When you're battling alien warriors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's helpful to have an all-powerful Avenger like Captain Marvel by your side. But when your opponents are real-world internet trolls, there's no better ally than Stephen King. After The Marvels — the latest Marvel Studios blockbuster — debuted to less-than-marvelous box-office returns, America's best-loved boogeyman logged onto X, formerly known as Twitter, and put the voices celebrating its disappointing commercial performance on blast.
"I don't go to MCU movies, don't care for them," King wrote. "But I find this barely masked gloating over the low box office for The Marvels very unpleasant. Why gloat over failure?" In a follow-up tweet, he added: "Some of the rejection of The Marvels may be adolescent fanboy hate. You know, 'Yuck! Girls!'"
King making like Pennywise and taking on a misogynistic Losers Club? The author's fans love to see it. And Marvels star Iman Vellani appreciates the support as well. "Having Stephen King in anyone's corner is pretty awesome," the MCU superhero tells Yahoo Entertainment with a smile. The actress's alter ego, Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, made her in-universe debut on the eponymous Disney+ series last year before joining a big-screen super trio that includes Brie Larson's Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, and Teyonah Parris's Monica Rambeau.
Not that Vellani is dwelling on either social media trolls or all the "State of Marvel" think pieces that have been generated since The Marvels flew into theaters on Nov. 10, right after the Screen Actors Guild strike officially ended. The film opened to $47 million domestically and just under $100 million worldwide, the worst start for any Marvel film since The Incredible Hulk back in 2008. The Marvels tumbled further in its second weekend, grossing only $10.2 million — a franchise-worst 78% drop. At this point, it's possible that the film may not clear $100 million at the box office, an unfortunate first in the MCU's 15-year history.
While media and fan coverage of The Marvels is relentlessly focused on the box office, Vellani makes it clear that her own attention is elsewhere. "I don't want to focus on something that's not even in my control, because what's the point?" the actress remarked during our interview Thursday. "That's for Bob Iger."
"[The box office] has nothing to do with me," Vellani continues. "I'm happy with the finished product, and the people that I care about enjoyed the film. It's genuinely a good time watching this movie, and that's all we can ask for with these films. It has superheroes, it take place in space, it's not that deep and it's about teamwork and sisterhood. It's a fun movie, and I'm just so happy that I can share it with people."
As for the toxic voices that are trying to spoil that fun by crying "woke," longtime Marvel fan Vellani says that she has experienced the negative sides of fandom even before joining the MCU. "I had a lot of experience in high school alone when I would share my excitement with someone, and then they'd immediately shut me down for being so excited," the 21-year-old recalls. "I would hate to see that within the fan community as well, because it does feel awful. If people are excited about something, let them be excited about it. And if you have constructive criticism, voice it — but never be the wet blanket on someone else's excitement."
As The Marvels prepares to fight the good fight in its second weekend in theaters, Vellani shares stories about deleted scenes, Ms. Marvel's future and why the whole cast gets better meals when Brie Larson is on set.
(Warning: Spoilers follow.)
Like Vellani, Parris joined the MCU as part of its Disney+ expansion, making her first appearance as Monica on WandaVision. In The Marvels, the daughter of Carol's best friend, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), recaps how she got her new powers during the course of the nine-episode streaming series — by forcing her way through a magical force field generated by Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch.
In the pages of Marvel comics, Monica eventually acquires the superhero moniker Photon, and the film teases a similar journey, with Kamala pitching various code names as the trio's adventure in outer space continues. According to Vellani, the original version of the film's climactic battle with revenge-seeking Kree warrior Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) ended with Monica officially being christened as Photon moments before she's sucked to a parallel universe inhabited by the X-Men.
"It was a cool moment, but I think they took it out for a good reason," Vellani says of that scene, which finds Monica using her abilities in concert with Carol and Kamala to close the rip in space-time. "It wouldn't make sense tonally if Monica is about to sacrifice herself and we're like, 'But your code name!'"
Besides, Vellani notes that Maria is already glowing like a photon as she repairs the damage Dar-Benn caused. "You don't even need the words — she was Photon in that moment. And I don't think Captain Marvel was even called Captain Marvel in her own movie!"
Sing a happy song
Joining Monica's introduction as Photon on the cutting-room floor is the full musical number that Carol, Kamala and Monica perform when they visit Aladna, an alien planet where citizens speak in song. That's also where Captain Marvel is revealed to be a princess — which makes Larson an official Disney Princess — and joins her hubby, Prince Yan (South Korean superstar Park Seo-joon), for a turn on the dance floor.
