The Marvels review: From “faster, stronger, higher” to “faster, sillier, messier”

Heard of quantum bands? They’re the prize in Nia DaCosta’s The Marvels and if you’ve no idea what they are, don’t worry. You won’t be much the wiser by the end of one of this year’s Marmite movies, but at least you’ll have had a bit of fun along the way.

In this – sort of – sequel to 2019’s Captain Marvel, Brie Larson’s superhero is travelling alone in outer space, coming to terms with the events of her previous outing and facing a battle with fearsome new Kree leader, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton). This time round, she has two new allies, her estranged niece, Monica Rambeau (Tyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan/Ms Marvel (Iman Vellani).

The original’s “faster, stronger, higher” is quoted regularly, although “faster, sillier, messier” is more on the nose. It moves along, but feels rushed with an untidy narrative, hinting at some clumsy editing. Sillier is where the entertainment value comes in and, even though it’s inconsistent, there are times when it definitely works. Best of all is Vellani, reprising her TV role as Ms Marvel, fan girl one moment, gutsy wannabe hero the next and she really sparkles on the screen.

But for real silliness, look no further than the return of Captain Marvel’s faithful companion, Goose, who introduces a hoard of what can best be called flerkittens. Their sequence is cute, funny and downright bonkers, particularly in its choice of soundtrack from the most appropriate of musicals, one that bombed in cinemas. Tempting providence, maybe, but it’ll still make you laugh.

As for messier, take your pick. A plot that’s muddled and difficult to follow. An inconsistent tone, one minute taking itself seriously, the next wanting to have fun. But the screenplay is so all over the place, it doesn’t stand a chance. These are fundamental issues and, while the film has its moments, it’s never consistent enough to hit the spot. You want to enjoy it all the way through, but it never lets you.

The Marvels releases in UK cinemas on 10 November 2023. 

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