CAPTAIN MARVEL Review: 8 out of 10 (MCU gets Marvelous)
CAPTAIN MARVEL is the latest chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe introducing a new superhero to the mix. And (gaps…clutches pearls) it is a woman! Despite other women starring throughout the pantheon of films to date, none have seen their own film up until now. Brie Larson stars as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, and Jude Law. Set in 1995, the story follows Danvers as she becomes Captain Marvel after the Earth is caught in the center of a galactic conflict between two alien worlds. Because it is a prequel to all other Marvel films, the film does have an opportunity to fill a few storytelling gaps and give some backstory to some other parts of the greater MCU narrative. The result is a pretty fun Easter egg hunt throughout the film in an otherwise also-ran origin story of a superhero film.
CAPTAIN MARVEL is probably better than it should be just on casting alone. Brie Larson is tough but also has the (requisite) snark here as she takes on the leading role. Jackson continues to do the voodoo that he does so well, and Ben Mendelsohn has never had a bad performance in his life. The film itself begins with a bit of a dense sci-fi setup with alien races like Skrulls, heroic Skrees, and a cosmic war waging through the galaxy. However, there is enough hand holding through the script to give a clear indication as to what is happening. Larson identifies herself as “Vers” and is part of a Kree Starforce team. However, she is haunted by dreams, visions, and feels confined by her own emotions that overwhelm her with powers she works to keep in check. After a mission goes awry, Vers is put in a position to face these memories and realize that she has an entire identity that has been wiped away. That life is the life of Carol Danvers. Once Carol uncovers her own past, she has to face her own powers, uncover a plot of evil, and fight to win the day.
It is sort of paint-by-numbers when it comes to the superhero origin story. But Larson is absolutely all in here. The device the film uses with her own mysterious past and blocked memories works as a nice fresh way to tell an otherwise familiar story. Add in a few callbacks (or are they call forwards in this case) to other Marvel films and plotlines and the film adds a bit of fun for fans. It has Marvel’s signature formula but also is clearly self-aware that it is set in the mid-90s. Clothes, music, and pop culture doo-dads scatter the frame and practically scream 90s louder than a Kurt Cobain wail. Depending on your own love/hate relationship with the decade, this element will certainly add a “your mileage may vary” factor to the audience.
Despite some that want to make CAPTAIN MARVEL a gender equality film or a foundation for feminism, the film seems to sort of *ignore* the fact that Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel is a woman. Sure there are a few flashbacks that show Carol dealing with dumb men and absent fathers, but very little in the plot, the film’s characters, or even the setting seems to want to shout “HEY! FEMALE SUPERHERO OVER HERE!” But then again, maybe that is a statement itself. CAPTAIN MARVEL embraces the Marvel style and has enough from casting to be an absorbing and fun sci-fi superhero romp.