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  • Writer's pictureBryce Chismire

The Marvels

Updated: Jan 13

Captain Marvel. One of the defining aspects – or so Marvel would’ve liked to believe – of superheroines, she went through an intriguing history in the comics when she initially started as a male figure. It led to widespread confusion over which superhero should be named Captain Marvel: Shazam or the original bearer of the name, Mar-Vell. Nowadays, the most notable bearer of the name Captain Marvel is Carol Danvers, Skrull ally and former Air Force pilot.

Once her debut movie was released in 2019, its reputation did not have a tidy turnover. Wherever people went, they always pointed fingers at Captain Marvel, looking at her as if, rather than becoming the epitome of righteous, all-powerful superheroines, she instead represented toxic feminism. By that, I mean that she embodied the negative qualities of being a strong woman, with expressions of cold, challenging dispositions and a general lack of emotional variety. Sometimes, that influence spilled into other works of fiction, such as Mulan in her live-action remake and Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. And every time, the reaction has always been the same: she’s a strong woman, but that does not make her a good character, especially if she doesn’t emote, react, or possibly cooperate the way any empathetic human being should.

Of course, while that wave of complaints was crashing through, Ms. Marvel, starring Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, made a splash on Disney+ with its lively colors and intriguing peek into the lives of Islamic culture in America. Kamala started similarly to Peter Parker: She started with an everyday life in high school and as a huge fan of Carol Danvers while harboring crushes on boys she liked. But it’s only when she got intertwined with mystical powers beyond her understanding, most of them coming from an antique bangle she found, that Kamala became the focus of attention as she slowly became a superheroine herself. It all led to one of the more game-changing final shots of the show, where Kamala looked at the powerful glows stemming from her bangle, and all in her Ms. Marvel outfit, before finding herself warped into a different place, with her taking Carol Danvers’s place, and Carol switching with hers. That got me hooked enough to want to know what’ll happen in the follow-up movie, The Marvels.

Now, I was anxious to see how this movie would turn out. It’s ironic how much of a fan Kamala Davis is to Carol Danvers because Captain Marvel was a controversial and flawed superhero film while Ms. Marvel was a splendid, well-told superhero show. Not only that, but it must be very tricky to concoct a follow-up that acts as a sequel not only to Captain Marvel but also to Ms. Marvel. It reminds me of how Captain America: Civil War functions not only as Captain America 3 but also as Avengers 2.5.

So, once Carol and Kamala finally met up, with Monica Rambeau also joining, what results did this team-up lead to?

Admittedly, there were some mixed results, but thankfully, they might have done more good than bad.

As for the story, it picks up immediately where the last episode of Ms. Marvel left off, with Kamala and Carol switching places, with Carol ending up in Kamala’s bedroom and Kamala…ending up in Monica’s astronaut suit. Apparently, it wasn’t just Kamala and Carol switching places, but Monica, too, who was working for Nick Fury as part of an organization called SABER and also had experience contacting the gamma rays herself after being exposed to them back in WandaVision.

What happened was that whenever either of these three got close to a source of gamma rays, those in contact with them would have switched places. That meant that Kamala traversed back and forth between being in her home, fighting off galactic bad guys on another planet, and, other times, being stuck in the SABER space station with Nick Fury, as did Carol and Monica. Of course, because of their shared connectivity to the gamma rays, they also roped in some of the bad guys who were fighting them all, and they ended up sharing their shared positions as well.

Once the storm had cleared, and the three had some time to work out how they came together like this, they deduced that the main target they were after was a Kree named Dar-Benn, and she was seeking out some other planets and objects to meet her ends. The bad guys they fought earlier were in cahoots with Dar-Bell as they investigated the planet for the bangles where she knew they would’ve been. It turned out she knew about the power of the bangles, called the Quantum Bands, and wanted both so she could harness the powers they would’ve granted. And because Kamala possessed one of those two bangles, it made her more aware of how the bangles worked together and where the second one could be hiding. So then, the three of them banded up and traveled together, despite Kamala’s family’s concerns, to try and find the other bangle before Dar-Bell did. It also arranged an opportunity for Kamala to meet her biggest idol, for Carol to get acquainted with her biggest fan, and most of all, for Carol to get reacquainted with Monica after they’ve been away for so long and after Monica grew up to be an adult when Carol last saw her as a child.

