‘Captain Marvel’ Review
Captain Marvel successfully tells a female superhero origin story with the MCU formula.
Release Date: March 8, 2019
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.
Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Screenwriters: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve
Producers: Kevin Feige
Cast: Brie Larson (Carol Danvers/Vers/Captain Marvel), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Ben Mendelsohn (Talos/Keller), Jude Law (Yon-Rogg), Annette Bening (Supreme Intelligence/Mar-Vell)
Editor: Debbie Berman, Elliot Graham
Cinematographer: Ben Davis
Production Designer: Andy Nicholson
Casting Director: Sarah Finn
Music Score: Pinar Toprak
At a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is undergoing a major transition, it only makes sense for a film like Captain Marvel to arrive. With Brie Larson (Short Term 12, Kong: Skull Island) leading the charge, the film pushes the MCU forward and sets it up for a wider berth of stories. At times Captain Marvel does have some of the same flaws that the earlier Marvel films do (underdeveloped villain, inconsistent tone) but it still succeeds way more often than it falters. Most importantly, it gives superhero films yet another example of how diversity in casting and storytelling can deliver the same thrills and excitement albeit with fresh faces.
Captain Marvel puts its own spin on the origin story by catching up with Starforce agent Vers as she begins her first mission. Under the tutelage of Yon Rogg (eXistenZ’s Jude Law), Vers has learned to harness photon energy to shoot blasts from her hands and launch into the sky. But when that first mission goes wrong, and Vers ends up on Earth circa 1995, she starts to learn more about the life she can no longer remember. And once Samuel L. Jackson’s younger and more naïve Nick Fury enters the picture, the early remnants of the Avengers start to take form.
As with most Marvel movies, it’s best to go into Captain Marvel knowing as little as possible. Writer/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (the pair responsible for It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Half Nelson), along with screenwriting contributions from Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Tomb Raider), Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy), and Meg LeFauve (Inside Out), are able to craft a story that is surprising and inventive. It subverts expectations in a way that fits well with previously established Marvel tropes, and that informs Captain Marvel’s development as a character. The film is an adventure as only Marvel seems to be capable of delivering.
Arguably the key pieces of Captain Marvel are Larson and Jackson who, after several movies together now, have a great rapport. There’s genuine buddy chemistry to their scenes that help give new layers to Nick Fury’s character and grounds this female superhero who is extremely powerful. Without the two, Captain Marvel arguably would have fallen flat, but it sings as a result.
The film’s only real misstep is the amnesiac story diminishes some of the conflict. So much is made of the fact that Vers doesn’t know her identity that when things start to come together, it’s too late to define what’s what. Again, it’s hard to talk about that without spoiling some of the film’s best elements, but by no means is that a deal breaker. It just would have been nice to see Marvel land a villain for Captain Marvel, since she is a character who is supposed to usher in a new era for these movies.
Nevertheless, Captain Marvel is an easy hit for the MCU thanks to its spectacular cast, fun dialogue, and bold vision. The film is never preachy even though it has a lot of weight on its shoulders and it lets Captain Marvel the character be just as kick-ass and funny as any other hero. If Brie Larson is to become one of the new figureheads of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then the future is in good hands.
Even if you don’t care about the Captain Marvel story or what it means for the MCU, the action in the film is plenty enjoyable, well-choreographed with some fun comedic beats thrown in for good measure. It has big, effects-driven set pieces and smaller, more intimate fight sequences, all of which are convincing and exciting. Captain Marvel is a badass, and the action serves to emphasize that. It even has those big, “she finally understands her powers” moments that will have audiences cheering.