Review: ‘Captain Marvel’

Captain Marvel one-sheet poster

Captain Marvel | Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck | March 8, 2019

In order to move forward with Avengers: Endgame next month, we need to take look backward and gain insight into the character that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) desperately sent a page to before he was turned to dust. The table setting for that big battle comes in the form of Captain Marvel, directed by the team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.

Captain Marvel still - Carol at full capacity

Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is an outsider on Hala, the Kree planet where she is known as Vers and recruited into an elite military outfit known as Starforce (including Gemma Chan‘s Minn-Erva, Lee Pace’s returning Ronan, and Djimon Hounsou’s returning Korath), led by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), who takes her under his wing as a mentor and trains her to hone her powers. Their dangerous mission to hunt down Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), the leader of the rival Skrulls, doesn’t go down as planned, sending Danvers, Talos, and Skrulls troops crash-landing to Earth (and through a Blockbuster), circa 1995. Their less-than-subtle arrival gets the attention of familiar (de-aged) faces of Nick Fury and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), at the time much young ranking members of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Captain Marvel still - Carol firing energy blasts

Danvers’ interactions with Talos and Fury send her on a whirlwind mission of self-discovery that has her questioning everything that she’s known before. She realizes that this mysterious planet known as Earth may not be as foreign to her as she first assumes. Flashbacks to a time as a military pilot alongside good friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and the mysterious Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening) has her mind racing as to who these memories belong to and why they’re suddenly and vividly flooding back.

In this sense, Boden and Fleck (who also wrote the script along with Tomb Raider‘s Geneva Robertson-Dworet with help from consultant and recent Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick) keep the story modestly contained with smaller, more effective stakes. Considering that we are leading into one of the biggest blockbusters in the history of blockbusters, this is a completely welcome choice that the film firmly embraces the stakes and for good reason.

Captain Marvel still - Carol and Yon-Rogg training

That’s not to say that Captain Marvel doesn’t entertain new concepts, as it fully reaches into the realm of science fiction, giving off a feel that is unique to itself compared to the rest of Marvel’s standalone features. At times, it embraces sci-fi so much that it almost feels like Marvel’s take on Star Trek. There’s also one scene that is impossible not to see as a tribute to the starfighter sequences in Star Wars.

The film does take a little time to find its footing, but it eventually settles into a good grove and takes flight. It fully embraces the 90s nostalgia in terms of its setting (shot by returning MCU cinematographer Ben Davis, who also lensed Guardians, Ultron, and Doctor Strange) and soundtrack, which allows it the chance to separate itself from the wider scope of other MCU entries and operate in a slightly more confined setting.

Captain Marvel still - Carol and Nick Fury in SHIELD

While it’s refreshing to take a step back to a more personal story of learning about one’s true self and the power of never giving up, at the same time, there are also plenty of aspects that gravitate towards the standard and familiar Marvel territory, which slightly hold it back from breaking the mold in a more grandiose and exciting fashion.

With that said, there’s an importance for Captain Marvel being the first Marvel female-led superhero. She’ll be an iconic figure for many young girls of this generation, who are presented with vital themes of never giving up, staying true to yourself, and grasping your full potential.

Captain Marvel still - Starforce assembles

Many will see themselves in Brie Larson as Captain Marvel and – all the online and political drama facing the film aside – that’s an important and inspiring concept. Larson has always been headed toward stardom, and she fully seizes the opportunity here. She has good chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson, who at this point could play Nick Fury with his eyes closed. He also has some really good chemistry with an adorable cat named Goose who’s along for the ride. There are good performances littered throughout from Jude Law, Lashana Lynch, and Annette Bening. But the real scene-stealer is Ben Mendelsohn, who is having the time of his life playing Talos and the energy he brings is absolutely infectious and a joy to watch.

Captain Marvel brings a different sense of feeling to this world that is a pleasant and light palette cleanser before the mega-blockbuster that will follow it next month. It winningly embraces the 90s aesthetic and sci-fi exploration that helps it stay fresh and fun, even when it does dip into a more familiar well within this cinematic world.

Rating: 7.0/10