If the rumours out of Marvel this week are true, then somebody at HQ pulled the emergency lever in fear that Phase Four was becoming a complete failure. News filtered out that two new projects are on the cards – one which will Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine teams up and the other bringing back the six original Avengers, somehow finding a way to bring Black Widow and Iron Man back from the dead.

But have whoever is making the decisions pulled that lever a little too early because hitting cinemas this week is The Marvels and this time it feels like the besieged studio might have a winner on their hands.

There is little doubt that most people will be going into The Marvels with mixed emotions. On one hand the underrated Captain Marvel received a lot of unnecessary bad press but on the flipside the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel was deservedly well received.

Now Captain Marvel (Brie Larson – Room) and Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani – Ms. Marvel) are brought together when Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton – Nocturnal Animals) causes mayhem when she begins a journey of trying to repair her broken planet by destroying others. Her use of a magical bracelet soon finds Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris – Candyman) jumping between time and place and basically confusing all three of them.

With the disturbances in the universe becoming more and more violent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson – Pulp Fiction), with the help of the cute Goose, orders the three to work together to fix what is happening.

The resulting adventure is not only a shock for Kamala (Ms. Marvel) but also for her mother (Zenobia Shroff – The Big Sick), her father (Mohan Kapur – Sadak 2) and her brother (Saagar Shaikh – Average Joe) who must watch her place her life in danger while they are right there along for the ride.

In the hands of a gifted screenwriting team and director Nia DaCosta (Candyman) The Marvels is a film that captures that old Marvel magic while also embracing the studio’s current idea that some comedy needs to be in place. That mix goes on an interesting journey throughout the film with Kamala’s family starting off as comedic relief but eventually becoming one of the emotional anchors of the film as the screenplay explores what it is like for a family of a superhero watching their loved one put their lives at risk.

While it has been a bugbear amongst fans recently the comedy element of The Marvels does seem to work. There is a comedic storyline around Goose that wouldn’t be out of place in a Men In Black movie while the introduction of an all singing and dancing planet is either going to impress or irritate fans but one thing is clear the inclusion of that planet introduces the character of Prince Yan (Park Seo-joon – Parasite) whom you feel is going to become an important part of both Carol’s life and the Marvel universe.

The Marvels is also a film that taps well into human emotional as it explores some deeper topics that have been lacking in recent Marvel films. Themes of what is like for country-less refugees and how it affects Kamala when she discovers that there is no way that she can save them all are treated respectfully here and one scene in particular is so well performed by Iman Vellani that it may just bring a tear to some audience members.

The emotional strain of being a superhero is also explored further with the storyline revolving around Carol and Monica. Monica once saw Carol as her ‘Aunt’ as Carol made a promise to her dying mother but the now adult Monica is furious at Carol for not being there with her – something that Carol can’t comprehend as she has been off saving the world. Again, this is treated respectfully in the screenplay and never becomes day-time soap like as so many feared it may be.

While the action set pieces throughout the film may be pulled back from the epic pieces that the early Marvel movies had they certainly are not disappointing. There are a lot more hand-to-hand combat then would normally be expected from a Hollywood film but we do get to see Iman Vellani grow more confident with action sequences while the screenwriters manage to overcome a huge problem with the character of Captain Marvel – in that she is virtually all-powerful and therefore virtually indestructible. While she was a ‘cold’ character in the first film here the screenwriters reveal her emotional vulnerabilities and the result is that her character becomes more relatable for audiences.

Perhaps the most interesting part of The Marvels is the villain in the piece – Dar-Benn. In an interesting twist here, we find the Marvel universe bringing as a villain that as an audience you can’t help but feel so empathy towards. On one hand she is destroying planets and putting lives at risk but on the other hand she is just trying to save her own people and even tries to work with Emperor Dro’ge (Gary Lewis – Gangs Of New York) to provide a home for his species who have been homeless. While the reason for the later may have been murky there is enough about Dar-Benn to leave audiences a little confused over whether or not it is okay to feel sorry for her.

With The Marvels it does feel like the filmmakers behind it have found the right mix of comedy, action and drama. Add to that some genuine character growth and look and feel that strongly resembles the DC universe’s under-rated Green Lantern and this turns out to be a pretty decent film. Oh, and true fans of the franchise will be left yelling out in the city with two closing credit scenes that hint of some big things to come… including the return of an old favourite.

4/5 Stars