Dar-Benn is too generic and not fleshed-out enough for you to hate or empathise with her. Lacking charm and screen presence, she’s destined to be added to the MCU’s ever-expanding list of forgettable antagonists.
The fight scenes are choreographed well, with the leads using their specific powers to their advantage, resulting in some entertaining moments. One nitpick, though – why do superpowered beings, who can shoot beams out of their hands, always resort to fisticuffs? You have powers, use them!
Another shortcoming is the lack of stakes during fight scenes: when a hero has the ability to literally fly into the sun, it stands to assume throwing them into a concrete building won’t hurt them lah.
All in all, while the leads are entertaining, the story feels too safe: “The Marvels” could have benefited from taking more risks to stop it from being merely a passable, often unexciting, sequel.
That said, there’s a mid-credits scene you have to see, so make sure you stay for that!
As of press time, ‘The Marvels’ is screening in cinemas nationwide.