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This sequel to Captain Marvel (2019), which introduced Brie Larson to the MCU as a star-spanning high-flyer, teams the Captain (aka Carol Danvers) up with characters previously established on Disney+ Marvel shows – Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), who was empowered by a witch hex on WandaVision, and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a Captain Marvel fangirl who joined the superheroic community in Ms Marvel.
Given that Marvel backstories have become increasingly unwieldy and impossible to follow, it’s refreshing that this film makes a fist of being a jumping-on point. It deftly sketches what you need to know, then gets on with the space-faring adventure as a grudge-holding alien queen (Zawe Ashton) sets out to steal vital resources (atmosphere, sea, sun) from planets Captain Marvel has a stake in.
The smartest decision is using carefree teenager Kamala, who is giddily delighted to be on a team with her heroine, as viewpoint character, which allows for grounded comedy – Zenobia Shroff is a hoot as Kamala’s disapproving mother – but also a streak of honest idealism. Larson’s sometimes overly earnest Captain unbends under Kamala’s influence, especially when revisiting an all-singing planet where she is literally a Disney Princess.
Nia DaCosta, who directed Candyman (2021), shuffles farce and action as the central trio of Marvels switch places at moments of crisis. It leans into the light space-operatic Marvel mode of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy films or Taika Waititi’s Thors, but leaves out the adolescent snark – weighted to appeal to girls the way Gunn’s films do to boys. A joke poking fun at Cats (2019) arguably goes too far but emotional moments (once a key Marvel ingredient) give a rooting interest in planets-at-stake superpowered battles.
The MCU is in choppy waters at the moment – making more accessible, good-natured, teen-appeal fantasy adventures like this might be a way forward.
► The Marvels is in UK cinemas now.