Over four years have passed since the release of the first Captain Marvel, and outside of her appearances in Avengers: Endgame and possibly Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, she barely had any involvement in the MCU. So, besides this movie serving as a follow-up to both Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel, it had to have accomplished something worthwhile to keep its momentum as a follow-up and provide a satisfactory return for Carol Danvers and a continuation for Kamala Khan.

However, some things just didn’t hit the mark as I hoped.

First, there’s a section where Carol, Monica, and Kamala ventured into the planet of Aladna, which was famous for being bountiful with water and felt reminiscent of Kamala’s culture back on Earth with its splashy colors and festive energy. However, not only were its functionalities questionable - I mean, how can anyone on this planet speak only in song and have that be treated as a separate language from English? Maybe just pure harmonizing with foreign-sounding dialects would’ve been all you’d need to convey a more musical-type atmosphere and culture – but it turns out that Carol was married to one of its princes, Yan D’Aladna. Dude, that just came right out of nowhere! Granted, Carol has not been around for a very long time in the MCU. After all, she was on Earth until 1995 and then went off into space for 23 years before returning to help the Avengers defeat Thanos in Endgame – for all her little involvement in the movie – but still, a little exposure on this would’ve been most helpful. In a nutshell, I’d describe their pursuits and adventures on this planet as half-baked. And, looking at this almost makes me wish that a prequel series to highlight Carol’s adventures and potentially bridge the gap between both Captain Marvel movies would help a lot.

Also, speaking of companions, I wish Nick Fury had more screen time and involvement in this movie. I understand that Nick Fury was Carol’s closest friend after these two met back in the ’90s, so because they grew so close and because Nick Fury spent so much time up in space, you’d think that some semblance of friendship would’ve played a more prominent role here than it had. The closest thing he did to a contribution was acknowledge the bangles’ effects when their gamma-magnetic powers caused Carol, Kamala, and Monica to switch places constantly. But outside of that and watching over Kamala’s family to keep them out of harm’s way, I wish he would’ve done more than he had. Even given his involvement in Secret Invasion, I don’t want to give away what happens by the end of that series, but murky as I thought the ending was, I thought that perhaps the events highlighted in the show would’ve been addressed here in the movie, too, as if to continue what happened in that show as well.

While my mind is still fresh on Carol, Kamala, and Monica, do they make for a multifaceted team?


The only part of this pair-up that I believe could’ve used some fine-tuning is the relationship between Monica and Kamala. The closest we got out of those two’s chemistry was Kamala wanting to know more about some of the classified names and documents Monica carried around on her SABER tablet. Even when she was about to clue Kamala into secret code names, like the Avengers database, Monica was still scolded by Nick Fury for giving it away. Outside of that, however, I wish there had been more exposure and fleshing out between them. If there were, it would have helped make Carol, Kamala, and Monica feel more like a dynamic team, like they would’ve lived up to the name The Marvels.

However, now that I got the most problematic aspects of the movie out of the way, I noticed four things about this movie that saved it from being a total disappointment.

First off is the action scenes. As expected from any superhero movie, they delivered on all the thrills and choreography of watching the good guys fight against and around the bad guys trying to bring them down. Even then, though, as prosperous as they are in the movie, the actions that take the cake for me are the beginning action sequences surrounding the bangles. After getting off to an exciting start at the end of Ms. Marvel, the back-and-forth switching of places between Carol, Kamala, and Monica gradually evolved into a series of continuously fun action sequences. Watching all these characters go from one place to another and fight bad guys in every corner, no matter where each one ended up, makes the whole ordeal feel very well-choreographed and exciting from beginning to end. Plus, there’s something funny about Kamala going from being in the comforts of home to suddenly being forced to confront the all-too-real stakes at hand and all the bad guys she encountered as all the chaos started spilling into her home next. Plus, it just feels so epic. Seeing the characters go from fighting on a distant planet to battling in a space station where Nick Fury was to ducking it out in a civilian’s home, plus the speed at which it all occurred, makes this feel like a borderline adrenaline rush.

