Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening
I didn’t know much about Captain Marvel before I watched the film. To help others like me, I’m going to start with a little bit of history. Her alter ego, Carol Danvers, first appeared in 1968 and was a regular supporting character in the Captain Marvel series alongside a character named Mar-Vell. Carol was upgraded almost a decade later into Ms. Marvel, with her own solo series, in which she was the editor of Woman magazine. The ‘Ms.’ was a tribute to feminist icon and editor of Ms. Magazine – Gloria Steinem. Carol further came into her own in 2012 when she evolved from Ms. Marvel to Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel is the 21st film in the Marvel universe but it’s the first female-led film in the MCU. Captain Marvel is the most powerful superhero in the Marvel Universe and I can’t tell you how satisfying it is that the hero is a woman and that she’s played by Oscar-winning actor Brie Larson.
Larson has this wonderful relatable quality about her. She’s attractive but not staggeringly beautiful. She exudes strength and scruffiness in equal measure. Captain Marvel can release energy like concentrated blasts from her fists and go into space without dying but co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck make sure to put enough chinks in her armor. Carol is impulsive and vulnerable. Despite her strength and power, she constantly needs to prove herself. She’s also trying to figure out who she is. Basically, she is everywoman as superhero. And Larson seamlessly captures her ordinary extraordinariness.
The film takes longer to find its groove. It’s 1995 and we are thrust into an inter-galactic battle between the Krees and their shape-shifting enemies, the Skrulls. Vers, as Carol is called by the Krees, is a warrior. A mansplaining military commander – Jude Law as Yon-Rogg – is whipping her into shape and trying to teach her that there is nothing more dangerous to a warrior than emotion. Meanwhile back on earth, the nostalgia is in overdrive – a Blockbuster store, an internet cafe and Radio Shack make an appearance. And a young and two-eyed Nick Fury is policing the streets. A digitally de-aged Samuel L Jackson brings to the story his signature swag and humor. He falls in love with a cat-like creature named Goose. It’s a memorable relationship and to see the mighty Nick Fury, even though he’s not that mighty yet, get swoony over a pet is everything.
The scenes between Brie Larson and Lashana Lynch give Captain Marvel its emotional core. There is tenderness, support and an irreplaceable sisterhood
The narrative, co-written by Boden, Fleck and Geneva Robertson-Dworet, celebrates female friendship. Carol reunites with her best friend and co-pilot Maria, wonderfully played by Lashana Lynch. Their scenes together give Captain Marvel its emotional core. There is tenderness, support and an irreplaceable sisterhood. Annette Bening and Ben Mendelsohn also have pivotal roles. Both bring an intelligence and empathy to their characters adding soul to the story which does get twisty and a tad convoluted.
There are moments in the film, especially in the first hour that feel flat and mechanical – almost as though the makers were simply putting together a serviceable placeholder, which is what Captain Marvel is – it’s the last stand-alone film before Avengers: Endgame, which will bring the Thanos storyline to a close. But hang in there. Because much like the superhero herself, once Captain Marvel finds its footing, the film is rousing and entertaining. The end credit sequence made me whoop with delight and clap.
Captain Marvel volume 1, published in 2014, was called Higher, Further, Faster, More. I definitely want more of Captain Marvel. I’m going with three and a half stars.