“Higher, further, faster baby.”
Captain Marvel is finally here! Perhaps the most politically-charged film since, well last year’s Black Panther. Ok, so maybe that whole thing has been blown out of proportion. But when you have an extremely vocal group of incels yelling about how Marvel has gone woke, and as a consequence will now be going broke, it can be difficult to remember that there’s a story and characters somewhere in all this debate and vitrol. So let’s focus on what matters, is Captain Marvel a good film? Yes, a great one.
Based heavily on Kelly Sue Deconnick’s run on the comic, the film sees Brie Larson as the eponymous Kree warrior turned-superhero. When the film begins, she is going by the name ‘Vers’ and she is plagued by visions of a mysterious life she doesn’t remember and an older woman (Annette Benning) being killed in front of her. Luckily, dashing Kree commander and mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) is around to keep her on her feet, teaching her to hone her powers and taking her on secret Starforce missions to defeat terrorist cells around the galaxy. The terrorists in question are the Skrulls, a classic comicbook race of shapeshifters. During one of these missions, things quickly go wrong and she finds herself on Earth, trying to stop the Skrulls and perhaps sort out her missing memories along the way.
The space stuff is all very exciting, and all very well done too, but it’s the Earth-set section of the film that’s a real treat. It’s 1995 when she crashes, which means the entire film has this cool retro-feel to it. But instead of the 80s, which is the go-to right now, it’s the 90’s! Which means it’s grunge, references to Arnold Schwarzenegger, and TLC. And this prequel-feel gives the entire film more of a standalone quality than perhaps any other Marvel film (except maybe The First Avenger). Everything else takes place post-2008, this exists in it’s very 90s world all alone. Though, admittedly, there are small appearances from Djimon Hounsou’s Korath and Lee Pace’s Ronan. But these serve to just make the wider universe feel a little more connected, like a real comic book universe.
On Earth, she meets a young Nick Fury. Thanks to some truly magical de-aging work, you will truly believe that this is Die Hard: With a Vengeance-era Samuel L. Jackson and not 70-year-old Samuel L. Jackson. Though perhaps the budget for this was quite large, which would explain why Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson looks a bit ropey at times. Throughout the film there’s a nice buddy-cop vibe between the two, and Jackson plays this younger Fury really well. He’s not serious all the time, in fact he’s quite fun, fussing Goose the cat whenever he can. It’s also good to see where his character began, as he very quickly goes from routine SHIELD work, to riding into space.
The acting in general is top-notch. Brie Larson brings that Oscar-winning talent to the forefront as the extremely cool Captain Marvel. She goes through a lot of different emotions and versions of the character in this film, as she unravels more of the mystery in her head, and she plays them all believably. By the end she is a one-person, overpowered, ass-kicking machine. As she blasts through the middle of a spaceship and laughs as she does it, it’s really difficult to not smile along. Of course, it’s not the powers that make her so great. She was great before she had them, and overcomes a hell of a lot of adversity along the way – but that’s kinda the point of the film. It’s also refreshing that she has no love interest. It sounds like not a big deal, but doing away with that subplot gives the film more room to focus on her other relationships. Namely the burgeoning one with Fury, and the one from her old life with old friend Maria (Lashana Lynch). These scenes are the most effective in the movie.
Also amazing, is Ben Mendelsohn. He plays two roles here, the Skrull leader Talos and the human he disguises himself as. Now anyone who knows Mendelsohn’s filmography knows he can play the hammy villain in his sleep (see Ready Player One and Rogue One) but here he offers way more depth than I expected. I don’t want to spoil the twist, but there is way more to Talos than you may first realise. And what an excellent idea to have his human voice be an American accent, and a Skrull voice be his own Australian one. It instantly adds warmth to the character and I’ll be honest, I didn’t think an Australian Skrull would look right but it really works.
A couple of things don’t work. Namely the villains. (Spoiler Warning). Once Vers finds out her real name is Carol Danvers, and realises that the Skrulls are refugees and the Kree are the real villains, things really get moving. It’s such a fantastic twist, and the idea of Captain Marvel helping a group of refugees escape persecution is so relevant and excellent that it deserves applause. But nothing is really done to give the Kree motivation after this. It’s clear that they hate the Skrulls, but not really explained why. Their war has been raging for years and that’s perhaps where the trouble lies. We’re seeing this after years upon years of warfare between these enemies, but we don’t really get a decent explanation for it. Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg and Annette Bening’s Supreme Intelligence are well-acted, but I wish we had a bit more depth. Another small complaint, a few people might be a little disappointed when they find out how Fury lost the eye…
Captain Marvel soars above the haters with an empowering story and timely themes. And along the way it makes for a well acted, action-packed origin story, with a fun buddy-cop sensibility. It follows a few familiar beats from other films, but it’s twisty enough that it doesn’t feel like a carbon copy. The performances are fantastic and there are enough quieter character-driven moments to add some depth to these characters and balance out the ass-kicking. Brie Larson makes for an excellent space-faring hero, and I can’t wait to see her in action in Endgame.
Reviewed by Jack