Released over four years since its predecessor, “The Marvels” grapples with concerns surrounding the Disney+-ification of the Marvel movie experience. While boasting a refreshing runtime of 105 minutes, making it Marvel’s briefest film, the lighter tone, occasionally resembling a cosmic “Freaky Friday,” fails to consistently elevate the movie.
Despite serving as a sequel to “Captain Marvel” and benefitting from groundwork laid in streaming series like “WandaVision” and “Ms. Marvel,” the film’s primary flaw lies in its villain, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), a vengeful Kree leader. Seeking revenge against Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) with a hammer akin to Ronan’s, Dar-Benn’s threat feels generic, lacking the compelling depth seen in previous Marvel antagonists.
While the trio of heroes—Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Paris), and Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani)—delivers pleasant interactions, the movie’s narrative relies on a temporal displacement anomaly, causing chaotic shifts between the characters. This effect, played for laughs, proves initially overwhelming.
Director Nia DaCosta, known for the horror sequel “Candyman,” finds a standout in Vellani’s Kamala Khan, injecting the film with playful sweetness through her star-struck reactions to the older heroes. Another highlight is Goose, the Flerken cat, adding a touch of silliness.
However, the combination of Vellani and the cat may appeal more to younger audiences, raising questions about the movie’s fit for theatrical release compared to the narrative flexibility of a streaming series. “The Marvels” risks being perceived as “Marvel Lite,” lacking the grandeur that marked its predecessors.
Several factors contribute to this perception, including the challenge of following the operatic highs of “Avengers: Endgame” and the departure of key players. Despite these obstacles, a promising element lies in the closing credit scene, hinting at intriguing possibilities for the future.
Ultimately, “The Marvels” feels predictably safe at a time when Marvel could benefit from taking creative risks. While featuring a space-faring hero, the film struggles to consistently soar, offering heroics that only intermittently elevate the cinematic experience.