MOVIES

The Marvels Review: Good-Enough Theme Park Cinema

Most of my excitement for “The Marvels” was due to absolutely loving “Ms. Marvel” – the best part of the MCU’s Phase 4, in my opinion. Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan has to be one of the franchise’s most perfect casting discoveries, and she’s just as funny, authentic, and lovable in her big-screen debut. If you didn’t watch “Ms. Marvel” (and Nielsen ratings tell me not enough of you did), you’ll still get a great introduction to the character here — first with her animated fan fiction imagining what it would be like to meet Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), and then in the glorious opening action scene wherein she, Carol, and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) start switching places.

Nia DaCosta excels at directing these body-swapping battles. There’s a lot of expositional set-up for why the three light-based superheroes are entangled with one another as the result of a universal anomaly, but the specifics don’t particularly matter except as a reason to bring our three heroes together. The fights start off chaotic and grow more coordinated as the film progresses, but they’re always rooted in the characters. The stakes of this adventure might be as grandiose as any Marvel movie (someone’s threatening the safety of the multiverse … again), but the action plays out from a more human perspective, even when it’s going full-anime with the over-the-top energy powers.

At its best, “The Marvels” matches Kamala’s giddy fangirl energy. It might be the Marvel movie most directly targeted at theater kids — one memorable sequence literally turns the film into a Disney princess movie. And then there’s the usage of the flerkins — the feline aliens that eat people with tentacle mouths. They’re still not the most convincing special effects but are adorable nonetheless and responsible for what easily ranks among the funniest scenes in the entire MCU. You’ll know it when you see it (and when you hear it, there’s an amazing music cue).

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