REVIEW: “Captain Marvel”

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As tempting as it may be, I’m not wading into the controversies that have swarmed “Captain Marvel” since well before its release. The bulk of criticisms have been silly, pointless, and some of it downright bizarre. Yet through all of the fanboy backlash and insecure outrage Marvel Studios has another big screen cash cow on its hands. “Captain Marvel” is already pushing $1 billion. Not too shabby.

Let me start by laying out my credentials. I’m a comic book guy and I’ve followed the Carol Danvers character for a while. I became a genuine fan in 2006 when her second solo series launched. Much of its 50-issue run was fantastic and it did a good job opening up the character (not to mention giving us 19 stunning covers from artist Greg Horn).

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So I’m more than open to a Carol Danvers/ Ms. Marvel/ Binary/Captain Marvel entry into the MCU. In fact I love the idea of Carol being the first female to have her own movie. And it didn’t hurt when Marvel Studios announced she would be played by Oscar-winner Brie Larson, an actress I really enjoy.

Turns out the movie is a good one. It doesn’t necessarily break the MCU mold but it does an amazing job considering the massive challenges it faced. Think about it, “Captain Marvel” is asked to show that a female-led MCU picture can be a big money-maker. It has to tell a fresh origin story of a character not exactly among Marvel’s upper tier. It must connect itself to the already immense MCU timeline. And it has to put certain pieces in place that lead up to next month’s “Avengers: Endgame”. Talk about a full plate!

There are moments where you can sense the filmmakers working hard to meet the many demands. At the same time the writer-director duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck deserve a ton of credit. They may be unlikely choices to make a blockbuster Marvel picture but they turn out to be solid fits who have a good sense of how the movie should land. Their balancing act is pretty amazing.

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At its core this is a story of a woman (Larson) in search of her true identity. Practically the entire film is a slow drip of information and revelation about who this clearly gifted person truly is. It’s a cool way of telling an origin story as the character is learning alongside of the audience (think along the lines of Jason Bourne). At the same time it doesn’t allow you the chance to get close enough to her past. Call it conventional but I felt her backstory could have used a tad more attention.

We first know her as Vers (pronounced “Veers”), a member of the alien Kree Empire’s elite Starforce. She clearly has untapped power but she’s taught to contain it by her mentor and Starforce commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). This is also where we get our first handful of memory flashes which she dismisses as nothing more than dreams. When a rescue operation goes bad, Vers is abducted by Skrulls, the Kree’s shapeshifting enemies. The Skrull Commander Talos (a really good Ben Mendelsohn) probes her mind giving us yet another batch of memories to parse.

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Vers escapes to nearby Earth where countless gags and a barrage of musical cues lets us know it’s 1995. She quickly draws the attention of the fledgling S.H.I.E.L.D. organization and agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) but his investigation is quickly sidetracked when the Skrulls attack. Vers and Fury set out on the most unusual of buddy-cop adventures to find out what the Skrulls are after. Along the way she learns more about her true self, namely that she was a former Air Force fight pilot named Carol Danvers.

The quest for identity hops from Los Angeles, to Louisiana, and even back to Earth’s orbit. Throughout we watch Vers/Carol wrestle with her otherworldly powers and her humanity. Larson is good, a bit dry but by design. Her character has been trained to suppress her emotions and she’s even told humor is a sign of weakness. As Carol slowly breaks lose from that mindset Larson is given more room to examine the pent-up emotions that not only come with the character but that ultimately unleashes her true power.

The supporting cast is just as strong. Out of the nine MCU films Jackson has appeared it, this may be his beefiest role yet. He and Larson have a good chemistry and he has no problem leading a scene or falling into the background whenever needed. Mendelsohn is excellent giving us as performance a shifty as the slippery Skrull he portrays and Lashana Lynch brings a timely warmth playing Carol’s old friend. Oh, and there is a cat named Goose who is an absolute scene-stealer. Can’t forget the cat.

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While I wouldn’t put “Captain Marvel” in the upper echelon of Marvel movies, it does really well at introducing its character and setting her up to be a major player in the MCU. It does some peculiar things with the Marvel lore and it ends in an interesting but weird place in terms of a sequel. But once again Kevin Feige and his Marvel masterminds have shown an incredible knack for expanding their already mammoth cinematic universe. “Captain Marvel” feels right at home and finally fills a sizable hole in MCU.

As for its relevance as the first female-led MCU movie, I’m not sure how much more audiences have to prove. I realize the cultural significance of “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel”. But audiences have already shown they will not only go see these films but fully embrace them as they do all MCU pictures. Sure, a smattering of internet infants will make an online scene, but clearly their impact has been non-existent. If the story is good, the characters compelling, and the respect for the source material reasonable, any potential “outrage” is all but meaningless. People will come to the theaters. So perhaps it’s time for the fingers to point solely at the studio and not the audience.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4-stars

37 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Captain Marvel”

  1. I didn’t like this as much as you. The overall message is fantastic and one I agree with and want to see more of, but I really didn’t think the story was anywhere near as strong as it needed to be. And unlike the best superhero films, never felt she was in enough peril. But you’re right about the cat, and her scenes with Samuel L Jackson. I’ve seen them interviewed on chat shows and they have this amazing warmth and chemistry.

    • I agree the peril wasn’t as global or even universal as so many of these films but I honestly appreciated that. To me it was a bit refreshing to see the stakes as more personal. Ultimately I enjoyed it as yet another fresh installment into the MCU. I gotta admit, I’m pretty amazed at just how strong this collective universe is despite how big it is. And I keep waiting for the wheels to fall off but they keep adding quality installments.

