'The Marvels' review: If there is such a thing as chemistry, Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris and Iman Vellani have it
"The Marvels" stakes its hopes on a trio of female avengers in training.
The sisters are doing it for themselves in "The Marvels," now in theaters where it needs to convince audiences, suffering from Marvel fatigue, to take another chance on the MCU, a cinematic universe that's now 33 epics old and showing evidence of serious disrepair. I'm looking at you "Ant-Man 3" and "Thor: Love and Thunder."
Poised between goofy and godawful, "The Marvels," plagued by rewrites and reshoots, stakes its hopes on a trio of female avengers in training. If you're looking for riot girls on the march to empowerment, here's your movie.
Brie Larson is back as Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. Never mind if you don't remember the 2019 film that bore her name, though you might wonder at Larson's career path since winning a 2016 Best Actress Oscar for "Room."
That indie hit was small and indelible. "The Marvels, which reportedly cost $250 million, is huge and incoherent, with bargain-basement digital effects. We'll get to that and the question of why "The Marvels" feels so long when it's the shortest MCU epic ever at one hour and 45 minutes.
But first, let's play catch up. Our girl Carol is still fighting amnesia and hanging out on a spaceship with her Flerken feline Goose -- cue Barbra Streisand singing "Memory" from "Cats." I'm not kidding. There will be more tunes when everyone hits a water planet and goes all Broadway.
I digress, but so does the movie. The plot thickens or congeals (you be the judge) when former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) issues a distress call from a space station he occupies with astronaut captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), Carol's niece. They've been estranged since the death of Monica's mother, Maria Rambeau, who was once Carol's BFF.
And you won't forget Pakistani American teenager Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, Carol's Jersey City-based, Muslim fangirl-turned-superhero since she's played with star shine to spare by a dynamite Iman Vellani, who's currently acing it big time on the Disney+ series, "Ms. Marvel."
It would help if you watched that show, as well as "Loki," "Secret Invasion" and "WandaVision." But if life gets in the way of you staying crucially connected to the MCU, you should just keep your eye on Larson, Parris and Vellani as they unite as a force to take on the villainous Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), leader of the Kree (don't ask) and the victim of the script's worst generic writing.
Dar-Benn has a magic bangle -- Kamala has another -- that will help her destroy Carol and give the plot a vestige of narrative drive. But who are we kidding? What counts here is a trio of female warriors who unite as The Marvels to take on every global threat that director Nia DaCosta and co-writers Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik can throw at them.
This one throws a rip into the time-space continuum that causes the trio to swap places at random or whenever they use their powers at the same time, making the fight scenes even more of a jumble. Compensation comes in the expert teamwork of the three main players. If there is such a thing as chemistry, Larsen, Parris and Vellani have it.
"The Marvels" has moments of inspired lunacy. But DaCosta, who excelled with her 2021 horror reboot of "Candyman," can't cope with the horror of a movie that sacrifices continuity, logic and purpose for its place in a limping universe that's grown too big for its own good. Marvel, once the spawner of glories, is stuck in a rut. The time for a rethink is now.