Film Review: ‘Captain Marvel’

The MCU’s newest hero takes flight…

Captain Marvel

Brie Larson heads up the cast of Marvel’s latest blockbuster, ‘Captain Marvel’ (c. Marvel Studios).

Spoiler-free review

Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Lashana Lynch, Clark Gregg

Directed by: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck / written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet (story by Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve, Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet / 124 minutes

What’s it about?

Granted incredible powers but left amnesiac when a test-flight of an experimental aircraft goes awry, Airforce pilot Carol Danvers is taken to the homeworld of the alien Kree where she joins them in their war against the Skrulls, which ultimately endangers Earth…

In review

With anticipation for Avengers: Endgame building and after all the marketing fanfare, Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel arrives – but does it fly ‘higher, further, faster’? Alas, although Captain Marvel is mostly an entertaining ride it isn’t extraordinary, lacking the cultural impact of DC’s superior Wonder Woman and Marvel’s very own awards darling, Black Panther and despite a robust and appropriately heroic turn from lead star Brie Larson (Kong: Skull Island), it doesn’t do quite enough to stand out from the crowd or add anything fresh to the genre.

In Captain Marvel we’re introduced to Carol Danvers, a human gifted with powerful abilities, living as a disciplined, emotionally bereft soldier of the Kree in their war against the shapeshifting Skrulls. With no memory of her former life on Earth or the incident in which she gained her powers – ‘Vers’ is committed to the cause of the Kree but when a mission to rescue an undercover operative goes wrong, events lead Danvers back to her home where she seeks to uncover the mysteries of her past and save humanity from a Skrull invasion.

Taking into account that Captain Marvel doesn’t quite soar as much as it could (and maybe should) have, there’s still a fair amount to enjoy – as mentioned, Brie Larson is pretty much perfect casting, tackling the role of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (albeit not actually referred to as the latter onscreen) with a solid and assured portrayal of the Marvel Comics hero that deftly weaves in subtle strokes of comedy and an otherworldliness that adds a dash of the alien to the otherwise human Danvers. Larson plays it in more of an understated than charismatic manner, but that’s the beauty of it.

Samuel L. Jackson’s return as Nicholas Joseph Fury (or just plain “Fury”) is reliable, as we’ve come to expect, and the digital de-ageing effects employed for himself and Clark Gregg (also returning as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson) are astonishing. There’s good chemistry between Larson and Jackson making the Danvers/Fury ‘team-up’ all-the-more enjoyable, adding a slight Lethal Weapon-esque buddy component to the narrative. The always brilliant Jude Law provides a presence as Kree warrior (and Danvers’ mentor) Yon-Rogg and Rogue One’s Ben Mendelsohn brings the right mix of playful villainy to the game as Skrull general Talos, an antagonist with realistic motivations. Star-credentials are broadened further by the inclusion of Annette Bening in a pivotal role and the film’s emotional core is strengthened as Larson’s Danvers reunites with her old friend, Maria Rambeau (played by Lashana Lynch).

There’s a certain sense of empowerment that’s laudable and important but doesn’t feel as potent as it did in Wonder Woman, perhaps it’s down to the fact that DC were first out of the gate with their female lead superhero hit, or it may just be something else but it’s still a positive element of Captain Marvel.

Competently directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck with a screenplay by a muddle of writers that hits all the requisite beats – action, humour (that’s not forced and actually genuinely funny in the right places), heart – Captain Marvel gets the job done, with some pleasing visuals (particularly when it comes to the Skrull shapeshifting transformations) and set-pieces, bolstered by those key cast performances together with its nifty and nostalgic mid-1990s setting, accentuated by the sight of the VHS-stacked shelves of Blockbuster Video and iconic tunes from the likes of Nirvana, Elastica and No Doubt. It also has to be noted that how Captain Marvel pays tribute to Stan Lee is touching and simply wonderful.

In the end Captain Marvel is just another superhero blockbuster, a decent if unspectacular one that’s a little formulaic but it establishes a new hero in the MCU who has great potential as we approach the end of one era and prepare for the dawn of the next.

The bottom line: an entertaining superhero blockbuster, Captain Marvel isn’t a revelation but thanks to its stars has a certain heroic appeal.

Captain Marvel is in cinemas now.

Images used herein remain the property of the copyright owner(s) and are used for illustrative purposes only.

7 thoughts on “Film Review: ‘Captain Marvel’

  1. Great review! I really liked Captain Marvel, it was a fun, exciting adventure, but I agree it doesn’t quite soar as high as expected. Overall though, I think they’ve done a good job of brining this character into the MCU, and it did something a little different with the usual superhero origin story.

  2. This review captures how I felt about the movie. Nothing groundbreaking but an enjoyable viewing experience and a competent introduction to the character.

    Both Jackson and Mendelsohn are the true stars in the film who act rings around Larson who was a bit too subdued for my liking. Perhaps if her performance would have had more pop the film would have stood out more.

    Not every MCU film can hit a homerun as we saw with Iron Man 2 and other lesser efforts. But we’ve come to expect so much from the MCU that when a film doesn’t soar it can be disappointing and a reminder that we need to go into the films with an open mind.

    • Indeed, I think there can too often be a sense of blind loyalty from audiences to the overall Marvel brand and no doubt Captain Marvel will perform very well even if most don’t end up ranking it this with the best of the MCU outings.

  3. Great review, Chris. I was really curious to find out what you thought of this one. I went in with very low expectations and I’m glad I did because it was an underwhelming and unimpressive addition to the MCU. Not only was it unoriginal compared to the previous installments and that this origin story didn’t bring anything new to the table, but it also had a political agenda that was roughly and unprofessionally delivered. While I have heard of Brie Larson’s mistake of attaching the feminist agenda to this movie before it premiered, it also presents it with no grace. You couldn’t have been more direct and literal about it. Those flashback scenes where all her younger versions get up from defeat felt like a commercial, for example! I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. From the beginning of the movie, it didn’t try to be subtle about it, unlike how Wonder Woman delivered her message of empowerment for women.

    And then you have all the endings for all the villains in this movie… How mediocre, predictable and lame can they get? That staredown on Ronin when she could’ve finished him off just like she did the rest of his ships… The fireblast on her mentor that could’ve been predicted from another universe (on top of how sad, pitiful and awkward it was to see him try to get under her skin as he “wimps” out)… And the showdown with the AI boss of Kree that didn’t even get a proper conclusion…

    I just think there was so much this movie wanted to do that wasn’t meant to give us a solid, complex and powerful story. Then again, I’ll admit that it was minimally fun and it is not the worse thing out there, but it’s close to what Green Lantern seemed like, but “newer”, even if it might be a tad bit of an exaggeration. I also hope they don’t turn her into the “savior” for Endgame… That would be a huge change to the original story and one that might create quite the chaos among fans hahaha

    • I totally get what you mean Lashaan, some very valid points you make. There certainly was a sense of forcing the empowerment point and it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. Wonder Woman did it far more successfully in that it was a good movie to begin with and the other themes were woven in naturally. In the end it wasn’t one of the MCU’s best outings and could have been so much more.

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