Director(s): Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Lashana Lynch, Clark Gregg, Gemma Chan
Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.
With her appearance teased at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, the time has come to properly acquaint ourselves with arguably the universe’s most powerful superhero in the form of Captain Marvel. Despite a small corner of the internet inexplicably doing everything in their power to destroy this movie before it reached cinemas, it is now finally here and it is time to let the film speak for itself.
A lot of people have criticised the film’s opening act, and whilst I would argue this is the weaker part of the film, I think it did a solid job of establishing this universe and immediately throwing us into the intergalactic war that forms an important part of not just this story, but later Marvel stories. As an audience, we are thrown into this strange world, and like Captain Marvel herself (at this point known as “Vers”), we too have to piece together her origin story and past. To me, this approach offered a slightly different and refreshing take on the origin story; we meet her as the “warrior hero”, and over the course of the film we uncover more about how she came to be that person.
The film really finds it’s feet the moment that Brie Larson’s Captain crash-lands onto the roof of a Blockbuster video store, and then we’re in familiar Marvel territory once again. There are shades of Thor (2011) in the “fish out of water” sense, and once Samuel L. Jackson’s Agent Fury is on the scene, then the film goes from strength to strength. The banter and camaraderie between Carol and Fury feels natural and their dynamic instantly works on screen. The 90s setting of this film feels wonderfully nostalgic (God I feel old referring to the 90s as nostalgic!), with some knowing laughs to be had at the slow internet speeds and brick mobile phones, and an excellent soundtrack in the background as well.
Brie Larson is exceptionally cast as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and she plays this duality expertly. She is initially a little cold (albeit still incredibly bad-ass), but this feels deliberate, and as she learns more about herself, so do we as the audience find her more and more relatable. She carries this film on her shoulders throughout, being as believable in the quieter emotional moments as she is in the action scenes. Lashana Lynch as Carol’s right-hand woman Maria Rambeau is also exceptional, and it is through her and their relationship that we truly get to the heart of Carol and what her sacrifices meant for those left behind. Despite being behind a wall of make-up, Ben Mendelsohn is fantastic, truly coming into his own later into the film in a way that would be a shame to spoil.
The scene stealer in this film however comes in perhaps the most unexpected of forms. Yes, Goose the Cat is undoubtedly one of the best parts of this film, providing most of the film’s biggest laughs and being the catalyst (or should that be “cat”-alyst) for some of Samuel L. Jackson’s best lines. At this point, Marvel could give me a Goose the Cat spin-off film and I would be the first person in line to see it.
Whilst the common argument is that “Wonder Woman has already done this”, it cannot be ignored that this film still marks a huge achievement and it is absolutely never a bad thing to see a female superhero front and centre of her own film. It has taken Marvel a long time to get here, but now on the cusp of arguably the biggest event in superhero movies so far, the timing feels absolutely perfect. The hope is that this paves the way for not just more female superhero movies, but more female-fronted movies, written by and directed by women with stories and characters that are celebratory and empowering. There is nothing about this film that is offensive towards men, nor does Brie Larson or Captain Marvel herself “hate men” or spread a message that is dangerous or inflammatory. This is a film which is not perfect, but it is one which perfectly spreads a message that anyone can be a hero, and not just one with incredible superpowers. Anyone can be a pilot or a scientist or whatever the hell they want to be. Determination to just get up and keep going is a superpower all in itself and that should be the real takeaway from this film.
I’ll close this review just by saying that I overheard a young girl in the bathroom after watching this film say “I liked that the hero was a girl this time” – and not do I wholeheartedly agree, but that she felt that is the thing that truly matters.