The Marvelous Mrs. Danvers
Captain Marvel is directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck and stars Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, and Jude Law. It is the twenty-first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
If the internet trolls and overly sensitive fanboys were so confident that Captain Marvel would be the MCU's first critical and commercial flop, they've got another thing coming. With plenty of positive reviews and a strong debut at the box office, Captain Marvel is the most recent proof that the MCU's superhero formula is still alive and strong, and that baseless boycotting is just that: baseless boycotting. It's next to near impossible now to talk about Captain Marvel without bringing up the hurricane of angry Youtube and social media remarks that the movie's trailers kicked up weeks before the film's theatrical release. If you were one of the lucky ones who completely avoided reading anything of what the hateful world had to say about Brie Larson and the newest film in the MCU, allow me to give you the short version of it:
1.) Brie Larson recently advocated for more diversity in the world of film criticism. People (overwhelmingly white male) took this as a personal insult and proceeded to call Brie Larson racist and sexist.
2.) Others claimed Brie Larson looked wooden and completely bored in the trailers.
3.) Despite having no early access to the movie, people claimed that the movie was terrible and marked the end of the MCU.
Here's the thing: Marvel has been giving all their famous comic book superheroes modern day upgrades, while also putting them all together in one collective universe, and because Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel is one of those said comic book heroes, a female-led MCU film was inevitable. Would all this controversy ever happen if Captain Marvel was one of the first MCU films to be released? We'll never know, but the lesson learned is that internet trolling is proving quite powerless in regards to diminishing a blockbuster film's box office returns and critical reception.
So anyway, why don't I now start talking about Captain Marvel itself? To be honest, I was mightily pleased with this film and found it to be one of Marvel's best superhero origin films. Being sandwiched in between the two titanic-sized Avengers films, Captain Marvel faced the challenge of being pure build-up to Avengers: Endgame, while at the same time being responsible for bringing the MCU back into people's minds after last summer's Ant-Man and the Wasp. The movie succeeds on both fronts, especially when it comes to trying to keep Endgame out of people's mind, save for a mid-credits scene that ties directly into the end of Infinity War. Captain Marvel has no interest in distracting us with world-building, because its agenda is purely in being a funny and entertaining introduction to the character of Captain Marvel, and thereby extending the world of the MCU to even greater lengths.
Set during the mid 1990's, Captain Marvel opens by introducing us to an ongoing, intergalactic war between two alien races: the Kree and the Skrulls. The Skrulls are shapeshifters who have been fighting the Kree for centuries. During a rescue mission, Kree Starforce member Vers (Larson) is captured by Skrull commander Talos (Mendelsohn) and has her memories probed, as she apparently knows something that the Skrulls are after. Vers escapes, but accidentally pilots her escape pod towards Earth, causing her to crash in the middle of Los Angeles. Vers meets S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Jackson), who helps her discover that she had a life on Earth: she was a U.S. Air Force pilot named Carol Danvers who was presumed dead following a plane crash six years earlier. Danvers works with Fury to uncover more of her past, while Skrulls try to to pursue her, disguised as Earthy people.
- I want to be a bit light on specific plot details, because I think it's better to get them from seeing the movie as opposed to reading them here in this review. Captain Marvel's greatest strength is how much attention it puts on its title character, specifically how much it cares for the personal development of Danvers. This is not an origin story that spends time going through Danvers acquiring her powers, learning how to use them, and then defeating a power-hungry baddie in order to save Earth (or any other world) from being swallowed up in a giant, black vortex. Minor spoiler: Captain Marvel has villainous characters, but it doesn't have one in the same vein as someone like Loki or Killmonger. I think Captain Marvel not having a grandiose villain character is an excellent screenwriting decision, because this leaves more room to focus on Danvers' previous life on Earth, as well as mold the story to ask just, "Who is Carol Danvers?" and not, "Who is Carol Danvers, and how is she going to stop this bad guy from destroying everything?" Captain Marvel begins with Danvers already being a member of the Kree, and after she escapes from the Skrulls, the rest of the movie is her bridging the gap between her past life on Earth and her life as a Kree. The great thing is watching Danvers collect information and narrow this gap, causing her to struggle with who she really is and what kind of life she thinks she should have.
- I have a feeling that Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson could star together in a hit buddy cop comedy, because the two work incredibly well together. The one word I kept coming back to to describe Larson's Carol Danvers is sassy: she frequently makes light of questions that others ask her, and she loves taking jabs at those who either annoy her or challenge her on something she says. Jackson, meanwhile, never fails to get a laugh with his always reliable Samuel L. Jackson-style charm, knowing how to play it just enough without ever stumbling into irritating comic relief sidekick territory. The two exchange dialogue together with prominent vigor, preventing the movie from slowing down during its middle part, when there's not a whole lot of visual spectacle happening on screen.
- The one thing I would say I found disappointing in Captain Marvel is that the screenplay doesn't do quite enough in regards to background on the war between the Kree and the Skrulls, as well as the importance of Mar-Vell/Dr. Wendy Lawson, played by Annette Bening. The extent of what we learn about the war between the Kree and the Skrulls is that the two sides have been fighting for centuries, with little given later towards why the two are fighting and what the effects of the non-stop fighting are. I'm not asking for an elongated sermon on the history of the Kree and the Skrulls. I only wanted to know more about these two sides and be given more specific details on how they came to start opposing one another. As for Mar-Vell/Dr. Wendy Lawson, she is crucial to Carol Danvers becoming part of the Kree, although there's not a whole lot in regards to Mar-Vell's specific motivations. Again, this is a character that I would have loved to get at least a few more details on. I think Captain Marvel would have benefited greatly from an extra five to ten minutes dedicated solely to the background on the Kree, Skrulls, and Mar-Vell. As much as I love how focused the movie is on the character of Carol Danvers, it shouldn't mean that no other character gets any attention.
I went into Captain Marvel with high hopes that it would transcend all the skepticism surrounding it: the claims that Brie Larson looked bored, and that the movie looked generic and unoriginal. I saw none of those things in the movie. I found myself engaged and highly entertained with Captain Marvel from start to finish. I was charmed by the delightful sass that Larson brought to her role. I was amused by Samuel L. Jackson as a younger Nick Fury (terrific de-aging effects, by the way). I was highly impressed with the way that Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck maintain a sharp focus on the character of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel while not going through all the same beats as a superhero origin film. I also saw next to nothing that would suggest social justice warrior propaganda or shove-it-down-your-throat feminism. All this is to say that I highly approved of Captain Marvel and found it to be one of the best hero origin stories in all the MCU. The trolling mess will, sadly, now be always attached to this film, but I very much look forward to seeing what else the MCU decides to do with this character, which of course includes what Captain Marvel will do in Avengers: Endgame. Things are definitely changing in the MCU, I can tell you that.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: