The Marvels represents Disney’s latest effort in a comic book movie genre that hasn’t had a monster hit since 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. Amid the ongoing (as of Wednesday) SAG-AFTRA strike, the film celebrated its release at Sphere in Las Vegas Tuesday with appearances from director Nia DaCosta, Marvel godfather Kevin Feige, and in the shadow of the towering visage of The Marvels own equal-parts-adorable-and-horrifying cat-squid creature Goose projected on Sphere’s massive exo-sphere LED screen.
Notably absent, thanks to the strike, were the movie’s strongest assets, its actors, including Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers, the titular Captain Marvel back at the forefront for the first time since her deus ex machina save moment in Avengers: Endgame.
However, this film couldn’t be more polar opposite of Endgame. That movie carried with it the morbid ending of the preceding Avengers: Infinity War and the ramifications of an entire Marvel Cinematic Universe on the cusp of extinction. Also gone is the weighty self-seriousness of 2019’s Captain Marvel. Indeed, in The Marvels we get to have some fun with these heroes.
And fun is the word in The Marvels — that is what the film is. Iman Vellani brings a refreshing influx of energy as Kamala Kahn. She is the star of this show without a doubt and brings Larson and co-lead Teyonah Paris up with her. Larson’s performance as Danvers, previously somewhat dull, receives a massive boost from her supporting cast. This version of Captain Marvel, essentially playing the metaphorical straight man to Vellani’s more comedic performance, is much more enjoyable to watch than previous Marvel appearances. Boosted is Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal of Nick Fury by the light, airy demeanor of The Marvels, quite the juxtaposition from his starring role in the dark, monotonous streaming effort Secret Invasion. He finds new life here.
Credit must be given as well to The Marvels fight choreography, which feels different when compared to other MCU efforts. Its fast-moving, almost musical movement makes the early hand-to-hand combat feel like a dance as much as a fight and is fun to watch.
The Marvels does see itself verge onto the sillier side of the genre. There are a minimum of two moments in the film that may verge into the “too silly” territory, depending on the viewers’ tastes. These moments speak more to The Marvels nature as a light-hearted family comedy than world-ending comic book fare. At a brisk 105 minutes, The Marvels never overstays its welcome. Although this means the film doesn’t spend enough time on the moments that work, it also doesn’t dwell on moments that don’t.
This effort does not redefine the comic book movie, nor should it be used as a blueprint for all future Marvel films. However, it does bring a needed breath of fresh air to a genre that feels like it is regularly buckling under the weight of its past. For that, and for dynamic performances from Iman Vellani and her other co-leads, The Marvels earns its recommendation.