One of the reasons that Marvel Studios has found success is that they understand that super hero stories can feature a wide range of tones, story elements, and characterizations. They treat each of their properties as their own thing. Now, Marvel Animation is really getting their Marvel Rising franchise into gear with the Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors telefilm, which is set to debut with a special airing on Sunday, September 30 at 10:00pm ET/PT simultaneously on Disney Channel and Disney XD.
Much like Star Wars: Forces of Destiny, Marvel Rising takes brands that are perceived as boy-centric and is presented in a way that focuses on female characters. Before we get too far, we should say that Marvel Rising is also designed to be accessible to boys as well. There has already been the Marvel Rising: Initiation series of shorts and various Marvel Rising comic books, but this new animated movie is designed to take the initiative to the next level.
Over time, we meet our band of heroes that include Inhumans, S.H.I.E.L.D., a refugee from an alternate dimension, a squirrel, and more as the take on a Kree threat. In order to preserve the fun of the movie, it is required to be light on plot details. Every character introduction is fun and the plot takes more turns that you might expect in an 8-minute movie. While comic aficionados will enjoy seeing some familiar faces, most of the characters present in the film may not be known by the casual Marvel fan. That is a big part of what makes it so much fun. It isn’t an animated retelling of familiar stories and characters. Secret Warriors gets to do something that is fresh and new.
The voice cast is top notch with many familiar performers making up the cast. Of particular note is Chloe Bennet, who is reprising her Quake role from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while her co-star and Mulan voice Ming-Na Wen takes a villain turn as Hela. The Disney Channel stars that are part of the project include Kamil McFadden as Patriot and BooBoo Stewart as Exile. While some of the casting may be considered “stunt casting,” the voice talent is incredibly strong and every actor earned their role.
The story balances action elements with personal moments. While the story definitely has a “be yourself” vibe, it doesn’t become preachy. But perhaps my favorite message the film sends is that the movie can feature girls and be designed with what they are looking for, but still be completely accessible to boys. It sends a great message to everyone that a TV experience that highlights girls can still feature action, adventure, strong characters of both genders, and keep its touchy-feely elements to an acceptable level. Much like Disney XD’s Star vs. The Forces of Evil, this is for everyone.
My main criticism is centered around brand confusion. I had presumed that the Marvel Rising: Initiation shorts would lead into the movie. While there is some character overlap, the stories appear to be only tangentially connected. I am not sure if it was just that I wasn’t paying attention, but I was a bit disappointed that the cliffhanger at the end of Initiation was not addressed.
But if I judge the film on its own, I really enjoyed it. I do hope that it tees off further adventures with these characters and others, such as Spider-Gwen in the near future. While the future of Marvel Rising has yet to be announced, I hope they continue to share a unique view of the Marvel Universe with a diverse audience.