Like a kaleidoscope that reveals new wonders with every flick of the wrist, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is packed with surprises. Candyman director Nia DaCosta steers the sequel to the movie Captain Marvel (2019) and the Disney+ Hotstar series Ms. Marvel with a giddy sense of fun that is often missing from the ponderous MCU productions.

The Marvels stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, Teyonah Parris as Captain Marvel acolyte Monica Rambeau, and Iman Vellani as Captain Marvel giga-fan Kamala Khan. Their paths criss-cross when the bracelet – the twin of the one worn by Kamala – lands up with the vengeful Dar-Been (Zawe Ashton).

The extraordinary powers unleashed by the second bracelet gives new meaning to the tendency of women to multi-task. Nicky Fury (Samuel L Jackson) is sucked into the vortex of Dar-Been’s rage, as are Kamala’s Pakistani-American parents Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) and Yusuf (Mohan Kapur) and her brother Aamir (Saagar Shaikh).

DaCosta’s screenplay, co-written with Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik, has some trouble navigating its explanation of the spatial disruptions caused by Dar-Been’s actions. The connections that necessarily have to be made with the Captain Marvel film don’t always mesh smoothly with the imperative to fashion new plot outcomes for Kamala and Monica.

The Marvels scores in its polished visual effects, excellent chemistry between the three leads, and the infectious mayhem that results from the collision of disparate characters. The 105-minute runtime is just right, neither too crisp or too long.

Kamala’s typically subcontinental family has a hilarious time trying to reconcile their expectations from their precocious daughter with the idea that she might just save the world from Armageddon. Alongside the regular supply of giggles, there are some moving moments between Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau, as well as an acknowledgement of the destruction that superheroes leave in their wake.

South Korean heart-throb Park Seo-joon has a show-stopping cameo. Captain Marvel’s magically endowed feline Goose contributes to one of the movie’s nuttiest scenes, which reinvents the idea of the clickbaity cat videos that flood the internet.

While the entire cast carries out Nia DeCosta’s vision to the hilt, the standout actor is Iman Vellani. One of cinema’s best recent discoveries, Vellani provides the laughter track alongside channelling the new movie’s celebration of girlhood. A formidable ensemble player, Vellani proves that she has the chops to front her own solo adventure.

The Marvels (2023).