Review: The Marvels is a bright blast of action-packed big-screen fun

Marvel’s latest flick, The Marvels, is a bright blast of action-packed big-screen fun. Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Teyonah Parris have a fun and infectious chemistry that makes The Marvels impossible to look away from. Nia DaCosta’s Marvel debut is a visual victory packed with punch and spectacle. The story races along at a lightning pace, though there are a few tonal hiccups and narrative character missteps along the way. Overall, The Marvels is worth a trip to the theater.

[Editor’s note: This review has very light spoilers ahead for The Marvels.]

The Marvels as a team

It’s exciting to see a fresh team-up of superheroes on screen (even if one of them was truly the first “Avenger” (sorry, Cap), and Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Teyonah Parris have an instant rapport that makes you want to watch them forever. Not only watch them but hang out with them and maybe even write fan-fic of your own. I wish we had more time to see them earn their team-up, especially given the history between Captain Rambeau and Aunt Carol, but that would have slowed down the movie’s pace. Ultimately, I think the choice to speed-walk their camaraderie was right, and their chemistry together makes up for anything character-wise that bumps. 

Larson, Vellani, and Parris and their superheroes

Iman Vellani steals the show in the second Captain Marvel movie, building on her stellar performance in the Disney+ show. She brings a relatable joy and exuberance to the screen that’s impossible to resist. It’s infectious joy and pure fun. And plus, her character comes along with a screen family, including actress Muneeba Khan, actor Saagar Shaikh, and more, that’s equally fun to visit with and vicariously experience. 

Brie Larson also shines in The Marvels. She, like her character, is allowed by Marvel to be more human and less of a Vulcan. Larson is not hampered by the narrative thread of emotions being a weakness, as was the case in Captain Marvel. She’s full of heart and charisma, and it’s lovely to watch how talented the actress comes through excellently on screen.

Teyonah Parris, fresh off her MCU breakout performance in WandaVision, lights up the screen in The Marvels, both figuratively and literally. She seamlessly balances humor with her character’s justified anger at Captain Marvel, showcasing her impressive range and skill as an actress. Parris’s Monica Rambeau is a complex and compelling character, and she brings her to life with depth.

Nick Fury is back

Samuel L. Jackson reprises the iconic role of Nick Fury in The Marvels, giving us a performance that is both familiar and refreshing. It also cancels out any bad feelings from the character lingering after Secret Invasion. Fury is still the same sharp-tongued and resourceful spymaster we know and love, but he’s also really funny. There are hilarious moments with the Flerkens storyline, and one particular moment is so reminiscent of Star Trek: The Original Series episode The Trouble With Tribbles. 

The Flerken storyline was a huge hit in The Marvels, and it couldn’t have been more perfect for the film. The storyline was a skillful balance of absurdity and believable. The song “Memory” from the broadway Cats was also amazing, and props to music supervisor Dave Jordan for pulling it off. 

Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) and her origins rooted in trauma

The villain, Dar-Benn, has a clear motivation, although it is sometimes on the nose. Zawe Ashton gives a terrific performance as a woman traumatized by the slow destruction of her planet. She’s haunted by what she’s seen and heard, and the stakes are even higher for her because of the ticking clock. Ashton’s performance drives this home.

But Dar-Ben is not a Thanos-level threat – and maybe ultimately, that’s okay. Dar-Benn is a very contained villain and perhaps even restrained in some ways. And the story of The Marvels suffers because of that. We never truly have that visercal feel of the threat. Even though the Skrull refugee planet, the planet Aladna, and later Earth are all threatened by Dar-Benn’s revenge on “The Annihilator” in her quest to save Hala, it’s all sort of meh. 

Dar-Benn never feels like an actual match for The Marvels team-up with all their entangled powers, and it’s not a question that the heroes will save things. We’re told the stakes are high, and we certainly see the destruction she brings, but the only time her villainy seems to personally connect with the lead woman is when Kamala is threatened. Zawe Ashton gave a commanding performance with the material she was given and deserved better. 

The visit to Aladna is a tonal misstep.

Most of The Marvels is well-paced and tonally similar; however, while artfully brought to life, one glaring part of the film represents a tonal misstep. Aladna, the planet that sings to communicate, is fun in theory and would be right at home in the weirder, no-longer Shakespearean world of Thor movies. But it doesn’t fit the humor and playfulness of The Marvels. It’s wacky, over the top, and takes you out of the story.

Let me be clear: the time we spend on Aladna is beautiful. From the rich and detailed costumes to the sets and physical worldbuilding to the language, songs, and music of the people – it is gorgeous and deserving of praise. Park Seo-Joon is intriguing and smooth as the leader of this world, who also happens to be important to one of the three Marvels. However, Aladna doesn’t quite match the rest of the movie. 

A pure win for the VFX & cinematography

 The Marvels is a visual triumph. Everything looked incredible and seamless, from the VFX to the costume design and beyond. There were no effects that looked dated or rushed. And all of the moments that featured the cosmic or rips in space-time were made to be seen on the big screen. 

Sean Bobbitt’s cinematography in The Marvels is stunning. It’s no wonder he’s constantly nominated for awards.

The cameos in The Marvels

The Marvels has several cameos and ties to other MCU films and shows.

One cameo, in particular, featured a familiar character. The character is exciting, but their powers may confuse those who haven’t seen the latest Thor movie. That’s okay, though, because the cameo’s purpose is to nudge Carol towards further emotional development and a team-up and conveniently move a spaceship full of potential plot holes. You won’t miss the point if you haven’t seen Thor: Love and Thunder.  

The Marvels also has a post-credits scene that ties in a younger New York City-based character from the Disney+ shows. This scene made me smile from ear to ear and excited me even more for the future of the MCU.

One interesting note about the two big cameos from the MCU is that they’re both women characters. This was refreshing and an exciting nod in a movie led by women and directed by a woman, Nia DaCosta. 

The post-credit scene in The Marvels

Because it is a Marvel movie and a comic book movie, viewers have come to expect a post-credit scene. The Marvels has a post-credit scene and then some. While we won’t spoil what it deals with, especially since some folks on social media have already done that, we will say that it rather satisfyingly ties together disparate universes. It’s a final well-done beat in the underlying thread through the movie of hope for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

How to watch The Marvels

The Marvels is worth watching in theaters; don’t wait for its debut on Disney+. The movie is now playing nationwide.

Your thoughts on the film

What did you think of The Marvels? Did you enjoy it? Join the conversation by commenting below or following us on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MoviesWeTexted.

Looking for more Marvel reads? Check out our thoughts on the new Marvel Spotlight Banner.  Or you could read our thoughts on Daredevil’s shutdown. We even have a deep dive on who bought Avengers Tower way back when and some praise for Natalie Holt’s work on Loki.

Are you still trying to find something to watch this weekend? Check out contributor Austin Belzer’s review of the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie or Russell Miller’s thoughts on the new Sofia Coppola film Priscilla.