What to know before watching ‘The Marvels’

“The Marvels” is crash-landing in theaters this week, but casual Marvel Cinematic Universe viewers might be a bit confused about where the heroes left off.

It’s harder than ever to keep up with all the goings-on of the MCU, with characters and storylines popping up randomly across TV shows and films and brief post-credit scenes. Two of the three leads of “The Marvels,” Ms. Marvel and a super-powered Monica Rambeau, were only introduced in Disney+ series.

Here’s what you need to know about the main trio in “The Marvels” before the film debuts — where we left new teen hero Ms. Marvel, what Captain Marvel was doing in space all those years and why Monica Rambeau still doesn’t have a superhero name. Oh, and for those who didn’t watch Nick Fury’s Disney+ series, here’s what he’s been up to since you last saw him on the big screen.

Where has Captain Marvel been?

Not on Earth enough! She missed a boatload of baddies on and off-planet since we last watched Captain Marvel, AKA Carol Danvers (played by Brie Larson), kick intergalactic butt.

The only hero in the lead trio to have helmed her own movie was last seen zapping in and out of the New Jersey home of Kamala Khan, AKA teen hero Ms. Marvel. The two kept inadvertently switching places when they tried to use their powers, sending poor Kamala to space and Carol to a teenager’s bedroom.

A refresher on Carol’s powers: She’s got “cosmic powers” ever since she was exposed to the Tesseract, that glowing interdimensional travel cube that contained an infinity stone. She is also part-Kree, a race of aliens in the MCU that are generally portrayed as villains, due to an alien blood transfusion she received as a US Air Force pilot. She spent most of the 21st century in space, doing hero work there before she was summoned by the Avengers to help defeat Thanos in “Avengers: Endgame.”

As far as we know, Carol hasn’t reconciled with Monica, whom she last saw as a little girl at her best friend Maria’s home. Carol didn’t visit after Maria died, despite their tight relationship in Monica’s youth, so expect some tension between the two when they’re forced back together.

Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel in "The Marvels." - From Marvel
Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel in "The Marvels." - From Marvel

What’s Ms. Marvel up to?

The charming Kamala Khan’s powers laid dormant until she put on a stunning bangle that also happens to let her harness energy from another dimension. Wearing the bangle, the TV iteration of high schooler Kamala (Iman Vellani) uses this energy to catch people when they fall, leap into the sky and stretching giant crystallized body parts, among other superpowers.

Oh, and the last episode revealed that she has a genetic … mutation, so the MCU all but confirmed that Kamala is a mutant — which opens the door to X-Men formally joining the MCU.

We last saw Kamala switching places with Carol, sending Captain Marvel straight into her childhood bedroom, which is covered wall-to-wall in Kamala’s drawings of the hero. The teen is still getting a grip on her powers, as seen in the trailer for “The Marvels” as she accidentally careens through space in terror. She’s also the quippiest of the trio, so expect most of the film’s laughs to come from her.

Monica Rambeau in "The Marvels." - From Marvel
Monica Rambeau in "The Marvels." - From Marvel

What’s new with Monica Rambeau?

We first met Monica as a little girl in the ‘90s-set “Captain Marvel,” as the daughter of Maria Rambeau, Carol Danvers’ best friend and a superhero in her own right. Carol didn’t see her grow up as she was regularly dispatched to space to solve problems across the galaxy. Monica turned to dust during “the Snap” — thanks, Thanos — but returned thanks to that whole time-travel plot of “Avengers: Endgame” and Tony Stark’s sacrifice.

We’re reintroduced to adult Monica (Teyonah Parris) in “Wandavision” back in early 2021. On that Disney+ show, she was an agent of S.W.O.R.D., or the Sentient World Observation and Response Department. With her mother, Maria, now dead, Monica sympathized with Wanda’s grief-fueled charade and tried to enter Wanda’s “hex,” a forcefield of energy that altered the reality of everything inside it.

Passing through the hex scrambled Monica’s DNA and granted her new powers — in “The Marvels,” she explains that she can “manipulate wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.” It’s easier to see than explain, but in “Wandavision,” we see bullets pass right through her without harm. Her newfound heroism impressed Nick Fury, who invited her to join him in space to save worlds beyond Earth.

Some time has passed in the MCU since we saw Monica last, so she’s likely had time to better harness her powers — and maybe address some of the abandonment issues she has with Carol. But in the MCU, Monica still doesn’t have a superhero name yet since she assumed the hero mantle so recently — perhaps she’ll go by her childhood nickname of “Lieutenant Trouble”?

What about Nick Fury?

Samuel L. Jackon’s hero is the “Marvels” star we most recently spent time with in the poorly reviewed Disney+ series “Secret Invasion,” in which he left his space post to investigate a Skrull invasion on Earth. After a few episodes, and a few reveals about MCU heroes who were replaced by Skrulls for several films, the threat is extinguished and Fury returns to space, this time with his space wife Priscilla.

Who are they fighting again?

Something has brought these three disparate heroes together — Nick Fury? Fate? That weird power-switching thing happening between Kamala and Carol? — to defeat an evil space person (Zawe Ashton) who tears yet another hole in space, leading to another reality bleeding into theirs. Sound familiar? The last few MCU films, plus “Loki,” have dealt with multiversal fracturing.

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