Well, here we are. Marvel Cinematic Universe movie number 21. The last film before Endgame and the penultimate film of Phase Three, and the first MCU film to follow a solo female superhero. But how does it do?
RELEASED: March 8th 2019
DIRECTED BY: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
WRITTEN BY: Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve, Geneva Robertson-Dworeet, Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige
MUSIC BY: Pinar Toprak
STARRING: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Lashana Lynch, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg & Annette Benning
Up top, I just want to say that this film starts with a great little tribute to Stan Lee. Fun and very touching.
Set in the 1990s,Captain Marvel follows Vers, a soldier and member of the Kree – a race of noble warrior heroes. As part of ‘Starforce’, Vers is tasked with combating the shape-shifting Skrull terrorists to keep their homeworld of Hala safe. However, after a mission to stop the Skrulls goes awry, Vers finds herself stranded on the planet Earth, where along with S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Nick Fury, she must save the planet from an alien incursion.
For the first act of the movie, Captain Marvel boasts your standard mid-level science-fiction fare. Notorious Star Trek-looking baddies and slick, capable heroes bark words that will sound like nonsense to non-comic book fans, amidst gleaming metal cities and bleak ruins on deserted planets alike. While the cast is strong, it plays out like something you’ve seen a million times before. Furthermore, that’s blended with your classic Marvel humour that can be quite hit and miss and makes you wonder if this movie is going to lean more The Dark World than it is Infinity War.
Fortunately, the action then transitions to Earth, and ‘Captain Marvel’ (although I’m not sure she’s ever actually called that in the movie) gets to really prove herself. In Brie Larson, the hero finds a capable actress to fill out the role of our feisty new heroine. She revels in her immense power*, making a change from a lot of the male heroes who are weighed down by their past failures and responsibilities.
And she’s at her best when paired with de-aged Samuel L. Jackson, with whom she shares an undeniable chemistry. The laughs the two share feel genuine and heartfelt, and watching the two banter back and forth is a true joy.
The biggest surprises, however, are the performances of Lashana Lynch and the four cats that play ‘Goose’. Lynch shines as Maria Rambeau, Vers’ human friend with a connection to her past. She displays heartwrenching emotion and provides exciting scenes with ease, and is probably the standout performance. Similarly, the mysterious cat ‘Goose’ is also very enjoyable to watch, with his mix of adorable cat-like behaviour and comic book ridiculousness making him steal most of the scenes he’s in.
Likewise, Ben Mendohlson gives an amusing turn as the Skrull leader Talos and is an expert choice of actor to play foil to the Kree. I’d definitely like to see more of him (and more of everyone, to be honest, this sets up a sequel quite well).
But it’s not just because of the arrival on Earth that the entertainment value picks up. The film pivots around a twist that, personally, I thought was kind of obvious, but once it’s out of the way, it proves to be the best choice the film could make, opening the story up not only for your standard superhero fare, but also to provide important and touching messages about female empowerment and the importance of community (and immigration, in a roundabout way, I suppose).
The deeper the film gets into its story, the more fan-service it provides. Not in a detrimental way, but in a rewarding one. It fleshes out Nick Fury’s character immensely and bridges the gap between The First Avenger and Avengers Assemble in a neat and tidy fashion (although if you do look for continuity goofs, you will, of course, find them). And yes, you do see how Nick Fury loses his eye. And it’s great.
This heartwarming, rewarding story is paired with some very strong action choreography but is slightly hampered by rather generic visuals. It’s cool to see Captain Marvel zip around and shoot lasers, and there are some interesting visual sequences, but overall, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck don’t seem to insert anything that’s creatively new or unique, so much as they do just carry over some of the more basic elements we’ve seen in some of the other space-faring Marvel movies (general future cities, trippy grey mindscapes, bland boxy spaceships, etc.). However, their visual gags based around 90s life are very amusing.
Overall, I’m not entirely sure what rating to give Captain Marvel. The first half of the film made me think the movie was headed for a solid three stars, but the second half definitely borders on five stars if it doesn’t outright earn them.
So for now, we’ll stick with four, but I may change my mind after rewatching.
*In fact, I think if done correctly, Marvel could end up getting a tonally correct ‘Superman’ film off the ground before DC does, if they make a Captain Marvel sequel (because yes, she is that powerful).