‘Captain Marvel’ Kicks Ass – Review

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel
Brie Larson powering up as Captain Marvel in Captain Marvel. Photo courtesy of Marvel, screenshot by Linda Maleh.

As the first solo female-led Marvel movie, Captain Marvel has a lot of hype to live up to. Luckily, it’s a classic Marvel hit. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Brie Larson stars as Carol Danvers, a downed US air-force pilot who wakes up on an alien planet with no memory, and new powers – she’s super strong, durable, and can shoot energy blasts from her fists. She’s trained by the Kree – an alien race with a vast empire – to be a soldier, part of an elite team called Starforce. Carol – called Vers for the first half of the film – and her team have orders to root out Skrulls on one of the Kree border planets. The Skrulls are an alien race of shape-shifters who have been at war with the Kree for years. When the mission goes sideways, Carol crashes to Earth – right through the roof of a Blockbuster no less, this film does take place during the 90’s – and so our story begins.

Probably the greatest thing about the film is that in a way, it’s a buddy cop comedy featuring Larson as Carol and Samuel L. Jackson as a young SHIELD Agent Fury. Jackson, as well as Clark Gregg in a small role as Phil Coulson, are both made to look younger with digital de-aging technology. Carol meets Fury outside the Blockbuster, and after a series of events, the two team up to figure all this out. As Carol and Fury travel to different locations, both on Earth and in space, they’re dynamic breathes life into every situation they’re put into. They rib each other, pal around, and exhibit an ease in working together. Also their relationship with Goose the cat is best. Seriously, though, the cat is the best part of the film. I’m not kidding.

They’re not the only two characters that have real chemistry. The entire cast really gels. One of my favorite characters is Carol’s old friend from her days in the air-force, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch). I was worried that Maria would only show up in flashbacks, as Carol starts to remember who she is, but she’s a significant part of the film, and her friendship with Carol is touching. The two are like sisters, and Carol’s like an aunt to Maria’s daughter Monica (Akira Akbar), a spitfire who you just know is going to be big shot when she grows up.

Brie Larson as Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel.
Brie Larson as US air-force pilot Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel. Photo courtesy of Marvel, screenshot by Linda Maleh.

Then there’s Carol’s relationship with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Yon-Rogg is the leader of the Starforce team, and is a mentor to Carol, but their relationship is complicated, and he knows a lot more than he lets on. Law is charismatic as Yon-Rogg, and manages to portray a persona that is both comforting and off-putting. You know there’s something wrong about him, but you can’t put your finger on it. Annette Bening also plays an interesting character, but I’m going to keep quiet on her role in the film due to spoilers.

Larson herself is a compelling lead. She’s funny, confident, intelligent, but she struggles. She has mental hoops to jump through, and she has to figure things out, and Larson portrays that emotional journey perfectly. When we meet Carol as Kree soldier Vers, she is eager to please, and impulsive, but we also learn quickly that she’s not afraid to disobey orders if she thinks it’s the right thing to do. The latter comes in handy as Carol has to figure out the truth about her past, and has to make some tough decisions as the situation becomes all the more sticky. By the end of the film, she knows exactly who she is and what she has to do. She soars to new heights and strength, and is so much more powerful than even she knew. She has an enormous amount of heart, and it makes you want to root for her all the more. Larson is also extremely light and funny throughout the film, delivering snarky one-liners, and exchanging witty banter with the characters around her.

The action in the film is both dynamic and funny. Carol and others show off bad-ass moves as they face off against enemies, while 90’s girl rock music plays, and the action is often used to comedic effect. You wind up both amused and impressed all at once, which is an incredibly satisfying feeling. Carol and Maria even do some pretty fancy flying, since they’re both pilots. Also, if you’re a millennial like me, and a sucker for the 90’s music of your youth, you’ll love the way they use 90’s music in this film.

Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel – Marvel Comics/Artist David Lopez

A lot of people are saying the film is formulaic. And it is in a sense simplistic in that it’s  protagonist just wants to do the right thing, and has a strong moral core. There’s not a lot of deep philosophical questions in this film, like there are in, for example, Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Black Panther. However, I don’t find it nearly as formulaic as, say, Captain America: The First Avenger, where the hero is a normal guy with a heart of gold, gets superpowers, figures out how to use said superpowers, goes on a mission to save the world, and gets the girl. Carol already has a lot of her powers when we meet her, and she knows how to fight. The amnesia, which causes Carol to have to fill in the blanks of her past, and has flashbacks, makes for an interesting different kind of structure for the film. There are also quite a few twists in the film, which defy formula. The result is a film that feels familiar and comfortable in a way, but is also new, different, and exciting. The perfect combination.

Since this film takes place in the 90’s, it also answers a lot of questions about the backstory of SHIELD, the Avengers, Fury, Coulson, and other important things. More than once towards the end of the film, they reveal a piece of information that makes you go, “ohhh, so that’s how that got started.” There are also the two post-credits scenes. The end-credits scene is quick and funny, but the mid-credits scene is mind-blowing, and feels as though it was ripped straight from a scene in Avengers: Endgame. 

Well, Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, has finally joined the MCU, and it is so much better for it. The film is a blast to watch, and I can’t recommend it enough. I can’t wait to see how she’s going to shake things up in Endgame, and what Marvel has planned for her. I only hope that she is the first in a long line of Marvel female-fronted films. It’s time to show the world just how kick-ass women can be.

 

 

 

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Author: Linda Maleh

Entertainment writer, feminist, and New York City native. Personal blog is tvtotalkabout.com.

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