As the Marvel Cinematic Universe tees up its biggest outing yet in next month’s Avengers: Endgame, a film which could very well represent both an epic ending as well as the dawn of a new era for Marvel Studios’ interconnected slate of superhero escapades, it’s only fitting that one more adventure would exist up the sleeves of Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige and crew to tide us over before Endgame’s bow. Though I admit to knowing absolutely nothing about Carol Danvers, the titular Captain Marvel of her newly released solo outing, and can safely say that despite every piece of marketing over the past year having reeked of redundancy in terms of posters and trailers, I’m far too invested in the MCU to skip over any of its entries up to this point.
Captain Marvel tells the story of Ms. Danvers, an Air Force pilot who, following a mysterious accent and subsequent memory wipe, hooks up with an intergalactic team of Green Lantern-esque characters known as the Kree, last seen onscreen in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Upon her inevitable return to Earth six years later, Danvers quickly finds herself in the middle of a war between two alien races, the seemingly benevolent Kree & the shapeshifting Skrulls, as she struggles to recall her past life-you know, semi-typical origin story material, oddly sharing a premise not too far removed from last month’s Alita: Battle Angel.
That said, Captain Marvel is a wonderful 21st entry into the MCU, a film rich with every nail Marvel Studios knows how to slam right on the head, even in spite of a handful of flaws that could also be representative of the superhero film juggernaut. As Danvers, Brie Larson is simply terrific, easily presenting her transition onscreen from an emotionless Kree soldier to the human she truly is. Whether she’s engaged in any number of fights or utilizing her various superpowers, even when placed alongside the many scenes that showcase her dynamic with Nick Fury or learning the truth of where she came from, Larson completely owns the part. Her journey throughout the film is one that had me fully engaged, and completely excited about what she’ll bring to Endgame.
Speaking of, Samuel L. Jackson’s umpteenth appearance as Nick Fury, which also finds the Marvel veteran having undergone the digital de-aging seen in a number of MCU outings prior, is another example of how much Jackson was born to play the part, with the aforementioned rapport between Fury and Danvers one of Captain Marvel’s true highlights. Every scene between the two couldn’t be more reminiscent of classic cinematic partnerships, while fitting into the continuous teambuilding aspect of the MCU flawlessly. Ben Mendelsohn, meanwhile, finally moves on from the villainy issues that have plagued him in recent efforts such as Ready Player One and Robin Hood with Talos, a Skrull that finds the veteran actor hidden beneath an awkward mask that was more than likely situated right next to Idris Elba’s Star Trek Beyond getup in the makeup room. Luckily, Mendelsohn is still able to make the most of his character in spite of this, and even allows him to use both his natural Australian accent as well as the American voice he’s employed before, though both in an attempt to hide his accent and not at all assisted by the heavy makeup, Mendelsohn sounds oddly like he’s chewing something, which is absolutely as strange as it sounds. Additionally, if the hallmark of a good bad guy was their ability to cast a menacing look, Mendelsohn sadly lacks this trait, though he more than makes up for this in terms of swagger, personality and even a healthy dose of humor that couldn’t have been more unexpected. Moreover, Jude Law equally oozes charisma as Yon-Rogg, Danvers’ Kree mentor, and is able to successfully exhibit what Mendelsohn couldn’t achieve in terms of looking rather sinister when it counts.
Unfortunately, Annette Bening seems to struggle playing several roles that I’m reluctant to delve into much further-while I’ll never complain about the great Bening gracing a Marvel film, and even though certain scenes between her and Larson do establish a good relationship between the two, it just seems like the Hollywood legend couldn’t quite connect with the dialogue more often than not. Lee Pace’s return from Guardians as Ronan the Accuser is once again just as wooden as it was the first time around, though it’s luckily nothing more than a glorified cameo by the time the credits roll. Djimon Hounsou’s similar return as Korath the Pursuer fares slightly better, while Clark Gregg’s return to the theatrical MCU at Agent Coulson is also handled extremely well, even if it’s also ultimately a minor part and the de-aging he underwent as well isn’t quite as flawless as that seen on Jackson. And yes, Goose the cat is an entertaining detour throughout Captain Marvel, though not quite the scene stealer everyone seems to say he is.
Furthermore, the film suffers from problematic issues when it comes to the backstory-the opening scenes, meant to establish Danvers’ situation and show off the Kree homeworld of Hala, are loaded with expository dialogue, sci-fi gibberish and a real sense that this may not be too far removed from Green Lantern once again-tone down the effects and we’d be likely to find ourselves on Oa once again. Captain Marvel’s 1995 setting is also hammered home more often than one might like, especially when it comes to the repeated ‘90s-era tunes that comprise the soundtrack which, while it never quite reaches a Suicide Squad-level of excessive needle drops, does come close at times. From the moment Danvers arrives on Earth, crash landing in a Blockbuster video, the next few minutes see the character visit a nearby Radio Shack, jury-rig a Game Boy as an intergalactic communicator and stand in from of a wall loaded with posters of, for example, ‘90s rock standards Bush, all of which set the tone for what’s to follow. Luckily, some of the songs fit the action better than others, and a few of the era-specific references, such as a particularly chuckleworthy Windows 95 loading screen moment, completely stick the landing and fortunately become less plentiful as time goes by.
Where Captain Marvel has it where it counts is the pace-befitting of the time period in which its set, the film flies in the same vein as every great action film from the ‘90s, helped by some excellent effects, real emotion and dialogue that quickly finds its footing following the clunky opening. Pinar Toprak has also produced a fine score and theme for the title character, even if it does tend to become buried in the mix more often than not. Sure, some of the MCU worldbuilding may not always succeed in the execution, this being something of a prequel to the films we know and love, but such details are small and, unlike the forehead-slapper of how Han Solo got his name, this time around said moments are worth of a smile, at the very least.
Captain Marvel may be lacking in some areas, but the principal cast, overall flow, visual magic and much of the screenplay make this an enjoyable ride. Not only does it contain two beautifully touching Stan Lee tributes following the Marvel mastermind’s passing last fall, it’s the perfect film to unwind with on a Saturday afternoon, one that took me back to the halcyon days of my own teenage years, and one of the better offerings of the MCU as a whole. Though the blockbuster franchise may be just one film away from both a presumed end as well as a brand new beginning, if Captain Marvel is any indicator of what’s to follow, then the future can’t help but look nothing short of marvelous.
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson, Mckenna Grace, Jude Law, Gemma Chan, Ben Mendelsohn, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Kazinsky, Lashana Lynch, Colin Ford, Kenneth Mitchell, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, Algenis Perez Soto, Rune Temte, Ana Ayora, and Chuku Modu. Check out the synopsis below:
“The story follows Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races. Set in the 1990s, “Captain Marvel” is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
Captain Marvel will hit theaters on March 8th.