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Girl power is fun, not forced, in ‘The Marvels’

Connor Youngberg

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a rollercoaster of a year, from the highs of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and season two of “Loki” to the lows of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and season one of “Secret Invasion.” Much like rollercoasters, some of these viewing experiences have made me want to relive the fun over and over again, while others have made me want to throw up.

When I heard “The Marvels” was coming to theaters in late 2023, I honestly didn’t even know if I’d make it to the theater to see it. I enjoyed 2019’s “Captain Marvel,” but I haven’t rewatched it once. I figured I’d be behind anyway since I never watched the Disney+ series “Ms. Marvel,” which dropped in 2022.

I decided to give “The Marvels” a chance despite my fears that it would be another MCU misfire. I’ve always loved Carol Danvers’ character in the comics as Captain Marvel, and I was intrigued, at the very least, to see what she would be up to four years after her debut solo movie.

In a year of so many disappointing pieces of media (once again, looking at you “Quantumania”), I was pleasantly surprised by “The Marvels.” I went in expecting a fun movie that would teach me more about characters I was super familiar with, not a film that completely reinvents cinema, and I think that was the perfect way to experience it.

“The Marvels” follows Danvers as she teams up with Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) and Monica Rambeau after the three superheroes start mysteriously switching places with each other during their own separate battles. It turns out that Danvers’ past actions have led to a civil war among the Kree people, and their leader, Dar-Benn, is out for revenge.

Dar-Benn starts using a Quantum Band, a magical bangle that she wears, to tear holes in space. Khan has the other bands that Dar-Benn needs to reach her maximum level of power, and so the chase across planets begins.

I really enjoyed the fact that a few of the scenes took place in Khan’s home, in her bedroom and in her living room with her family. Seeing elements of the MCU, like her fellow heroes and the villains who were out to get her, pop up in her “real life” was super fun, and from all of the complaints I’ve heard about “Ms. Marvel,” the series could’ve benefited from more of that.

Speaking of the members of Khan’s family, they were an integral part of why this movie had so much heart. The relationship between her and her parents and brother was adorable, and it made the additions of Danvers and Rambeau to her “chosen family” even better.

The chemistry between Brie Larson (Danvers), Teyonah Parris (Rambeau) and Iman Vellani (Khan) reminded me of an older, middle and younger sister interacting with each other. They seemed to genuinely be having fun with each other, and as a result, I genuinely believed in their connection.

My biggest criticisms of the MCU lately have been underdeveloped villains and a lack of worldbuilding, but I’m happy (and relieved) to report that I couldn’t find either of those in “The Marvels.” 

Dar-Benn is a villain that you can understand and sympathize with, and in moments where it seemed like she might actually beat the heroes, I was genuinely on the edge of my seat. Seeing the Marvels going to other planets, exploring them and getting to know their people, was one of my favorite parts as well.

Another complaint I’ve had about recent Marvel movies has been the inability to balance humor with seriousness. The worst example of this to me was 2022’s “Thor: Love and Thunder,” where there were so many jokes I almost got tired of laughing, and all the silliness buried a villain who had the potential to be seriously scary and intriguing.

“The Marvels” had a solid amount of jokes and silliness, but it also knew when to take itself seriously and tug at the audience members’ heartstrings. Some people may have rolled their eyes at the lighthearted dialogue or a certain scene involving a bunch of cats, but I honestly ate it all up.

The reason why I think this film will be so important for years to come, in the MCU and beyond, is because of the way it empowers women without feeling performative. It’s clear that the days of all of the female superheroes lining up to fight one battle together for “diversity points” à la “Avengers: Endgame” are gone, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

The box office numbers for “The Marvels” haven’t been great, to say the least. It had the lowest opening weekend, steepest two-week drop and quickest exit from the domestic box office top-five in the MCU’s history, according to ScreenRant.

Despite all of the negative records the film has broken, if you’re looking for some laughs amidst the stress of final exam season, I’d definitely urge you to take a break from studying and head to the theater to check out “The Marvels.” This film may not tear holes in time and space, but in my opinion, it didn’t need to do that in order to be a success.

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Connor Youngberg
Connor Youngberg, Associate Multimedia Editor

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  • J

    JamesDec 3, 2023 at 9:39 am

    lol the same exact movie but with men I bet you hate.
    People don’t care if the superhero is a woman or man, all the care about is a likeable character and a great storyline.
    Instead we have these movies trying to built up a gender or race and try to force us to like it.
    Just tell a good story the rest will just happen naturally.