Ever since Avengers: Infinity War introduced the possibility of Captain Marvel joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2017, fans have been abuzz with her solo appearance. She is, after all, one of the characters most likely to put the ‘super’ into ‘superhero’.
Another question surrounded Marvel’s closest competitor, as DC Comics had already debuted Wonder Woman earlier in 2017 to box office glory and critical acclaim. When would Marvel wade into the fray?
Well, wait no longer, as 2019’s Captain Marvel is now in theatres:
Many understandably are less familiar with Captain Marvel as a character, so suffice to say she is essentially Superman, including laser fists, flight (air/space), and super strength. She can, more or less, do anything she wants.
Because Infinity War ends on a massive cliffhanger, Captain Marvel held the unenviable task of explaining a new superhero (and her powers) to the audience as well as her relation to the overall story, all without spoiling the events of the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. The solution: have it take place in the past. Every second of Captain Marvel takes place in the mid-nineties, kicking off with Carol crashing through the roof of a Blockbuster. The only catch, though is that to her, she’s never been to Earth before.
Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is a Kree warrior, whose terrible (read: awesome) powers are being shaped by team leader Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). She can’t remember anything beyond six years ago, only getting snippets of an accident she was involved in, but despite that, she is essentially part of a Kree special forces unit that partakes in intergalactic adventures. During one such romp, she encounters the Skulls, a shapeshifting race at war with the Kree, who are led by the fearsome Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). Things go awry (as things tend to), and Carol ends up on Earth – a place she quickly realizes she has more history than Yon-Rogg had led her to believe. While on Earth, her path crosses with SHIELD Agent Nick Fury (Sam L. Jackson), and from there they go about hunting down Talos and friends.
Perhaps owing to her missing memories, Carol starts off as a relative blank slate – she’s struggling to find what she had lost, all the while honing her skills as a space cop of sorts. As the film goes on, she becomes more and more comfortable on her own, without the watchful eye of Yon-Rogg – the movie kind of drags while they’re together, but once Carol arrives on Earth, the real fun begins. Larson has some wonderful interplay with Sam Jackson’s youthful Fury – it feels very buddy cop-esque, which is appropriate given the film takes place in the mid-nineties.
Ben Mendelsohn is fantastic as usual, chewing up the scenery as Talos every chance he gets. Some of the best comedic moments come from Talos and his interactions with Carol and Fury, both together and separately. However, the film’s emotional centre easily goes to Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau, Carol’s best friend. An Air Force pilot, Maria is all at once tough and vulnerable, especially once she learns of her best friend’s return, and she becomes key to Carol finding her past once more. I would be remiss if I did not mention Carol’s feline companion, Goose. Without spoiling anything, the few moments audiences get with Goose are wildly entertaining – and, dare I say it, are almost worth the price of admission on their own (I say this as a cat owner, so perhaps I’m a little biased).
Truthfully, Captain Marvel is a somewhat basic origin story, hindered almost by Carol’s amnesia – because of it, it feels like you never really get to know the real Carol, the one we see in flashbacks. We just know her as she is now – in some scenes with Maria, the Carol I wish we had seen comes out, but it’s pretty fleeting. It also suffers somewhat from something all prequels suffer from: you know nothing bad is going to happen in any major way. Does Earth get annihilated by aliens in 1995? Is Nick Fury the head of SHIELD in present day? Is Captain Marvel in Avengers: Endgame? Because we all know the answers to these questions, it makes the proceedings feel a little less weighty.
Having said that, if I had to rank this among the rest of the origin stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it probably sits at third (just after Black Panther and Iron Man). Not too shabby, especially for the next core member of the Avengers.
It does have flaws, certainly – but it’s still a good movie. It’s fun as hell to watch Carol fly around, wantonly blowing things up. The fight scenes are entertaining as well, and despite one song choice that was perhaps a little too on the nose towards the end, it’s incredibly satisfying to see Carol wade into a brawl and dole out a good ol’ fashioned butt-kicking. As mentioned, the comedy and chemistry between Larson and Jackson is the film’s strength, and they wisely play into it as much as possible.
It’s also impossible to watch this movie and not feel a twinge of excitement that Marvel has finally released a female superhero movie where the central character is so incredibly powerful. After Black Panther‘s impressive debut, it finally feels like minority audiences (which have been clamoring for representation in movies for years) are being heard. Next step, Shang-Chi?
The takeaway is that Captain Marvel is a solid (if perhaps a little safe, especially compared to the more visually dynamic recent releases such as Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok) debut for a brand new superhero. Carol’s wit and general sense of fun she seems to have during a battle gets me excited to see the interplay with the rest of the Avengers when Endgame comes out in April. Higher, further, faster!
Captain Marvel was released in theatres on March 8, 2019.
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