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The Marvels review – bonkers battle for ‘quantum bands’ in bubblegum sort-of sequel

<span>Photograph: Marvel Studios</span>
Photograph: Marvel Studios

Here is a sci-fi superhero action-comedy which pops as sweetly and insubstantially as bubblegum. It’s a sequel, of sorts, to Captain Marvel from 2019, which sketched in the origins of Brie Larson’s eponymous superhero, one of the few MCU figures with the honour of having the franchise brand in their actual name. However, the idea of a “sequel” is a bit problematic in this world, where consequences can be modified or reversed or shunted into parallel worlds, or revealed to be null and void in the post-credits sting.

As the story commences, we are reintroduced to Captain Marvel, or rather Carol Danvers, travelling solo in her spaceship through the galaxy and coming to terms with the events of the previous film; this included dramatic remedial action on her part to save the universe, leading to a crisis on the all-but-destroyed planet of Hala, home of the Kree people to whom Danvers has complicated personal links. Now she is to encounter the new Kree leader, the fanatical Dar-Benn, a baddie role with which Zawe Ashton has a lot of fun. Dar-Benn has discovered one of a pair of MacGuffiny bangles, or “quantum bands”, on a remote planet which together could could give her enormous power and enable her to tear apart “jump points” in space.

Messing with these jump points is to bring our three heroes into wackily close contact. Danvers is one, another is Monica Rambeau, played by Teyonah Parris, endowed with superpowers and the now grownup daughter of Carol’s best friend and fighter-pilot comrade Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) – although there is no great generation gap between Carol and Monica. (Harris is one year older than Larson in fact, although MCU time is elastic.) The third is Kamala Khan, soon to be renamed Ms Marvel, amusingly played by Iman Vellani (as in the TV miniseries Ms Marvel); she is a teen superhero from Jersey City whose family happens to own the second quantum band.

Kamala stays in her bedroom doing a lot of daydreaming, homework-avoiding, fangirling over the image of Captain Marvel and squabbling with her parents (nice performances from Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur). Now Carol, Monica and Kamala find that they are popping or jumping across the universe, changing places with each other whenever they use their powers, evidently as a result of Dar-Benn’s messing with these “jump points”. It is a development that exasperates Shield leader Nick Fury, played with amiable detachment by Samuel L Jackson. But now, quite unlike Charlie with his Angels, Fury is to find himself bemused as he presides over this dynamic new trio, called the Marvels, as they take on Dar-Benn.

It is all, of course, entirely ridiculous, but presented with such likablehumour and brio, particularly the Marvels’ visit to a planet where everyone sings instead of speaks. On this planet Carol is a princess, a setpiece presumably placed in the story purely so that Larson can showcase an adorable “princess” outfit, part of this film’s bid for the tween-sleepover customer base. Larson, Harris and Vellani are an entertaining intergalactic ensemble.

• The Marvels is released on 9 November in Australia, and 10 November in the US and UK.