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Marvel’s Latest Misfire? Revisiting the “The Marvels”

Courtesy+of+Disney+Philippines+
Courtesy of Disney Philippines

I have no shame in the fact that I have a complicated relationship with Marvel content. I often find the acting melodramatic, the massive amount of lore irritating and the plotlines more holey than a piece of Swiss cheese– but I love the jokes and unabashed fun the franchise takes care to include. And no one has the right to disparage something innocent that brings so much joy to so many people.

With that said, there is indisputably a hierarchy to the many Marvel films, and the studio’s latest– “The Marvels”– has sparked the requisite debate over where the newest installment belongs in the ranking. So, in honor of the movie’s February 7 Disney+ release, this Marvel pseudo-fan gave “The Marvels” a try.

The movie revolves around three of Marvel’s heroes possessing similar powers: Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, Monica Rambeau, and teenage Captain Marvel superfan Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan. “The Marvels” is technically the sequel to 2019’s “Captain Marvel,” but the latter’s lukewarm reception makes one wonder if “The Marvels” added two additional main characters simply to convince Captain Marvel haters this film is worth watching. Either way, the plot hinges on the interconnected nature of the trio’s powers, now literally intertwined thanks to a phenomenon occurring in the first few minutes of “The Marvels.” Every time two or more of the three use their respective powers at once, they switch places, whether they are galaxies apart or mere feet.

This mix-up effectively draws our heroes together and forces them to confront the movie’s villain– rather too generic to be worth describing in detail– and retrieve a MacGuffin item that is conveniently a pair with the bangle that gives Kamala Khan– Ms. Marvel– her powers. Other than these points, there’s not much else worth mentioning in terms of plot. Marvel mostly uses this movie to tie up a couple character loose ends (such as the estranged relationship between Rambeau and Danvers) and tease more exciting storylines for Khan and Rambeau, respectively. Even the connection between the trio’s powers mainly serves as an excuse for comedy and visually interesting action sequences (although one has to wonder how each character will ever be able to operate in their own series again).

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In true Marvel fashion, the rules surrounding this newfound switcheroo are blurry and inconstant; the characters take their clothes and and handheld items with them during switches, but during the very first switch, Khan blips into a spacesuit that Rambeau had been wearing; convenient, giving the fact that she couldn’t have survived in the vacuum of space. And at multiple points, two of the three use their powers at the same time within frame and neglect to switch. Plot holes may be all but inevitable in action movies, but do they really have to be so blatant?

Overall, “The Marvels” seems largely hit or miss; a highlight is Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan. Her sweet adoration for Danvers and bubbly joy to be fighting alongside her idol are infectious, and her “everyman” perspective– Khan is not quite used to the wider world of superheroes and all its insanity– is refreshing. A definite miss is the re-introduction of Carol Danvers; the movie adds a lovely flashback summary of “Captain Marvel” in case you heeded the internet’s advice to skip it (or you simply blocked it from your memory) followed up by a weak attempt at relatability (Captain Marvel wears Crocs and deals with an alien cat walking across her holographic keyboard, isn’t she so quirky?). Even as a neutral party on the subject of the character it’s clear that Marvel needs to work a little harder to redeem her in doubters’ eyes.

Then again, much of the criticism for Danvers revolves around sexism and unnecessary hate for the actress; perhaps the character should not change at all.

Despite its flaws, “The Marvels” ultimately brings Marvel’s trademark blend of humor and action back to your screens and is certainly worth watching for any fans who dreamed of seeing the Marvels meet. To check out the movie for yourself, stream “The Marvels” on Disney+.

CAPTION: Triumph or misfire? Marvel’s latest film, “The Marvels,” has room for both.

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Nicole Kowalewski, Arts & Culture Editor

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