"The song itself was much longer, and so much fun," Vellani remembers of the all-day shoot that sequences required. "There was a beat where Carol starts singing before she dances with the prince — that was pretty funny. And there's a moment where Kamala starts singing, too. Everything about it was so well done. The song was playing on set, and it was in everyone's head 24/7. But I never got sick of it at all!"
Asked whether she's disappointed that the full number was cut, Vellani gives the filmmaking team led by director Nia DaCosta the benefit of the doubt. "I'm sure it was [cut] for a good cause. There were all these little beats that they took out to make the movie more succinct. I mean, we shot a lot on this movie! Hopefully those all come out on Blu-ray or something. Meanwhile, if they could just personally send me the musical sequence so I can watch it over and over again, that would be great!"
For the record, Vellani reveals that some of the other "little beats" that got dropped from the theatrical cut include an early scene where Kamala switches places with Carol and ends up on her spaceship, not immediately realizing she's in the same domicile where her hero resides. And there's also a longer version of her final encounter with Hailee Steinfeld's Kate Bishop — the ace archer who notched arrows alongside Jeremy Renner's Clint Barton in the Disney+ series Hawkeye.
"Hailee and I had a really fun back-and-forth," Vellani says of that scene, which finds Kamala inviting Kate to be part of a "Young Avengers" initiative. "Tonally, it wouldn't have made sense if we kept joking about [the Young Avengers team], but we were having so much fun bouncing off each other."
Kamala in charge
Speaking of the Young Avengers, whenever that YA team makes its appearance — whether that's in 2027's Avengers: Secret Wars or another Marvel project to be named later — expect Ms. Marvel to be the one calling the shots... just like Steve Rogers in the O.G. Avengers crew. "In my head, she's going to be Captain America mixed with Nick Fury," Vellani says. "She'll know what's on the roster for the day, but is also a natural born leader. It would be such a natural progression for her character to lead a team."
As the actress astutely points out, that's what distinguishes Kamala from her idol, Carol, whose leadership skills are revealed to be shaky at best during the course of The Marvels. "I've been saying that Carol's a lonely cat lady in space with amnesia," Vellani says, laughing. "Kamala has all these relationships with her friends, family, mentors and community, and Carol has none of that. The movie does a great job peeling back those layers of her character and contrasting her with Kamala and Monica."
Besides Kate, Kamala and possibly Ant-Man's daughter, Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton), the lineup for the Young Avengers has yet to be determined. But you'd better believe that Vellani has a wish list. "Ironheart would be fun," she says, referring to Dominique Thorn's Tony Stark-level tech genius from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. On the other hand, Vellani agrees that other young hero introduced in Ryan Coogler's sequel — Toussaint, aka T'Challah Jr. — likely won't be joining the crew anytime soon... mainly because he's only 5 or 6 years old.
"I also want to say Kid Loki, because he's the only guy I could think of," Vellani continues. "Well, him and Patriot, I guess. And maybe Billy and Tommy, although they aren't as fleshed out in the MCU yet. I'm excited to see if any of those storylines go anywhere." (Kid Loki appeared in Season 1 of Loki, while Patriot's alter ego, Eli Bradley, had a small role in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Billy and Tommy were Wanda and Vision's offspring in WandaVision.)
No matter who is in the Young Avengers lineup, Vellani knows where the team belongs — on the big screen. "I would like for it to be a movie," she says, smiling. "I want Kamala to collect them all like Infinity Stones and then we have one epic battle."
"TV should be left for Ms. Marvel Season 2 where we can explore more of Kamala's community," Vellani adds. "I wouldn't want to bring the Young Avengers into a TV show and then have all of those Jersey City characters get sidelined. They're all as important as she is, and so is the city itself." (Marvel has yet to announce if Ms. Marvel is returning for another season.)
Not for nothing, but Vellani also knows from personal experience that the catering is much better on a Marvel movie versus a Marvel series. "I'm glad you brought that up," she laughs. "On Ms. Marvel, I had a chicken Caesar salad everyday, because that's all I could stomach. It wasn't that the food was bad — there was just a lack of options. It's nice having Brie Larson on a movie, because she has a whole 'cast chef' and everything. We were treated like queens! It was pretty nice."
The Marvels is playing in theaters now.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on Nov. 16, 2023 and has been updated with the latest box-office information.