Iman Vellani Steals the Show in “The Marvels”

While Larson, Parris and Vellani have a natural and infectious chemistry, early audience reactions show that it’s Vellani who really steals the show, holding her own in her multifaceted portrayal of Kamala Khan.

Iman Vellani Steals the Show in “The Marvels”
Iman Vellani (left), Brie Larson (center) and Teyonah Parris (right) have been highly praised for their chemistry in the MCU's latest installment.

"The Marvels" (2023), Marvel Studios’ most recent entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) arrived in theaters today. The film is the highly anticipated follow-up to the miniseries "Ms. Marvel" (2022), which starred Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, an unapologetically Muslim 16-year-old girl who admires Captain Marvel and struggles to fit in until she gains powers of her own. “The Marvels” also ties heavily to "Captain Marvel" (2019), which gained attention as the first MCU entry to have a focal female protagonist. In addition to featuring the eponymous Captain Marvel aka Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), “The Marvels” will also feature Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), who gained new powers over the course of "WandaVision" (2021). 

Writer and director Nia DaCosta makes her MCU debut with the film, telling a refreshingly grounded story that centers around the sincere bond among its three leads. DaCosta's direction and storytelling provide fresh perspectives on these characters, whose lives intersect in unexpected ways.

Picking up from where "Captain Marvel" left off, “The Marvels” explores complex themes beyond the battle for good and evil to focus on issues like interplanetary dependency and sisterhood. The film connects Kamala, Carol and Monica through a bangle that matches the one that gave Kamala her powers. Through a series of mysterious events, the bangles cause the trio of leads to risk swapping places whenever they use their powers. Marshaled together by fate, Carol, Monica and Kamala must save the galaxy from an intergalactic threat.

The film shines most when portraying the relationship between the leads. While Larson, Parris and Vellani have a natural and infectious chemistry, early audience reactions show that it’s Vellani who really steals the show, holding her own in her multifaceted portrayal of Kamala Khan. And while many critics have had mixed reactions to the film itself, they are near-universally giving high praise to Vellani.

“Vellani is magical and the film captures the pure essence of why superheroes are so beloved,” The Wrap said in their review. “Parris and Larson are also good, but they really just back up for Kamala Khan to, rightfully, shine.” IndieWire’s review said that, “Vellani and Parris have enough charm to power 10 more films,” while USA Today called her “a welcome spark plug.” And Io9 admits that while the film belongs equally to its three leads, “Vellani is the clear standout; with her effortless enthusiasm embodying Kamala, it’s like she jumped right out of the comics and onto the screen.”

While “The Marvels” may falter when tying up loose ends, it succeeds in delivering a lighter tone than its predecessors. Vellani's performance as Kamala Khan provides humor and depth in equal measure, making her the ideal candidate for a future franchise cornerstone.

“The Marvels” is in theaters now.

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