The Marvels

23 Nov 2023

By Contributor

By John Mulderig

Iman Vellani, Brie Larson, and Teyonah Parris star in a scene from the movie The Marvels. Photo: OSV News/Marvel Studios.

Considered artistically, the quirky, sometimes humorous but more often confusing superhero adventure “The Marvels” (Disney) presents a mixed bag of ingredients that will likely appeal to some viewers but not others.

Assessed for its morality, the film is equally miscellaneous and confronts parents with a potential quandary.

There are few explicitly troublesome elements included in the comics-rooted script director Nia DaCosta co-wrote with Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik.

Yet one of the central relationships binding the picture’s threesome of female main characters comes freighted with a distinct sexual undertone.

Given the Magic Kingdom’s recent record of propagandizing on behalf of homosexuality, this skirting of the line between adulation and desire complicates evaluation of the movie’s appropriate audience. If older teens are given the go-ahead, it should probably be accompanied by a family discussion about church teaching on the subject of same-sex activity.

Like their elders, however, adolescents who do obtain permission to patronise The Marvels may be too distracted by its frenetic proceedings to ponder its underlying ethics to any great extent. In fact, although this follow-up to 2019’s “Captain Marvel” touches on themes of family reconciliation and altruism, it’s really all about strong women smacking down baddies.

This time out, the titular heroine of the earlier movie (Brie Larson), aka Carol Danvers, battles intergalactic warrior Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton). With her home planet having been environmentally impoverished by a long civil war, Dar-Benn is bent on stealing the natural resources of other worlds to restore her own.

As she strives to check Dar-Benn, Danvers obtains the aid of astronaut Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), the daughter of her deceased best friend. She’s also helped by Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), alias Ms. Marvel, a Jersey City teen who idolizes – and perhaps lusts after – her.

Initially accidental, their partnership is complicated by the fact that the three have become metaphysically entangled so that anytime one of them exercises her superpower, she switches locations with another member of the trio. Though the filmmakers have fun playing with this conceit, it eventually becomes more wearying than fanciful.

As the plot develops, we discover that, although her methods may be thoroughly misguided, Dar-Benn is not entirely a villain. Instead, she sees herself as a champion of her endangered people.

We also learn that Danvers herself was partially responsible for the crisis Dar-Benn is trying to remedy. And Danvers’ dealings with Monica – who has looked up to her since childhood and once regarded her as an honorary aunt – have been problematic as well. So much so, that the two start off estranged from each other.

While such moral subtleties are introduced, they mostly go undeveloped and register as beside the point. This is, overwhelmingly, an action flick. So those in search of escapist entertainment will likely come away from its scenes of bloodless combat satisfied; those seeking dramatic substance, not so much.

The film contains frequent stylised violence, an implicit lesbian theme, several mild oaths and a couple of crude expressions. The OSV News classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.