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REVIEW: 'The Marvels' is a charming, cosmic switcheroo

By Jerald Uy Published Nov 08, 2023 12:33 pm

Warning: This review contains spoilers from The Marvels.

Having women in the superhero seats, fully clothed and not pandering to the male gaze, would likely raise the eyebrows of toxic misogynistic viewers. The Marvels, assembling an all-female cast, breaks away from what is perceived as the proverbial boys’ club in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with a charming, cosmic switcheroo. But as Sersi’s variant in a branched timeline in Singapore would say, “It's not my job to make you feel like a man.”

Directed by Nia DaCosta of Candyman (2021) fame, The Marvels revolves around Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) getting switched places whenever they use their powers. Under this peculiar situation, the three light-based superheroes will have to team up against Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), a Kree leader desperate to save her dying planet, Hala.

Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), and Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) team up to fight an intergalactic threat in The Marvels.

The idea of switching places is meta to comics fans knowledgeable of the characters’ histories. Monica was the first female Captain Marvel in the comics and even led the Avengers in the 80s. Carol had been known as Ms. Marvel for a long time, who also shifted identities to Warbird and Binary. Kamala idolized Carol in her Ms. Marvel moniker and when the latter decided to become Captain Marvel, she took the name.

Though the MCU version does away with her stretching and shapeshifting powers, Vellani caries the same fangirl charisma of Kamala. Her portrayal is a breath of fresh air in what could have been a dull dynamic between estranged “relatives,” Aunt Carol and the now-grown-up, Monica from the first Captain Marvel movie.

One might see the archetypes of the trio plucked from the popular Powerpuff Girls. Kamala is the Bubbles of the group, Monica is a toned-down Buttercup carrying some bit of resentment, and Carol is the Blossom, the guilt-driven leader of the pack. Chemical X might be another parallelism but in a way you would least "x-pect" it. If The Marvels is indeed MCU’s answer to the Powerpuff Girls, then the homage worked so well.

Monica, the first female Captain Marvel in the comics, does not have a superhero codename yet in the MCU.

The Marvels also shows a different kind of fight choreography, where everyone could be flipped, turned upside down, thrown to the next moon, or found in a literal, domestic violence. Much of the camera work is top-notch but if you are wearing glasses like me, it might be better to wear contacts if you are seeing it in 3D. A center or upper row in an IMAX theater would also be the best position to watch this unless you want a stiff neck the next day.

The Marvels is also a good entry point for viewers despite missing what happened in Captain Marvel, and the shows WandaVision, Ms. Marvel, and Secret Invasion. The movie will inform you of their backstories in a way without bombarding you with lengthy flashbacks.

Its runtime of one hour and 45 minutes is also one of the strengths of the movie. It is fast-paced, not dragging, and knows when to let go of its viewers with weak bladders to run to the nearest restroom.

For the MCU aficionado, you will also see the link between the hexagonal jump points used by the Guardians of the Galaxy’s Milano and the hexagonal barrier the Scarlet Witch used in WandaVision. There are also some payoffs if you watched the related series featuring Monica and Kamala, in terms of world-building and character development.

What’s wrong with Prince Yan? K-drama star Park Seo-Joon makes his MCU debut in The Marvels. 

On the downside, the final act could have been more impactful though. The Marvels is also peppered with guest stars, either providing quick fixes or teasing into the larger storyline of Phase Five.

Still, The Marvels knows its audience. Whether it’s the show-stopping performance of K-drama star Park Seo-Joon, a bunch of cute kittens in space, or coming up with superhero nicknames, this movie unapologetically embraces girl power.

The Marvels opens in Philippine cinemas on Wednesday, Nov. 8. Stay for one mid-credits scene. Watch the trailer below.