Review: Captain Marvel is an inspiring new kind of superhero
While films like The Avengers featured Black Widow and Scarlet Witch and 2018’s Black Panther introduced the bad-ass women of Wakanda, Captain Marvel is the first female-led superhero film from Marvel Studios. Out of the 20 films previously released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not a single one of them has ever featured a female superhero in the lead role but that all changes now. Just like Black Panther, Captain Marvel is a gamechanger as it introduces a whole new kind of superhero.
Captain Marvel tells the story of Vers (Brie Larson), a Kree Starforce member who begins to discover that her origins aren’t exactly what she has been led to believe. After crash landing on planet Earth, Vers teams up with S.H.I.E.L.D agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to protect the universe from Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), the leader of the Skrulls. While embarking on their mission, Vers begins to uncover the truth of who she is; a US Air-Force pilot whose past is part of an elaborate cover-up.
There is a lot to admire about Captain Marvel, and it all starts with the way that Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, and Geneva Robertson-Dworet tell Carol Danvers’ story. While Captain Marvel is an origin story, it feels completely unlike any other Marvel film because it doesn’t follow the typical origin story formula that we have seen so many times before. Instead of the typical build-up where we would see Vers discovering her powers, she already has them and is instead focused on learning about her past and how those powers came to be. This makes the film a lot more mysterious and engaging because we as audience members are on this journey with Carol as she begins to unlock her true potential.
In addition, Carol Danvers’ backstory is not one that you would expect. She is someone who has had a tough time being taken seriously. She is the type of woman who has been knocked down many times before but continues to pull herself back up. This personality trait is what makes the character not only empowering but inspiring for women of all ages. We get to see through various flashbacks how she was treated when she was younger all the way up to the present. There are multiple scenes showing her falling down and getting injured yet this never stops her from getting up and pushing herself even harder.
Like Superman is for DC, Captain Marvel is a beacon of hope for Marvel. The MCU has done such an incredible job adding in some female superhero side characters, but they were in desperate need of a strong female character that could hold her own and do the job equally as good, if not better than her male counterpart. Brie Larson’s take on Carol Danvers is definitely that. There are several moments in the film where various male characters try to tell Carol how she should act such as a scene where a random stranger suggests that she should smile. Her reaction to each one of these situations proves that she is not only someone who shouldn’t be messed with but is a someone who doesn’t answer to anyone but herself. Out of all these moments that are sprinkled throughout the film, the one that stands out the most occurs in a scene between where Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) asks Carol to prove herself to him. Carol’s reaction to Yon-Rogg during this scene is probably one of the best moments in the film because it is one that will ignite a reaction and cheers from the audience.
We all know that Samuel L. Jackson is great as Nick Fury, but this is a Nick Fury that was haven’t seen before. In a lot of ways, Captain Marvel is a dual origin-story because the audience is introduced to a much younger and much more charismatic Nick Fury. Yes, he is working for S.H.E.I.LD. but this is during a time very early in his career. Fury was a lot more playful back in the 90s but a little more naive than he is nowadays. I adored the relationship between Fury and Carol because they play off one another so naturally. At first, they are each a little awkward, but as time goes on, we get to see their friendship and bond develop. It also needs to be said that their relationship has the perfect balance of humor and heart. Larson and Jackson are great together, and you can tell that by working together on Kong and Unicorn Store that they have not only formed a genuine friendship that now is easily translated onto the big screen.
While Fury and Carol’s relationship is a big part of the film, there are several other important relationships within this story. For example, Carol’s relationship with Maria (Lashana Lynch) is important to highlight because they served in the Air Force together. The two of them clearly have a long history, but instead of overwhelming the audience with stories about their past, the script often suggests that they helped one another out quite a bit in the past. Another thing about Maria and Carol that is important to point out is that they were both single out for their career choice, a path not often taken by women.
There are four other key relationships in the film which include Carol and Yon-Rogg, Fury and Goose the cat, Carol, and Dr. Wendy Lawson, and Carol, Fury, and Talos. All four of these relationships contain spoilers so I won’t be able to say much about them, but I will say that each one of them was necessary to the story being told. Carol and Yon-Rogg’s relationship is rather complicated, and I liked what the script did with these two characters. While it may seem somewhat silly to bring up the relationship between Goose and Nick Fury, Goose does have more of a purpose besides providing some big laughs.
Dr. Wendy Lawson is a big part of Carol Danvers’ past and is an integral part as to why the Skrulls are planning to attack Earth. Lawson, in a lot of ways, serves as the reason why all of these characters meet. As for Talos, I don’t think Ben Mendelsohn is ever gotten enough credit for the wide variety of roles that he has taken. Whether it is playing an over the top villain in Ready Player One or King George VI in Darkest Hour, Mendelsohn embraces the material and gives it his all. However, the role of Talos allows Mendelsohn to show off his full range as an actor because this character is well-rounded and has depth. It is a character that not only is comedic but whose people have fallen victim to the harsh realities of war.
I would be rather neglectful of me if I didn’t touch upon the 1990s in which Captain Marvel is set. We all know that films and television series have been obsessed with the 80s for over a decade now. There are so many films set in the 80s that it almost feels like it is its own film genre at this point. That being said, I can’t say it enough how refreshing it is to watch a film that is not only set in 1995 but doesn’t go overboard with the nostalgia. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck clearly remember the 90s well and use that knowledge to add in subtle hints of nostalgia throughout the film. We all know from the trailers that when Vers crash lands on earth, she ends up inside of a Blockbuster video.
While Blockbuster Video is a staple of the 1990s, it is the smaller things within this scene that struck a chord with me such as the movies on the shelves and the True Lies standee. There are a lot of other jokes that aren’t as grounded in popular culture but rather the technology of the time. I loved seeing Fury typing out a message on his pager or the hilarious scene where Carol, Fury, Talos, and Maria are all standing around a computer waiting for it to load an audio file. These smaller moments were just as great as the bigger moments which includes the 90s soundtrack that includes TLC’s Waterfalls and No Doubt’s I’m Just a Girl.
Having seen Captain Marvel twice within two weeks, I can safely say that there isn’t much about Captain Marvel that I didn’t like. I mean if I had to nitpick, I was a little bothered by the lack of screentime and character development of Gemma Chan’s Minn-Erva, but that’s my only real (and minor) complaint. While I love The Avengers and Avengers: Infinity War, I feel like those films work so well because of interaction between the characters, but it is the MCU standalone films that shape the MCU.
That being said, Captain Marvel is one of my top five favorite films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Brie Larson has always been immensely talented but thanks to Marvel the entire world will finally see her talents on display. For me, when I see a superhero movie, I not only want to be entertained but feel as though I am watching something fresh and new. Captain Marvel is unlike any other Marvel film because not only does it break origin story clichés but takes big risks in its storytelling. The final 30 minutes of Captain Marvel contains some of the most bad-ass action sequences in any Marvel film to date while also conveying a message that is inspiring to women of all ages. The success of Captain Marvel will undoubtedly pave the way for more female-lead superheroes films in the not so distant future and I, for one, am so excited to see what is in store for this new generation of the MCU.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Captain Marvel is a 9 out of 10.