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Ms. Marvel meets Captain Marvel but it’s not the marvel that fans yearned for! – Beyond Bollywood

Iman Vellani, Brie Larson are impressive but the feeble story, banal screenplay fails to build much engagement.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️ ( 2 / 5)

The Marvels (2023)

By Mayur Lookhar

What was that famous dialogue from Shah Rukh Khan’s Om Shanti Om [2007]? Kisi cheez ko dil se chaho toh puri kaynaat use tumse milane ki koshish mein lag jaati hai. It roughly translates to liking someone so much that the universe works to make you meet him/her. Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel [Iman Vellani] is a SRK fan, but thankfully there is no Bollywood imposition on The Marvels [2023]. Besides it is not SRK, but Kamala idolizes Captain Marvel / Carol Danvers [Brie Larson].  Ms. Marvel meeting Captain Marvel was written in the stars. However, neither expected to meet in a bizarre fashion.

The brown girl from New Jersey finds herself teleported to Captain Marvel’s location and vice versa. The science fiction behind this ‘switch’ is beyond the understanding of your humble (commerce graduate) reviewer. The science enthusiasts are better equipped to comment on the logic, physics behind this ‘switch’ phenomenon. Captain Rambeau [Teyonah Parris] is also part of the mix and we have the tri-devis of Marvel Cinematic Universe trying to take down a powerful foe in Supremor Dar-Benn [Zawe Ashton]. Often super-hero films ride on a self-discovery, revenge or imperialistic themes. Here Dar-Benn has an axe to grind with Captain Marvel. Much of the action here takes place in space across different planets. 

Writer-director Nia DaCosta, who also served as one of the writers on Wanda Vision [TV series] fails to create the same magic with The Marvels [2023].  From the protagonists, antagonist to the director and her co-writers – Megan McDonnell, Elissa Karasik, it’s nari shakti [women power] all the way in The Marvels [2023]. Whilst that appeases the feminists, successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) works transcend gender barriers, ideologies. There is individual brilliance, fine tag team action but there’s nothing to marvel about The Marvels’s plot, screenplay.


Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan/ Ms. Marvel

The onus then purely lied on its abled cast to pull off a marvel (miracle]. Despite its flaws, Ms. Marvel [2022] introduced us to the precocious talent of Canadian-Pakistani Iman Vellani. “It’s not really the brown girls from Jersey City who save the world”. That one gripping line from Ms. Marvel (TV series) was enough to underline the challenge MCU had in drawing the loyalists to the idea of a brown super hero.   It’s here that Iman Vellani came as a breath of fresh air. It was her destiny to become Ms. Marvel but what hasn’t change one bit is the pure, innocent soul. This quality seems organic to Vellani, who charmed us with her bubbly nature.  The Marvels [2023] demands a Captain Marvel fan in Kamala, but Vellani and director DaCosta don’t turn it into any fanaticism. It’s natural for a fan to be excited upon meeting your idol for the first time. Come their second rendezvous, little Kamala is mindful of apologizing to Danvers for coming too hard in the first meeting. She maybe loquacious but the 21-year-old Vellani charms with her infection smile, bubbly nature, and an impish sense of humour. Fast talking and humorous, it’s a trait also shared by Marvel’s most popular super hero Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. Kamala Khan doesn’t quite have the IQ, privileges like a Tony Stark, but she scores high on the emotional quotient.  Here’s a teen who isn’t afraid to risk her life to save the world.

Vellani refreshingly differs from the toned, chiseled female super heroes of the current era. She derives her super powers from the majestic bangle, but the brown girl from New Jersey derives true strength from simply being herself. 

Teyonah Parris as Captain Rambeau

The fast-paced action, troubleshooting doesn’t really allow much space for Kamala-Danvers- Rambeau soiree, but Vellani, Larson and Parris function like a team to save the universe. Whilst Kamala is a Captain Marvel fan, Monica Rambeau had her reasons to be upset with her aunt Carol Danvers. We first saw Parris in Wanda Vision [2021]. The Marvels [2023] is her time to shine and Parris grabs the opportunity with both hands.

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

We admired Brie Larson when she first appeared as Captain Marvel in the 2019 film. There was some criticism too but Larson largely held her own in this super-hero avatar. Maybe, she was too intense in the earlier film. With The Marvels, we also get see a mushy shade to Carol Danvers. Captain Marvel pays a visit to a friendly planet Aladna where she is hailed as the princess, with South Korean heartthrob Park Seo-joon playing her prince charming.  The habitants here communicate via songs.  Watching Larson lighten up is a sight to behold. Park Seo-joon fans though will be disappointed with the silly cameo by their super star in the Hollywood film.

Zawe Ashton as Dar-Been in The Marvels [2023]

British actress Zawe Asthon makes a fine impression as the antagonist Dar-Benn. Doesn’t she remind a bit about about prominent Indian news anchor Marya Shakil ? Some may even compare her to Barkha Dutt.

1. Zawe Ashton. 2 Marya Shakil

Jokes apart, Dar-Benn is cold, intense and comes with a ‘take-no-prisoner’s-attitude’.  Of all the four key women, it’s Ashton who is most agile in action. In the post Endgame era, Marvel hasn’t been consistent in its films. One of the reasons is a feeble antagonist in those films. A Dar-Benn is an exception here.

Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur

The lead cast is impressive but so are the desi artistes – Mohan Kapur, Zenobia Shroff, who play parents to Kamala. They bring humour in their inimitable style. Though Pakistani-American, the chilled, friendly atmosphere in the Khan-household is perhaps more reminiscent of an NRI [Non-Resident Indian] family.

The cast does its job, but the banal screenplay, and average direction hurts The Marvels. Though just 104 minutes in duration, the dull screenplay naturally leads to drag moments. Usually, Marvel has top notch VFX, but it’s not consistent here. Chaos grips the final sequences as Nicky Fury’s pet cat Goose and other Flerkens run amok. It’s joy for some, whilst eerie for others.

After over a decade of winning global audiences with a plethora of riveting super hero films, it is natural for fatigue to slip into the Marvel Cinematic Universe – at least with their recent films. Ther Marvels [2023] has its moments, but it’s not the marvel that we witnessed in the pre-Avengers: Endgame [2019] era.

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