Arriving more than four years after the original, “The Marvels” can’t overcome apprehensions about representing the Disney+-ification of a Marvel movie. Clocking in at a welcomely brisk 105 minutes, it’s Marvel’s shortest film, but a lighter tone that occasionally borders on a sort of cosmic “Freaky Friday” doesn’t consistently make the movie fly, much less soar.
Although this “Captain Marvel” sequel marks the culmination of ample groundwork, having introduced characters via streaming in “WandaVision” and “Ms. Marvel,” its primary weakness resides not so much in the trio of heroes, whose interplay yields nice moments, but rather its villain. That would be Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), a vengeful Kree leader, seeking payback against Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) while wielding a hammer like the one that Ronan employed.
The threat, alas, feels particularly nondescript, and the Dar-Benn – though powerful – less than interesting. Simply put, it’s a long way back to the good captain trading head butts with Thanos in “Avengers: Endgame.”
Then again, “The Marvels” follows a somewhat different trajectory, relying on a temporal displacement anomaly that has the trio of Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Paris) and Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) zapping in and out of each other’s places, an awkward effect that’s largely played for laughs but in the early going proves too chaotic for its own good.
Director Nia DaCosta (who shares screenplay credit with Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik), whose credits include the horror sequel “Candyman,” finds her most appealing player in Vellani’s Kamala Khan, whose star-struck, unabashed fan-girl reaction to the older heroes gives the movie a playful sweetness and much of its fun.