The Marvels, the newest blockbuster film from Marvel Studios, is really unique in the behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In a sixteen year old franchise consisting of over thirty different movies, a growing library of TV series, currently in the middle of its sixth phase of development, a newcomer to the fandom could find themselves easily overwhelmed and definitely intimidated. Where do you start? How much research do you need to do, if any? Can you just pick a movie or show and start watching?
Look no further than The Marvels. With a solid foundation of backstory review, environmental storytelling, and strong character development, this movie is an entertaining spectacle for the well versed Marvel fan, a wonderful launchpad for anyone wanting to dip their toes into the MCU for the first time—and an especially fantastic place to catch up if you’re like me: a fan that’s out of the loop.
I went into this movie semi-blind: while I kept up with and thoroughly enjoyed the first three phases of the MCU, four through six have been a little hit and miss. As a result, the intricate web of storylines woven through multiple movies and the recent crop of TV shows have been a little hard to follow. I’m a big fan of Captain Marvel, I’ve heard of the Miss Marvel series though I haven’t seen it…and to be honest, I didn’t really know who Monica Rambeau was beyond the Captain Marvel movie, as I’ve yet to see the Wandavision series.
My ignorance didn’t matter at all. I entered the theater to see Brie Larson reprise her performance as Carol Danvers—and I left with the MCU’s hooks once again rooted in my imagination.
The fact is, the uninformed viewer doesn’t need to know much going into the movie. In what could be considered a sequel to Captain Marvel in only the loosest of terms, watching the aforementioned movie is the only thing I would recommend before heading to the theater. No time? Don’t worry—it opens with a quick review of how Captain Marvel got to this point in time in a flashback sequence that comes as a clear foray into retrieval of lost memories. Where did Monica Rambeau get her powers? There’s a couple of one-line mentions of her exposure to the power of the Scarlet Witch. Kamala Khan is the one who gets the heaviest bit of introduction, but even that is thoroughly entertaining as we watch her draw in her room and witness her art come to life in a cartoon summarizing her hero worship of Captain Marvel and her own adventures in saving the world.
From there, the movie takes on its own story: with all three women possessed of connected light-based powers, they begin translocating against their will when these abilities become engangled. The cause? Carol’s contact with a jump point ripped into the fabric of space by Dar-Benn, the new leader of the Kree people in the aftermath of the near-annihilation of the Kree homeworld, Hala. Hell bent on stealing natural resources from across the galaxy to restore her planet, Dar-Benn seizes control of one of the Quantum Bands, with the other in possession of Kamala Khan. Can the Marvels stop her before she wipes out multiple worlds to save her own?
This is the question the movie answers. By following not just the plot, but the stories of three different women, it provides background on them and the rest of the MCU that will ignite the curiosity of the newcomer, and tug at the heartstrings of the seasoned fan. Be it Carol’s quest to be worthy of the family she left behind on Earth, Monica’s heartbreaking losses at the hands of the Snap and the missing piece of her Aunt Carol from her life, or Kamala’s seemingly overbearing Pakistani-American family coming to terms with her journey into adulthood and her calling as a hero, the heart of each of these stories is as tangled up as the powers of the three Marvels themselves. At the end of the day, the victories and losses of each woman change them for the better—and in a twist that to me, felt absolutely brilliant, this happens without some of the darkness some Marvel movies have. Carol finds healing, Monica finds some closure—and Kamala grows up without losing her innocence or her inner light. It’s not pretty, it’s not neat and tidy, and there are moments that will break your heart, but none of this takes place without the love and support of not just friends and family, but of sisterhood.
That’s the beauty of this incredible MCU property that is an unquestionably newbie-friendly starting point for the uninitiated: it’s not only designed to bring in those just learning about the MCU, but it does so with some incredible feminist representation. It’s a movie about women that’s unafraid of what it is, and showcases what it is to be a woman without overemphasizing gender stereotypes of any kind, or underemphasizing the female experience.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll go see The Marvels, which is out in theaters now, and then go home to read up on Monica Rambeau. Then get Disney + to watch Ms. Marvel. Then rewatch Captain Marvel leading up to a chronological binge of the entire MCU.
Seems a little overwhelming, and a lot intimidating, I know—but truthfully? I can’t wait to get started.
Liz Carlie (she/her/he/him) is a regular book, TV, and film reviewer for SCIFI.radio and has previously been a guest on ‘The Event Horizon’. In addition to being an active member of the traditional fandom community, she’s also an active participant in online fan culture, pro wrestling journalism, and spreading the gospel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She resides in Southern California with her aspiring superhero dog, Junior, enjoying life one hyperfixation at a time.