On the Screen: ‘The Marvels’ is messy, but very fun

Where the film shines is in the stellar performances of its three leads

“The Marvels” is far from perfect, but I found myself glossing over some of its shortcomings because I was having so much fun.

The latest in the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe, “The Marvels” is mostly a sequel to 2019’s “Captain Marvel,” starring Brie Larson as Carol Danvers. It also serves as a direct follow-up to 2022’s excellent “Ms. Marvel,” which starred Iman Vellani as Pakistani-American teenage superhero Kamala Khan.

“The Marvels” is a team-up movie, putting together Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel and a third superhero who doesn’t yet have a cool name in Monica Rambeau, portrayed by Teyonah Parris since 2020’s “WandaVision.” They have to learn to work together after being connected for entirely inexplicable plot reasons to stop an alien warlord from destroying planets.

The film is kind of a mess, its plot is convoluted, and though its very short runtime was certainly welcome, it feels like emotional storytelling was left out in favor of a constant mad dash from one action scene to the next. Its villain, played in a menacing turn by Zawe Ashton, has a compelling motive but fails to make an impact because she just isn’t given the space to.

Where the film shines, despite those significant concerns, is in the stellar performances of its three leads. Vellani’s Ms. Marvel absolutely stuns in every scene as a teenage fangirl suddenly working alongside her idol in Brie’s Captain Marvel. She’s got a sense of exuberance that livens up the entire film.

Brie and Parris are great too — given more emotional heavy lifting as Parris’ Rambeau harbors heavy resentment toward Carol for leaving her behind decades prior and through the death of her mother.

Through the trio, the film explores social relationships and isolation, responsibility and guilt. It’s mostly effective, if largely surface-level.

Perhaps the most interesting scene in the film sees Kamala struggling to save people from an oncoming cataclysm before being pulled away from Carol and told that they can’t save everyone. It’s a sobering moment sandwiched in the middle of an otherwise exciting and visually stimulating action scene, and one ripe with possibility for an interesting development of Kamala that would echo her pathway in the source comics — but it’s curiously never mentioned again once it passes.

The other candidate for the most interesting scene is a nightmare-inducing rampage of computer-generated alien kittens set to “Memory” from the Broadway musical “Cats.”

“The Marvels” is an example of all of the best and worst qualities of the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a fun and breezy action film, with lovable leads, that rewards dedicated viewers by driving forward narratives and characters from across its universe. It also fails to really take any interesting swings and feels more interested in setting up the next big blockbuster than making a good current big blockbuster.

For a quick hour and a half of fun, women-led superhero action, “The Marvels” absolutely delivers — and truly, it’s worth seeing just for more of the very good Ms. Marvel and her family.

“The Marvels” will be playing this weekend and next at Kenai Cinema and the Orca Theater. Check showtimes and purchase tickets at catheaters.com or orcatheater.com.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.