As it overcomes some early issues, the crowd-pleasing CAPTAIN MARVEL becomes the unstoppable force it was always meant to be.
By Matt Cummings
Marvel films are something like a buffet: you fill your plate but are always looking to the next table of culinary delights. Luckily each film has proved worth the wait, but the ire against CAPTAIN MARVEL has become a different beast altogether. Whether any of that is justified or not doesn’t escape the fact that CAPTAIN MARVEL is a crowd-pleasing origin story which suffers a bit in its first act but becomes an unstoppable cosmic force.
The Kree-Skrull war has raged for hundreds of years, each society planting their flag on the next system and hoping to destroy the other. For the Kree, they operate under a central mind called The Supreme Intelligence, while the Skrulls mask their identity and infiltrate through shape-shifting. For the dutiful but confused Kree soldier Vers (Brie Larson), she’s also fighting a war within herself. She suffers from a recurring dream and memory loss of her childhood. While on a mission, she and her boss Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) come under fire and Vers is captured. She awakes above the world C-53 – also known as Earth – and mounts a daring escape. Crash-landing around 1995, she runs into SHIELD bot Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who immediately realizes that Vers is not your typical cos player: among other things, she can project enormous energy bolts through her hands and is a supreme fighter. As Vers begins to realize that she’s been on Earth before, she and Fury run into her Skrull captives led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). Aided by her emerging memories and Fury’s curiosity, Vers comes face to face with her past and must decide if her future lies with the Kree, Talos, or the planet for which so much of her youth is apparently tied.
There are many ways to look at MARVEL’s results: it shrinks in every way under the brilliance of WONDER WOMAN. It’s also not as good as any of the origin stories except for THE INCREDIBLE HULK. But the latter is the case because the studio has done such a great job of expanding its universe that merely good origin stories aren’t good enough. MARVEL succeeds for a lot of reasons: Brie Larson is effective as Vers, caught between her duty to the Kree and the growing feeling that she might be serving the wrong master. Jackson is always great as Fury, but here he’s in the youth of his career, ready to leave SHIELD until Vers drops in his lap. Even the baddie Talos is one of the best Marvel villains due to his complex background. The directing team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck bring their independent film sensibilities to ingratiate MARVEL with a sense of humanity, giving Law time to chew through scenes while letting the understated Larson tell Captain Marvel’s story in much the same way. When it’s time to kick butt, Larson is terrific; as her powers grow, Larson is happy to show of her hero pose whenever the cameras wish it.
Moviegoers shouldn’t complain about the arrival of the first female-led Marvel movie, but they will be quick (and correct) to point out the various storytelling issues that arise.
Some of the joke telling – including the use of the search engine Alta Vista, the 90’s nostalgia and emphasizing the lack of speed with Earth’s computers – don’t quite hit. That could be an execution issue or a problem with the script which Boden and Fleck penned. There’s also a rather serious timeline issue with a well-known MCU object that is tough to decipher. Comic fans might also question some of the ret-conning here about the Kree and Skrull. It’s not as glorious as BLACK PANTHER, as humorous as GUARDIANS, as patriotic as FIRST AVENGER, or as mind-bendingly cool as DOCTOR STRANGE; but it still works as a competent buddy-cop film with an interesting twist. Add a cute calico cat that’s not what it seems, and you have a film that would be an instant success had another studio made it. And then there’s the two end credit scenes, the first of which feels more relevant and could be one of the best ever made, along with a poignant opening memorializing creator Stan Lee. More important, in the comics Captain Marvel is the most powerful Earth-based defender, a fact which our creative team mostly delivers on throughout the 2+ hour flick. She will figure heavily as we approach Phase 4, and it’s great to see the MCU realize the tremendous asset which she presents.
There’s been much (too much) made by social media regarding CAPTAIN MARVEL, most of it unkind and few of it actually towards the film’s possible merits. While none of the previous is justified, applicable, or even right isn’t the point, a discussion of the latter is much more interesting. Marvel has stepped into the cosmic world with a well-made and entertaining movie. Its stars enjoy great chemistry, the fight sequences are solid, and its story does enough to grab and keep the audience’s attention. The real question should be in how it compares to WONDER WOMAN, rather than the garbage pouring out against the film and its lead. It’s not without its faults, but its end credits scene certainly isn’t one of them, nor is the sense that we’re on the precipice of something really big. CAPTAIN MARVEL is here to usher in the next great chapter in the MCU and audiences (particularly those critical of its star) had better get out of the way, lest Carol Danvers turn her cosmic powers against you.
CAPTAIN MARVEL is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language and has runtime of 124 minutes.