      • I get that, just wish she had more backstory. I really preferred Wonder Woman. But there will be plenty that prefer Captain Marvel, and just think how many will be inspired to be a pilot or even just inspired in general. One of the reason I love movies is to hear stories I wouldn’t otherwise hear. Another is to be inspired.

      • Oh I agree. That was my biggest gripe. And I’m with you, I too prefer Wonder Woman and by a pretty big margin. While the WW vs Ares fight wasn’t great, I adored everything leading up to it. I felt Jenkins did a great job letting us know where she came from. Captain Marvel doesn’t venture that deep. As I wrote, it may be a little conventional but I’m like you. I kinda wanted more in terms of backstory.

      • For sure. And it lacked that big moment when WW walks admires the battlefield. But hey, at least it was set in the 90s (see previous discussion) and Samuel L Jackson is a riot. I would watch that movie of them on a road trip.

      • I’d go along on that road trip. And their relationship makes that mid-credits scene all the more powerful and meaningful.

  2. Fanboys w/ sand in their vaginas were really salty about this film. All of those tears of them crying about this film is something I enjoy drinking as I’m taking another sip of those fanboy tears with glee.

    I liked this film. It wasn’t perfect. The first act was rushed but once it arrived on Earth and played into the nostalgia factor as well as the scenes involving Nick Fury. I knew immediately that this is going to be fun and boy it delivered in the fun but also did things that were important to the character development and story once we meet the Rambeaus and learn more about the Kree-Skrull conflict. The film just made me want to listen to those tunes all over again and hopefully have Avengers: Endgame have some major villains challenge the ladies of the MCU!!!! where Captain Marvel asks… “you wanna fight? Let’s fight” and “Just a Girl” plays in the background. That is good fightin’ music.

    I really hope Goose is alive and… we can have Samuel L. Jackson sing again cause he can sing!

    • I’m a comics guy and I admit to wanting some time of respect for the source material especially when it gives us great stories to tell. The internet goofs aren’t true fanboys. Their whining goofs who are impossible to take serious. Pitiful people.

      I really enjoyed it too and I’m genuinely excited to see it again. Like I said it does some weird stuff with the lore (especially with the Skrulls) but let’s see where they take it from here.

      It’s interesting that you mention the No Doubt background music. I didn’t care for that. To me it was so on the nose. Worth a laugh at first but then a little silly. And it was during the first part of her big ‘leash off’ fight. I would have went for something more dramatic. But not that big of a deal.

      As for Goose being alive, you must not have stayed for the very last end credits scene. 😉

  3. I understand the film criticisms (though, the butt-hurt meninist backlash can fuck right off). The film is mysteriously dim– enough to make one sleepy; I, too, wanted to see Carol’s backstory flushed out more, and I didn’t quite understand why it needed to be set in the 90s. But the more I watch Captain Marvel, the less these things bother me. The dimness, I realized on a 2nd viewing, makes her photon energy stand out PHENOMENALLY; I enjoyed the clipped flashbacks because her step-by-step upbringing isn’t nearly as important as knowing that she falls and gets back up again; and, as a 90s baby, I can’t help but adore the references to the time period, however throwaway. I would never have pegged “Just a Girl” as a pivotal climax number, and it rules. Among its accomplishments, Captain Marvel introduced current generations to vintage No Doubt. Amazing.

    • Ha Ha. My wife and I had a fun debate over the No Doubt song. She liked it while I felt it was ridiculously on the nose. To me it made a meaningful fight into more of a goofy joke. Definitely not a deal breaker though.

      Being set in the 90s was a weird one and you could probably pick apart the timeline if you tried really hard. Personally I don’t care to. I’m fine with the setting. And I agree we get the gist of her backstory but I do think Danvers is a rich enough character to warrant a touch more attention without it being a step-by-step history. But as you said, we do get the things that shaped and challenged her along the way.

      Great thoughts!

  4. I can tell you enjoyed writing this review, Keith, and I appreciate it. I doubt I will go watch it — I’ve long been tired of the genre, but I’m the minority. Obviously, a billion dollar take in illustrates that. Thanks for the thought-provoking review.

    • Thanks so much Cindy. I did indeed enjoy writing it. I completely respect those who are burnt out on superhero films. I understand that. I’m still onboard and can definitely recommend this one. I will say if you’re tired of the genre this one doesn’t do anything especially fresh to change your mind.

  5. I thought that the movie was good as well. It wasn’t super fantastic like some of the other more recent ones from Marvel, but it was definitely another solid feature film.

  6. You’re a stronger person then I am, my review might as well have started with “lol fuck you incels!” Either way, I enjoyed this. it’s not perfect by any means but I’m looking forward to her in Endgame. I’m kind of expecting/hoping that it’s a bit like Doctor Strange. He was fine in his solo movie but he really came to life bouncing off the other Avengers. I hope Carol will too.

    • I can completely see her having a Doctor Strange-like vibrancy when paired with the other Avengers. But I’m like you, I did enjoy this one and I’d be up for a second Carol Danvers movie.

  7. Yes, the cat! I really hope Goose is in Endgame, I need Thor to interact with him, he would love him 🙂 it was so much fun to see Fury having lots to do, he usually only shows up in few scenes

    • Fury was a lot of fun. This was definitely his meatiest role and Jackson was great. He and Brie have some killer chemistry. Anxious to see how they do in “Unicorn Store”.

    • I did enjoy it, maybe a bit more than I expected to. The biggest treat was Larson and Jackson’s buddy cop relationship. It worked really well.

      • I know several people with similar experiences. They weren’t Marvel fans but since have been pulled into the MCU thanks to some really good movies. And the Cap movies are my very favorites. Especially Winter Soldier.

  8. I haven’t watched this (and I don’t think I intend to), but compared to your review, nearly everyone I know that watched it said it was 💩💩💩 so 🤷🏽‍♂️😬

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