The Marvels review: Superhero film is frustratingly generic fare, flawed in places, fun in others

REVIEW: Who would have thought that after some 30-odd films, amid multiple TV series spinoffs, latest entrant The Marvels wouldn't be anything but a sure thing?

A sequel of sorts to 2019's Captain Marvel and an extension of the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series, director Nia DaCosta's superhero foray comes amid a growing wave of indifference to the Marvel canon.

But if Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania proved anything earlier this year, it's that the superhero world is taking somewhat of a wobble as the writers take a few more risks and audiences quake with ambivalence. 

Suffice to say, The Marvels, with its cookie-cutter bad guy looking for revenge against Captain Marvel plot, doesn't quite hit the spot, settling for frustratingly generic fare despite splashes of creativity and a fun performance from Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel.

If it's plot you're after - Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan find themselves intertwined in each other's lives thanks to a series of body-swapping moments caused by bad girl Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton, massively underused and depressingly generic) opening up various "jump points" around the galaxy. 

When the trio investigate, they uncover a devilish plot for revenge, that is personally pertinent to Brie Larson's Captain Marvel - and could signal the end of Earth.

It's not that The Marvels is utterly atrocious, more that it's hard to stop a great feeling of indifference washing over you during proceedings. Vellani's exuberant Kamala Khan is easily the high point of the film, exuding both adulation for Captain Marvel and a desire to fit in.

Teyonah Parris and Brie Larson offer solid support as both Rambeau and Marvel respectively, but placed on screen with the joyous Vellani and saddled with a script that requires large dumps of exposition and lore from their characters, they fade into dimmer lights.

Equally, while The Marvels is one of the shorter entrants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, pacing, editing and generally jerkiness of tone leave the film feeling more scattershot than fluid. Sequences of refugees and their families coming under attack from others within their land feel awfully close to the bone and uncomfortable, given the societal parallels with the current Israel-Hamas conflict.

Ultimately, while the writers deserve to be given plaudits for trying a different way to approach alien worlds (including a planet where song and dance are the primary ways of communication), much of what transpires in The Marvels feels dashed off, rushed and a victim of an edit suite and wider desires to create multiverses and establish other properties.

It's a crying shame, because while it hits some high points and welcome silliness abounds in short bursts, The Marvels is less Marvels-ous and more 'Meh'.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars