Kamala Khan follow-up 'The Marvels' is a marvellous bore
Many fans worldwide have been questioning whether the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is on a downward spiral into irrelevance with its severely meandering quality of films and TV shows in recent years.
Ms. Marvel, starring Iman Vellani as the MCU’s first Muslim superhero Kamala Khan, however, was one of the more well-received series, as was WandaVision which included Teyonah Parris as Captain Monica Rambeau.
Captain Marvel made well over a billion dollars, indicating many audiences liked Carol Danvers’ (Brie Larson) first foray into the MCU.
Could The Marvels, starring these three and directed by Nia DaCosta, harness the success of these predecessors to make a triumph for this ageing franchise?
"The Marvels could have been so much more, but with evident overproduction, nonsensical dialogue, bad editing, and a keen lack of vision to say anything substantive, it is yet another loss for Marvel Studios"
Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding no.
While The Marvels pretends to have depth and warmth, it amounts to a shallow spectacle that doesn’t have much to say, and is, once again with an MCU project, focused on setting up the next thing.
While the three leads have moments of charisma and camaraderie, these are few and far between as they are lost in the banal Wikipedia page that is their script.
While there are some bright and engaging space scenes, you’ll be left bored knowing you’ve basically seen this before.
The script is far more interested in telling than showing, with the main characters constantly reciting jargon while explaining the body switching and universe-ending plot.
There’s no real sense that any of them drive the plot, only following what the overwrought script dictates. By and large, the jokes fall flat, and moments meant to inspire feel trite.
Samuel L. Jackson, who completely phones in his performance, feels like an audience surrogate in that we too are bored watching the mess before us.
There are a few scenes where it’s just the heroes hanging out and getting to know each other, which include some good moments of catharsis for Monica and Carol.
Here, it feels like the film actually has some heart. I would like to think this is where Nia DaCosta had the most influence on this movie, which otherwise is by the Marvel Committee.
Other than these scenes, The Marvels is a slog to watch. All of the main characters’ stories are shallow, mostly pretending to have depth where they do not.
What a shame that a tentpole superhero film starring a Muslim Pakistani-American hero like Kamala amounts to this.
Ms. Marvel is a plucky sidekick who barely has moments of growth. Iman Vellani does the best with what she’s given and thankfully shines brightly whenever she’s on screen. It’s the script that fails her.
Even while knowing that this version of the character is different from her comic version with story and origin, there was still ample opportunity for similar story development. Namely in that Kamala realises she shouldn’t attempt to be like Captain Marvel and needs to be her own independent hero.
This is a crucial aspect of Kamala Khan’s story. While there are opportunities for this character development, the writers were uninterested in pursuing it, instead keeping her firmly as Carol and Monica’s sidekick.
Iman Vellani, a huge Ms. Marvel fan and now Ms. Marvel writer herself, deserves so much better than this, as does Kamala Khan.
Perhaps we can be thankful that the movie wasn’t as blatantly propagandistic as it could have been with Ms. Marvel idolising and following a former US Air Force pilot, but it’s little consolation regardless.
Additionally, there are barely any answers to the various questions left at the end of Ms. Marvel about Kamala’s powers, and fans of that show will be left disappointed.
"Ms. Marvel is a plucky sidekick who barely has moments of growth. Iman Vellani does the best with what she’s given and thankfully shines brightly whenever she’s on screen. It’s the script that fails her"
While for most of the film, they’re at the sidelines offering moral support and concern, they become more active in a fun way towards the end.
Yet even while Kamala’s family is fun to watch, they must work through often atrocious dialogue. Additionally, it’s severely unfortunate that the film did not recast Yusuf Khan’s actor Mohan Kapur, who was revealed to have sexually harassed a teenager last year.
You’ll be left confused at certain scenes on how you got here as you attempt to wrangle your head around the logic. With reports of extensive reshoots and scrambling behind the scenes, it’s plainly easy to see on the screen that the result is a patchwork mess rather than coherence.
"It’s such a shame that Marvel Studios reduced a film with a Black, brown, and Muslim women at its helm to this"
The cameos are superficial and reek of desperation from the studio to have continued audience investment in this franchise.
Indeed, almost the entirety of The Marvels reflects desperation from Marvel Studios for audiences to retain interest in their laborious franchise.
It often feels like the creators were throwing things at the wall to see what would stick. There might be some cool easter eggs or moments for fans (as there often are in an MCU feature) but it doesn’t make a cohesive or engaging feature film.
It’s such a shame that Marvel Studios reduced a film with a Black, brown, and Muslim women at its helm to this.
The Marvels could have been so much more, but with evident overproduction, nonsensical dialogue, bad editing, and a keen lack of vision to say anything substantive, it is yet another loss for Marvel Studios.
A story starring newer heroes in Ms. Marvel and Monica Rambeau could have been the propelling and exciting jolt of energy they needed, but they instead keep struggling to keep the momentum.
In the end, The Marvels goes lower, hindered, and slower.
This review was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the [series/movie/etc] being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Swara Salih is a writer and podcaster who has written for The Nerds of Color and But Why Tho? He co-hosts The Middle Geeks podcast, which covers all things SWANA/MENA representation, and is a co-host of the Spider-Man/Spider-Verse podcast Into The Spider-Cast
Follow him on Twitter: @spiderswarz