‘The Marvels’ Review: A Place Where Women Shine

The Marvels official poster featuring Kamala Khan, Carol Danvers, and Monica Rambeau.

Nia DaCosta‘s The Marvels is far from perfect, and like most films dealing with the multiverse, it’s a convoluted disarray at times. However, glaring faults aside, it’s mostly a phenomenal joy ride through and through because of the women at the helm. Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, and Iman Vellani have an incredibly addictive rapport that lends itself to laugh-out-loud moments and tremendous beats of vulnerability.

Some of the best films after Avengers: Endgame focus intently on second chances and righting wrongs. They showcase our heroes at their worst to allow them to find the points where they can be better versions of who they used to be. And this is entirely true for The Marvels as it gives Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel a chance to own up to everything she’s done since we last saw her. At the same time, it gives Monica Rambeau a chance to grieve and face her sorrows. The Marvels is at its best in the moments it allows its characters to be vulnerable, and if it leaned into this fully while still feeding the infectious humor, it could’ve been far better than a merely joyous romp.

The Marvels Are Great, but the MCU Is Still Lost

(Center, L-R): Zawe Ashton as Dar-Benn and Daniel Ings as Ty-Rone in Marvel Studios' THE MARVELS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.
courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL

When it comes to the three women, there are no complaints, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still deeply lost in its attempt to make the multiverse gripping or clear. As impressive as Loki Season 2 continues to be, the same can also be said there. And sure, perhaps the audience isn’t supposed to be fully aware quite yet, but we shouldn’t be this lost either. Another disappointing factor boils down to how choppy the film feels, forcing viewers to question the CGI and whether AI was used at any point because the studios still won’t budge on fair deals. Parts feel rushed, uneven, and odd.

Further, there’s a moment in the film that could be triggering to anyone from Artsakh and/or Gaza, given the genocides and unjust displacements happening at this very moment. It bears noting that the MCU isn’t new to destroying entire villages and their people, but the way a specific scene plays out is disturbing and can be deeply heartbreaking. While unintentional, it can still be unsettling to watch.

The Trio Shine Brilliantly When They’re Together

Kamala Khan, Carol Danvers, and Monica Rambeau in The Marvels.
courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL

Putting aside the film’s flaws and focusing on the trio, everything is glowing. Iman Vellani’s charm is undeniable, effortlessly reminding viewers that Kamala Khan is the best addition to the universe. She’s all heart, and whatever she feels, you can’t help but feel it right alongside her. I giggled with her, cried with her, and wanted to protect her forever. (Granted, all these things happened with Ms. Marvel as well.) Zenobia Shroff as Muneeba Khan steals the show every time she’s on screen, and Mohan Kapoor could not be better as Yusuf Khan. There’s also a moment with Saagar Shaikh as Aamir that made me choke up, resulting in a prayer scene that maybe the film didn’t intend for it to hit as hard. Still, it’s lovely to get a showcase of Muslim faith on the big screen.

Thematically, the film focuses on second chances, and like Peter Parker, Kamala Khan feels like the second chance needed in almost every story arc. Newer characters in the MCU don’t feel as lived-in. They don’t feel like comfort characters yet, but everything about Kamala and her family feels like home. They’re the ones keeping The Marvels afloat, getting to the heart of the story and excavating the love that’s essential. There’s something so profoundly genuine about every moment we get with them that it’s hard to be frustrated at the parts that aren’t as enjoyable. It isn’t hyperbolic to say that they make the film as special as it is. And having them alongside Monica and Carol is the strikingly warm balm that the MCU has been lacking lately. If we’d just gotten a bit more of these dynamics, then the film could’ve been something else entirely.

Kamala Khan in The Marvels
courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL

Still, it’s far better than Captain Marvel in a lot of ways, allowing Carol to show more of her emotions to become a better hero is something that I’ve personally been wanting to see more of. And thereby, having characters like Monica and Kamala bring this out of her makes it feel much more earned. Again, the emotional moments could’ve been so much better if we’d just dug into the hollowness of grief and losses. It’s why WandaVision succeeds. It understands that there are deep cuts that need mending, and part of the film does too, but it’s not enough.

Cats cats cats. I mean flerkens flerkens flerkens. It’s never something I’ll say no to, adding the comedic relief necessary during difficult moments that can be anxiety-inducing after heavy bouts of destruction. Last but not least, in an effort to keep this spoiler-free, Zawe Ashton is fantastic as Dar-Benn, bringing a riveting villain to our screens whose complexities are worth understanding.

In short, The Marvels is a story about new beginnings and second chances. It’s about ensuring that today’s actions are better than what we’ve done in the past, and it’s about understanding what a family truly means. Thematically and where performances are concerned, the film is aces. Plot wise, it fumbles. But it’s still enjoyable because of the leading women who undoubtedly poured everything they have into all their scenes.

The Marvels is coming to theaters on November 10.


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