The second is the performances by the supporting players, particularly Samuel L Jackson and the returning cast of Ms. Marvel. Jackson still got his knack for portraying Nick Fury with a dash of intimidation and dignity in what he established under his watch since he was responsible for roping in the superheroes to form the Avengers in the first place. And since he had a lot to juggle on his plate, whether it was to maintain control in the SABER space station and watch over Kamala’s family and also do some slight catch-up with longtime friend Carol, Jackson helped Nick Fury look like he knew what to do when things started getting hectic.

As for the returning cast of Ms. Marvel, who were Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, and Saagar Shaikh, their characters barely did anything throughout the movie outside of panic and ponder when confronting the real-life threats that Kamala now had to face courtesy of her owning one of the two bangles. But for what these actors did throw in within the little time they had in the film, they still infused their characters with the same humorous energy, colorful chemistry, and thoughtful family demeanor that they mastered throughout the show.

The third and most viable part of the movie is, simply put, the chemistry between the Marvels themselves. And I don’t mean just the characters but the actresses who played them. Starting with the actresses, each of them felt so comfortable working together that their team dynamics functioned adequately and contributed significantly to those of the characters they played.

Iman Vellani returned to take on the cape, in a manner of speaking, as Kamala Khan, or Ms. Marvel, and she displayed just as much spunk, finesse, heart, and slight knowhow as she had throughout her time as the star of her own show. Teyonah Parris returned from WandaVision to take on her role as Monica Rambaeu. As she had done in that show, she took her character and gave her a profuse acknowledgment of the goings-on in front of her with the high-intelligence background she accumulated throughout her time working for SABER, as well as SWORD.

And that leaves us with Brie Larson as Carol Danvers or Captain Marvel. After already getting a – maybe solid? – start as Carol, she started to get more into the general rhythm of her character this time. Personally, whereas in the last film, she was treated almost like some one-woman show, here, she had the advantage of working sometimes on her own and sometimes with the help of her cohorts. As she did so, they helped her express a greater variety of expressions and emotions that clue me more into Carol’s thinking processes and her considerations for her friends when confronting colossal obstacles. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

As for the trio as characters, every time I see them all together, I can tell something is going on here that is bound to germinate and blossom into a threefold relationship that would have had each other’s backs when confronting and facing evil in every corner. Another thing I admire about their sense of teamwork is that whenever they had time to mellow down and talk, I felt some connection brewing about that would’ve helped them live up to the movie’s title. As for how Carol, Kamala, and Monica reeled after their freaky flip-flopping between locations, as soon as they all deduced how the bangles would’ve made them go from one location to the next, they started to develop synchronizing techniques that would’ve helped them flip-flop between places whenever they desired. Or, as I see it, they started putting the most riveting action sequences of the movie to their advantage.

And while the relationship between Kamala and Monica could’ve been better, the other two aspects of this partnership work so well individually.

The relationship between Kamala and Carol is generally cute as Kamala had to wrap her head around being in the presence of her number one idol, just like what Kate Bishop did when she was in the presence of hers, Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye. It also tested Carol as she had to wrap her head around being in the company of her number one fan. How would she react to those who followed her because of all her good deeds? Plus, it allows both to see and get to know each other, warts and all, leading to some shreds of a healthy friendship.

One of the most prominent examples I can think of was when Kamala, Carol, and Monica headed to the Skull Refugee Facility on the planet Tarnax IV to prevent Dar-Bell from retaliating against the innocent Skulls and absorbing their planet of resources she needed for her home planet. This came to mind because it allowed Kamala to not only see Carol in action but also see how determined and overconfident she can be when trying to defend the helpless. But as for what else Kamala learned about Carol? We’ll get to that very shortly.

However, it’s the relationship between Carol and Monica that feels like the strongest of the three. Here, you have Carol reuniting with Monica, daughter of her close friend and pal Maria Rambeau, only now Monica has become a grown adult with a full-fledged job and heavy responsibilities, a far cry from the Monica that Carol left behind in 1995. And because Carol made a promise that she never fully lived up to, there was some conflict about why Carol was gone for so long and why she never came back to her or anyone on Earth. And that included Maria, whom Monica was brokenhearted to see having succumbed to her cancer. So what would Carol have had to say about that?

And the answer to that question happens to be the fourth greatest strength of the movie. What happened was, because Carol was so devoted to protecting the Skull communities from the Krees, she decided to lung forth into the Krees’ home planet – again, I’ll tell you more about that shortly – so she could destroy the one component of the Kree community that gave them such a stronghold over the Skrulls, which she believed was the Supreme Intelligence. But the biggest problem is she traveled to the Krees’ home planet at such a high velocity that Carol unknowingly traveled back in time to cripple the Krees and their operational foundations at a time when they weren’t even at war against the Skrulls. If anything, Carol may have unintentionally started the war between the Kree and the Skrulls, the one she vowed and pledged to fight and serve in since childhood, not realizing it was of her own making. After that demolition, the Krees looked at her and accusingly dubbed her ‘the Annihilator’ because the damage Carol inflicted on them was severe. It throws in a whole ‘nother curve with Carol’s character and turns the notion of being a strong, superpowered heroine on its head. It highlights how far from perfect Carol is and that, yes, her actions, when taken to more reckless, unhealthy extremes, could cause severe damage to those who were otherwise innocent. But it also highlighted just how guilty Carol felt about what she had done to the otherwise harmless Kree and tried to do everything in her power to right the wrongs that she caused, showing her how not all the Kree she vowed to fight were as automatically evil as she thought they were. But as for how that affects her friendship with Kamala and Monica, that’s where these two strengths complement each other thoroughly. With Kamala, it hits home to Kamala just how far from an ideal heroic figure Carol Danvers turned out to be, and yet this was when Kamala caught on to how flawed Carol was. It makes Kamala’s willingness to look past her significant flaws and still try to see some good in her and abide by that portion of her even more heartwarming. With Monica, Carol was also frightened to return to Earth because she remembered Monica as looking up to her as an ideal figure for a strong, independent, reliable female role model, but it was mainly to make her proud, which, in turn, would’ve meant making Maria proud. Carol was worried about returning to see her face when the past about her involvement and intrusion of the Krees could easily have been spilled into Monica’s awareness and tarnished any shred of respect she thought she had for Carol. I suppose this arranges an excellent lesson to pick up from this movie regarding what mistakes you make, how to clean them up, and whether your loved ones would love you any less for the wrongs you made, even if by accident. Plus, when you look at the 25-year gap between both Captain Marvel movies, it makes her absence from this timeframe and the consequences that followed because of her actions make her suddenly feel much more human and sensible than ever before. And the fact that Carol willingly spent as much of that time trying to fix the messes that she knew she made and that she knew jeopardized others, to me, is one of the definitions of true heroism. That was a much-needed injection of fresh energy and empathy for someone like Carol Danvers. I don’t know if this validated or salvaged her character, but either way, this narrative exposition blew my expectations of her out of the water.

As for the villain, Dar-Bell, it turns out that she was after Captain Marvel because of watching her home planet be reduced to ruin because of Carol dismantling the Supreme Intelligence. Carol’s vendetta against the Krees and what she destroyed in the process resulted in the waters and sunlight of her planet vanishing into nothing, hence Dar-Bell’s pursuits for the resources of planets like Tarnax IV and Aladna. So, she figured, outside of getting revenge on Captain Marvel for causing such mayhem, she wanted to get back at her by using the space/time cut to suck the sunlight that Earth receives to help sustain her home planet again. The villain may not have been 100% cohesive, but her motivations were still there and easy enough for me to see where she was coming from. That’s why, when you see her and her fellow Kree troops attacking the Skrull refugee facilities, you can tell that she was out to attack them not just because they were Skrulls and that they have been in war for a long time but because Carol was responsible for this mess, the villain lunged forth because she thought maybe the Skrulls were in cahoots with ‘the Annihilator’ to destroy her people. So, a lot is going on between Carol Danvers, Monica, Kamala, and the villain that adds nothing but dynamics to this movie, slightly feeble as Dar-Bell’s characterization was.

