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‘The Marvels’ review: The biggest draw is the Khans

Iman Vellani and the Khan family are the true stars of Nia DaCosta's breezy Marvel film

Iman Vellani in 'The Marvels'. Image via AP

By Udita Jhunjhunwala

LAST PUBLISHED 12.11.2023  |  06:29 PM IST

Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), a silver-haired leader of a depleted planet, is on a revenge mission. Her goal is to deplete other planets, including Earth, of valuable resources like air, water and sunlight to replenish her planet Hala, which was destroyed by the Annihilator. 

The Annihilator, better known as Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) or Captain Marvel, is taking some me-time somewhere in the galaxy with her pet cat when things begin to go terribly wrong. Dar-Benn’s incursions into the time-space continuum cause Danvers to swap places with two other superheroes, her ‘niece’ Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and the teenage Kamala Khan aka Ms Marvel (Iman Vellani). 

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This, obviously, leads to much mayhem, involving a whole bunch of secondary characters. Kamala’s parents, Yusuf (Mohan Kapur) and Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff), her brother Aamir (Saagar Sheikh) and Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) director of intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D, are caught in the mystery of these interchanging characters, the threat to other ecosystems and, as is usually the case, concerns about saving the home planet. Korean actor Park Seo-joon joins the MCU with a cameo clearly designed to attract fans of K-dramas.

There are other emotions at play as well. Kamala gets to meet her hero, Captain Marvel, partner with her in fighting evil, and become a team. “Captain, my captain," she says in pure adoration as she watches Danvers wreck through an enemy battle formation. Monica holds a grudge against her ‘aunt’, her mother’s best friend. This bizarre, space-swapping meeting forces a reconciliation. 

The MCU has for some time been doing a rinse-repeat of evil forces threatening Earth and entering the metaverse, with alternative realities, time jumps, space travel and so on. In other words, unrelenting CG-heavy fight sequences, scientific mumbo-jumbo, and a connection to other Marvel characters that can keep the franchise going and excite fans. 

An unexpected triumph of director Nia DaCosta’s film is the cat Goose, which has some hidden talent that comes in useful at opportune moments. The film’s most entertaining sequence is of Goose and its ‘kittens’.

The true star of this 105-minute saga is Iman Vellani as Kamala. The youngest member of the team has the best lines and peps up proceedings with her wide-eyed wonderment at meeting her idol and becoming a part of an inter-galactic operation. Kamala’s family brings in the sub-continental quirks. Together they infuse energy and humour into an otherwise lightweight offering. Shroff and Kapur play along suitably as the over-caring, under-informed parents. While Larson is too stoic, Parris brings little to the show. Besides a few well-conceived action scenes featuring the four female leads, the conflict falls short with the questionable casting of Ashton as the antagonist.

Unlike the more recent superhero movies that are lengthy and burdened by questions about origin and identity, The Marvels is a breezy entertainer that does not doesn’t take itself too seriously and is kept afloat purely by the Khan family’s Asian individuality.

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