Sort of a sequel to 2019’s Captain Marvel, this is very much an MCU movie ‘for the fans’. If you’ve devoured every film and TV series Marvel has pumped out, you may well have a great time with this series mash-up. If you’re a casual Marvel viewer who doesn’t know your Kree from your Skrull, you might struggle to keep up with a film that aims to be a zippy comic adventure but is weighed down by unclear plot.
To put it as briefly as possible, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is floating around in space feeling very bad about the Kree/Skrull civil war she accidentally caused and doing jobs for Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson). One of those jobs involves investigating a strange hole in the universe, which is also being inspected by Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), a superpowered astronaut and associate of Nick Fury/Danvers’ estranged niece. In Jersey City, far from all of this, is Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), aka Ms Marvel, a teenage superhero who idolises Captain Marvel.
When Danvers and Rambeau touch the space hole, it somehow causes Danvers, Rambeau and Khan to switch places. From then on, any time they use their powers, they switch, often at inopportune moments. All this is somehow connected to Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), a Kree warrior who has secured a powerful artifact and is bent on revenge against Captain Marvel for causing the war that destroyed her planet.
The confusing nature of this set-up is something the film never manages to get past. The place-switching is the story’s central conceit – and a really good idea – but its explanation is so fuzzy (it has something to do with light) that it’s difficult to make sense of why any of this is happening and what exactly everyone’s trying to undo. It’s a shame because there’s a breezy, silly movie trying to emerge here, but it’s difficult to relax into it when you’re not fully clear on what anyone’s goal is.
The 105-minute running time makes it practically a short in the MCU
Putting the poor plotting aside, there’s a fair amount of fun to be had with the core trio. Danvers’ cocky heroism, Rambeau’s pragmatism, and Khan’s excitement about everything make for a charming combination (Vellani is the MVP here). When director Nia DaCosta (Candyman) gets loose with that trio the film comes alive. There’s a very odd sequence where they visit a musical planet, where everyone communicates through song. It’s nutty and a hint at the bizarre comedy this could have been. Yet it’s out of keeping with the tone of the rest of the film, which is intent on brooding over past traumas and connecting to other points in the Marvel universe.
With a 105-minute running time, making it practically a short in the MCU, it has just enough good stuff that it doesn’t outstay its welcome. But the intricate plotting that was once a Marvel selling point is now becoming a millstone around its muscular neck, keeping newcomers out instead of welcoming them in.
In cinemas worldwide Nov 10.