In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, things are at their bleakest. In Avengers: Infinity War, the mad Titan Thanos had gathered the six Infinity Stones. He was able to reach his goal – eradicate half the sentient beings in the universe. His motivation was changed from courting Death (so no return of the awesome Cate Blanchett’s Hela of Thor: Ragnarok. Boo) to saving the universe (from his point of view). All the heroes we’ve met so far cannot defeat Thanos themselves. Luckily, the most powerful hero in the galaxy finally has come back from where ever she might have been for twenty movies. I do have a little worry of deus ex machina by way of Carol, but I trust everyone to deliver a great product. But before she can take on Thanos, we must meet her.
And I’m really glad to spend this two hours with Carol Danvers, to meet her her and love her as a new character into this universe. Captain Marvel isn’t perfect, there are issues to to be had, but it i a damned enjoyable ride. We do have another origin story, but the formula has been changed up enough not to be rote and creating a fun story to watch it unfold. Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers opens the film as Vers, a human commando with amnesia. A mission goes awry and she ends upon Earth in 1995. While she’s there she begins to remember her past. Her past is the key to solve what the shape-shifting Skrulls – long time Marvel villains finally entering the MCU (Secret War for Phase IV???) Along the way she meets up with a young Agents Fury and Coulson, experiences the 90s as a fish-out-of-water (setting up some easy but good humor), reconnects with old friends, and discovers her inner power. It’s a good change to drop her and us in the middle of her own story.
The power of Captain Marvel, and everyone fighting with her, is the lynchpin of the movie. I’d be remiss in review, although as a mid 30s white man, to not note the female empowering messaging. I love it. We need more women heroes. I’m preaching to the choir to say so but I will anyway. Forget the loud minority in their dark corner of the internet scared for powerful women. Bring them on! At the end of a screening, I heard a little girl tell her mom “I’m going to be as strong as she is! I love her!”. I had that with so many heroes in my youth. I’m glad we’re finally getting more for the little girls who will follow. I particularly liked a scene where Marie talks of sitting out due to danger and her daughter talks her into it. “what example are you setting for your daughter?” Monica ribs her mother. Related, there is a spoiler-plot-point that will also anger those trolls and MAGA hats in a different way. I’ve not seen seen it discussed much yet across many platforms, but it’s there and rather direct.
Larson is generally strong but it feels like she’s holding back a great deal, as if she had competing notes of how to play Captain Marvel. Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson have great chemistry, as the buddy-cop their way through the second act. The CG grading on Jackson as a younger Nick Fury is astounding. It’s seamless. GOOSE. Goose the cat is the easy highlight of Captain Marvel. I love that cat as much as Nick Fury. Ben Mendelson is a character actor who always brings his A-game and does so again. He is able to create a solid, memorable character as the Skrull commander. I’m glad to see Annette Benning again. Jude Law doesn’t have a great deal to do, but glad to see Gemma Chan as one of the commandos! Lashanna Lynch is a relatively new face as Maria Rambeau, but I greatly look forward to see her at Agent 355 in the upcoming Y: The Last Man TV show. As her daughter Monica (in the comics world, she’s a former Captain Marvel, better known as Photon and Pulsar), Akira Akbar effortless steals scenes with a natural charm.
While the film is laden with 90s jokes and references, I appreciated the film holding back in easy cross-MCU references. There are jokes related to Fury’s eye and [object redacted for spoilers], but few winky meta-throw-away-references. Although the 21st in a franchise, this is scaled back in such a way it could be an early film, standing mostly on it’s own for the uninitiated.
Where it falters is in style. The camera use lacks, blandly shooting each scene just about the same. The fighting sequences are rather rote and feel second unit, nothing too memorable, although the train fight/chase gets close. While the 90s based music drops mostly fit, there is one in a climactic scene that feels a little too on-the-nose.
Those faults may seem pretty big here on screen, but are easily moved past as I had a great time watching Captain Marvel the two time I’ve seen it so far. I wasn’t drawn out in another viewer two days after the first, and that’s a strong indicator for enjoyment and continued viewings. If we were to rank out the Marvel films, I think I’d put it close to the top but not in the best-ofs; I’m feeling right below Ant-Man. But we’ll see if I ever make a true ranking.