Superpowers, music performances, and cats: Nia DaCosta has (too much) fun
After the final chapter of Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel universe seems to have lost its focus: building an interesting story around the “survivors” or the new characters that have debuted in the series seems almost impossible.
We are still wondering what happened to the Eternals, Dr. Strange’s second adventure didn’t make the audience fully happy and there’s Captain Marvel, who seemed to be the best candidate to become the top superheroine of the franchise.
Following the 2019 film by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (not the perfect job, but certainly well done) here comes the sequel directed by Nia DaCosta, The Marvels, released in Italy on November 8, 2023, and debuting today, November 10, in the U.S. The film stars Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, and Iman Vellani in the main roles.
This time, Carol Danvers is joined by Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan: the girls find themselves teaming up in an improvised but very powerful trio.
Necessary premise: the film takes place after the events of the Ms. Marvel miniseries, starring Canadian actress Iman Vellani, who plays Kamala Khan, a sixteen-year-old fan of the Avengers and Captain Marvel in particular. In the series, she finds a Quantum Band that gives her magical powers, turning her into one of the superheroes she has always admired. In this film, Kamala finds herself finally collaborating with her idol, Carol Danvers, due to an accident: Carol, Kamala, and Monica (daughter of Carol’s deceased friend, Maria, and now S.A.B.E.R. astronaut working for Nick Fury) start unintentionally switching places through teleportation, every time they use their powers.
The destruction of the Supreme Intelligence by Captain Marvel leads to a civil war among the Kree species on the planet Hala, which is losing air, water, and sunlight. The new leader of the Kree, Dar-Benn retrieves one of a pair of Quantum Bands without knowing that the missing one is in Kamala’s hands. Pairing the one she has with the Universal Weapon, Dar-Benn tears apart a jump point in space causing the anomaly that leads The Marvels to switch their places. The girls have to join their forces to close the jump point and try to restore the peace to Hala.
The Marvels starts in a fun, all-female atmosphere: Kamala is the fangirl of the group, looking for her place in the group of superheroes. Carol and Monica are busy trying not to be overwhelmed by the torments of their past that risk compromising the solidity of the trio. This is precisely the core of the film: learning to metabolize the pain, leaving the past behind, and accepting the present challenges, between navigating the unexpected and laughing now and then.
The conditions for a successful film are all there, but some choices in terms of screenwriting choices are arguable: director Nia DaCosta (Little Woods, Candyman), who also co-wrote The Marvels alongside Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik, adds the unnecessary. Some Disney and theatre-inspired musical moments could be avoided as well as cats, many cats. We are talking about alien cats like Goose (you know Carol’s cat “central” role if you watched Captain Marvel), who swallows objects and people and plays an essential part in the success of this mission.
Never forget that this is a superhero film and that expectations must be kept low after so many films in the franchise.
Let’s appreciate Disney’s work in making diversity and inclusion the principles that are guiding their new films: Kamala, a Pakistani who emigrated to New Jersey, is the character to keep an eye on. Her teenage free spirit and her naturally fun family are the treasures of this film. The performances (from Larson’s to Samuel L. Jackson’s as Fury) are always spot on, but the screenplay is a little weak.
Giving more space to female and non-female characters, with different ethnic origins, also means creating relevant stories for them. Only fewer frills can make them more believable to the audience, giving them the space they deserve on the big screen.