Review: ‘Captain Marvel’

Captain Marvel is finally here and with it, Carol Danvers joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain Marvel is Danvers’s origin story, chock-full of sci-fi action, buddy comedy, and a surprising amount of heart. It’s not a perfect film but it’s an absolute blast to watch. Some spoilers may follow.

Before the film even starts, you’re greeted with a gut punch to the feels. The standard Marvel Studios opening has been changed to give tribute to the late Stan Lee. The opening has been recut to show Lee’s many cameos over the years before fading to a black screen that reads, “Thank you, Stan.” This film, and all Marvel films that have already come and will be coming, is a testament to his work and legacy. Excelsior!

The film itself opens far from Earth, on a planet called Hala. Hala is home to the Kree, an alien race at war with the Skrull, a shapeshifting alien race. Carol has been living among the Kree for years with no memory of her life before and she’s part of an elite squad of Kree warriors led by Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg. Usually I’m not a fan on amnesia tropes but luckily, the film handles things a bit different. Carol carries herself with the confidence of an elite warrior, so she never really feels like a lost fish out of water, even though she is frustrated about her missing memories. She’s more the type of person that makes problems go away by punching them.

When the film moves to Earth, it’s with Carol crash landing through the roof of a Blockbuster and straight into 90’s nostalgia, complete with beepers, dial-up internet, and a Now that’s what I call the 90’s soundtrack that is simply sublime (there’s a fight scene set to No Doubt’s Just a Girl that is utterly fantastic). It’s at around this point that the film brings the Skrull-Kree war to Earth and sets up ‘Secret Invasion’. For those who are unfamiliar with the comics, ‘Secret Invasion’ is a storyline that ran across many of the Marvel comics lines that involved the Skrulls infiltrating Earth over many years and secretly replacing many of the Marvel heroes. The film subverts the storyline and adds a twist I wasn’t expecting but ultimately welcomed. I felt the twist worked well for Carol’s character and still left the opportunity to tackle ‘Secret Invasion’ later.

The CGI was great for the most part. The way the Skrulls shapeshifted looked especially impressive and the de-aging of Samuel L. Jackson looked great, but Clark Gregg’s de-aging sometimes ventured into uncanny valley territory. The worst bit of CGI occurred during the second half of the film when Carol was speaking to the Supreme Intelligence, a Kree artificial intelligence portrayed by Annette Bening. There was a point during the scene where it felt like I was watching a cutscene from a five-year-old video game.

Marvel has had a knack for casting the perfect actors that embodied their roles, like Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark or Chris Evans as Steve Rogers. Marvel continues this trend with Brie Larson. She’s perfect as Carol Danvers. Strong-willed, funny, and empathetic, Larson embodies Carol Danvers to a T. The rest of the cast is great as well. Brie Larson and Sam Jackson had amazing chemistry, playing off each other to hilarious results. I never knew I needed a Carol Danvers and Nick Fury buddy-cop comedy until now.

There’s also Lashana Lynch as Carol Danvers’s longtime friend, Maria Rambeau. The relationship between her and Danvers provide the emotional core for the film. They’re like sisters, Maria’s daughter Monica even calls Carol her aunt, and Lynch sells it perfectly, while also being a frequent scene stealer. However, my favorite member of the cast is Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, the leader of the Skrull. Mendelsohn’s turn as Talos is both threatening and at times hilarious.  

Captain Marvel is not a perfect movie. The plot can be a bit convoluted, especially in the first act where they throw info dumps at you left and right with barely any room to breathe, but overall, it’s a fun, memorable ride and a great introduction to Carol Danvers. Brie Larson is perfectly cast, and Danvers’s flight suit looks fantastic, like it was ripped straight out of the comics. Eagle-eyed viewers might be able to spot a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick who, along with artist Jamie McKelvie, created Captain Marvel’s now iconic suit. The film has its flaws, but it’s empowering and a strong start to Marvel Studios’ next phase. 8/10

(Photos: Marvel Studios)

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