“Movie Review: Captain Marvel”
The 21st movie in the ongoing saga that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel stands as the first film from Marvel Studios with a female lead. Naturally, that means it’s going to be under a lot of scrutiny, more than any other Marvel film before it. Can one movie introduce Carol Danvers to audiences, connect to the larger MCU as a whole as a prequel, tease people for Avengers:Endgame, and overcome the internet trolls review bombing the film before they’ve even seen it?
Yes, to a degree.
Captain Marvel is a bit of a strange film, mainly because it’s the first origin film that the studio has done since Doctor Strange (nah, Black Panther doesn’t count as one). We follow the Kree soldier Vers (Brie Larson), who has been troubled by dreams of a life she doesn’t remember. Her training nearly complete, she embarks on a mission with her commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) to prevent the enemy Skrulls from kidnapping one of their spies. But when the mission goes wrong, Vers is kidnapped by the enemy and finds herself on Earth in the year 1995, attempting to stop the Skrulls from acquiring some very powerful technology. Along the way she meets a young Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson, in some of the best de-aging CGI I’ve ever seen), and learns a very powerful secret about herself.
In a lot of ways, Captain Marvel feels like an MCU film that would feel right at home with the “Phase One” films like Captain America: The First Avenger or Thor. Naturally that means that this film has a few pacing problems, primarily in the first act. It takes a little while to get going, especially when the film has to give you the rundown on the Kree Empire, the Supreme Intelligence, the Skrulls (and the war with them), and have you get to know Vers/Carol Danvers. At times you it can feel a bit overwhelming, and I get the feeling that it’s the part of the film that directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck were the least confident in. But once we get to Earth and the film starts connecting the dots, it really clicks.
As the actor behind the character on the marquee, Brie Larson makes for a pretty badass representation of Carol Danvers, and gives her a pretty great arc as well. Watching her go from a Kree soldier that has been trained to keep herself poised and her emotions in check to a full-blown unapologetic badass is one of the treats of the film, and now that Carol’s backstory is set up, it’s going to be fun to watch her interact with the other Avengers in Endgame. The trailers don’t really give her performance justice, as they primarily stick to scenes and dialogue from the beginning of the film where Danvers is very stoic and almost robotic. As her memories come back to her, so does her humanity, and she brings a very cool cockiness to the role that shows in great little smirks when she’s ready to kick some ass.
At this point, Samuel L Jackson could play Nick Fury in his sleep, but Captain Marvel gives him the opportunity to explore this character as a younger man who isn’t “in the know” when it comes to every big secret in the Marvel universe. In fact, up until this movie, Fury didn’t even know aliens existed, and the events of this film open up his eyes to the fact that his world is much bigger and crazier than he ever existed. Jackson is an actor who has chemistry with pretty much every person he works with, but he and Larson have exceptional chemistry with each other, and their odd couple pairing is one of the highlights of the film.
Another highlight is Ben Mendelsohn’s performance as Talos, the head of the Skrull task force sent to Earth. I don’t want to say too much about him, but if you’ve seen Mendelsohn’s work in Rogue One, Bloodlines, and Darkest Hour, you know the guy can act. But trust me, you’ve never seen him act while wearing insanely intricate Skrull makeup, and it’s not in the way you think. His role is one of the biggest surprises in the film, and really serves as a turning point for Carol Danvers’ story. Jude Law also has a sizable role as Danvers’ mentor, but to say anymore about him too would dive a little too much in spoiler territory.
One of the high points of Captain Marvel (aside from Goose, of course), is the action sequences, which do take a little while to get to. But once Carol Danvers is unleashed in all her binary glory it’s one of the coolest moments of the year. It’s not quite at the level of the “No Man’s Land” sequence from Wonder Woman, but it comes very close. It’s also refreshing that the many callbacks to the music and culture of 1995 don’t become tiresome. While they’re used for comedic effect, that’s mainly because it’s from us in 2019 reminiscing on how internet cafe’s and Blockbuster used to be a major part of our lives, and are all but nonexistent now.
In the grand scheme of the MCU, Captain Marvel is probably somewhere in the upper middle of the pack, almost like Guardians of the Galaxy’s serious older sibling. It’s got a few pacing problems that all the Marvel hero origin movies have, and the fact that it’s a prequel removes some of the stakes, but it goes in some pretty surprising directions that I wasn’t expecting it to at all (one it pretty dumb,though). The world has been waiting to meet Carol Danvers, and now that the introductions are out of the way, it’s going to be pretty exciting to see where she goes from here.