And before I forget, there are two more things I must address.

First, Goose was one of the returning characters from the first Captain Marvel here, and at first, she did nothing more than demonstrate her tentacle powers and wigging Kamala out over what kind of cat she is. But by the film’s last half, she also gave birth to a litter of alien kittens, all of whom came out in otherworldly eggs. Outside of hatching and unleashing their tentacle mouths, they eventually did so to inhale everyone, and it was done in a surprisingly more humorous way than it sounds. What makes it so funny is that the kittens inhaled everyone inside them as a surefire way of evacuating them to safety, and it was all set to the song ‘Memory’ from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. That makes the scene feel even more hilarious.

And I better highlight Dar-Bell’s home planet, for this was more a case of what I experienced than it is on everyone else’s part. My girlfriend and I watched this movie in theaters, and whenever the characters talked about the home planet and how much in ruins it became, we both snickered more than once because of its name. And what was the reason it cracked us up so much? Well…

Sorry, Hala. I have to spill this out.

That’s right. The planet shares the same name as my girlfriend. That means whenever the characters referred to the planet by name, we looked at each other like they could indirectly be talking to my Hala instead of theirs. Parts of it felt touching, especially to my girlfriend, while other times, hearing them do something to or for Hala just got a big chuckle out of both of us, like they meant to do that for my Hala instead. I know that the planet Hala was around in the comics for a long time and eventually appeared in the movies starting here. Still, because my girlfriend’s name is Hala, we found the offhand implications at work here irresistible.

For a follow-up that had a lot going for it, the result was a superhero film that doesn’t try to push any boundaries or, thankfully, push forth an agenda, but it in no way harms the film. As I’ve seen plenty of people point out, it’s just a superhero movie and a fun one, too. The characters are all distinguished, the acting is terrific, the chemistry between the three main leads is almost immaculate, Carol’s backstory is a godsend, and it generally does a solid job of continuing both Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel. Many of the other issues I pointed out I wish could’ve been tended to more for the sake of providing a cleaner, more polished superhero sequel. But for what we got, it is a wobbly sequel with a solid footing.

I still stand that the #1 Marvel film of 2023 is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Yet, I keep feeling an innermost relief to see this film come as, at best, the second-best Marvel film of the year, considering Captain Marvel’s controversial reputation from before. And if this sequel had done anything to change people’s minds about the character, then that makes this a worthy Marvel sequel in my book.

The Marvels may be far from marvelous, but ‘higher, further, faster, together’ almost feels like a compliment in this film’s case.


My Rating

A 'strong' B

Additional Thoughts


Outside of all that I mentioned about this movie, The Marvels also had the benefit of having plenty of superheroes from the MCU make cameos here, including Valkyrie and, to my surprise, Kate Bishop from Hawkeye. However, there is one particular superhero cameo that topped them all here. For Shazam: Fury of the Gods, it was Wonder Woman. For this movie, that honor belongs to the Beast from the X-Men. Monica ran into him after being stuck in a space-time vortex that Carol and Kamala tried and failed to save her from. It turned out that the vortex transported her into another dimension, which correlated with the different cinematic renditions of the Marvel properties, including X-Men. Think about it: Spider-Man snuck his way into this franchise, and now the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and even Deadpool are soon to follow suit. It opens up a whole new slew of possibilities for the MCU, and it will only make it feel more massive and almost complete now that it will rope everyone under the Marvel name together.

UPDATE (Jan. 12, 2024): Okay, so I was mistaken. While Carol did destroy the Supreme Intelligence, she didn’t travel back in time as she did so and unintentionally jumpstart the Kree-Skrull wars like I thought. Instead, she destroyed it in modern times and crippled the Kree as a race to the point where they waged constant civil wars against each other since. That means that Carol feeling remorseful for her actions against them and attempting to clean up the messes she made still tells me that this had Carol look at the Kree in a much broader light rather than a simplified, black-and-white light. Either way, this does not change the fact that Carol making a huge mistake like this, attempting to undo what she did and hesitating to show her face to her friends back on Earth because of this was the type of character development that Carol Danvers needed and deserved.

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