Captain Marvel (2019)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Film 21 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is here and Captain Marvel is a whole lot of fun.
Quite different in tone and temperament, Brie Larson, working with indie filmmakers Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, create a compelling origin story for not only Larson’s Carol Danvers, but the entire Avengers faction.
Just the second female-led superhero movie ever made, Captain Marvel reminds us, yet again, that representation matters and gives its audience a lot to think about and appreciate by the time the end credits roll around.
The understated nature of much of the first half-hour or so might temper enthusiasm for the overall film going forward. Larson’s performance is not quite what people may be expecting, at least at first.
Juggles a lot and at times, Boden & Fleck seem overwhelmed in trying to manage all of the things happening here. Most of this occurs in the first half-hour, which is a bit underwhelming and plot-heavy.
You think the #AlitaChallenge is worthy. even though your money would be supporting a studio being acquired by Disney. You are deeply and personally offended that Brie Larson mentioned that she wants more than simply white men to go and see the movie. You could be described as an incel. Female strength and empowerment somehow presents as a threat to you. Shall I continue?
The 21st entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”), Captain Marvel, brings us a new character and origin story to dissect and explore. Hitting theaters approximately six weeks before the Phase Three finale, Avengers: Endgame, we finally have Marvel’s first female-led feature film. Stepping in front of a potential “Black Widow” film which is reportedly in pre-production, Academy Award winner Brie Larson steps to the forefront as Carol Danvers, a fighter pilot who finds herself flush with superpowers after an energy core explosion makes her super human, while sapping all of her memories.
Before we get to all of that, directors Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, Mississippi Grind) walk us through something of a lackluster beginning that fumbles around putting the non-linear pieces in place. Others have written about the tenuous past Marvel has had with strong, female characters within their archives, so I will refrain from any commentary on the topic. Just know that as Captain Marvel takes a while to get rolling, audiences anticipating a hard-hitting, super-exciting beginning will likely have those expectations shuttered a bit.
True to their independent film roots, Boden & Fleck take a measured approach to a rather complex and densely-plotted story. We will eventually learn how Carol Danvers fits into the MCU, but since we really have never spent any time with this character before, we pump the brakes a bit. 21 films into the MCU, yet another origin story may seem oddly timed. However, Captain Marvel is an origin story for more than just one character. Instead, this becomes an origin story behind the formation of the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. as well.
In that regard, it kind of makes sense that it is arriving prior to Endgame, which finishes the first three Phases of the MCU.
We travel back to the summer of 1995 for this installment, a bit hard to pin down with a bustling alt-1990’s music soundtrack and pop culture references referencing the entire decade. Nicknamed “Vers,” we see Carol grappling with confusing flashbacks she cannot quite decipher. We learn that she is under the tutelage of Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), a Starforce commander aligning with the Kree in an intergalactic war with the Skrulls.
The Skrulls are shape-shifting replicants who can disguise themselves perfectly, as anyone they choose. Obviously, this makes fighting a war with them difficult, but as Vers will soon find out, not everything or everyone is to be trusted. As memories flood in, advice she received from the Supreme Intelligence makes more sense. Details around memories of her superior officer, Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening), round into focus.
Once Vers finds herself back on Earth, she meets Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), a government agent working with a young Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) to investigate Vers’ connection to the universe. Though she struggles to remember them, she reconnects with old friend and colleague Maria (Lashana Lynch) and her young daughter Monica (Akira Akbar).
Boden & Fleck, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Geneva Robertson-Dworet, have to juggle quite a bit within a little more than two hours. Fury discloses that Carol/Vers is the first superhero he has ever encountered, and nods and winks to numerous other Avengers stories are sprinkled in throughout the film. After the events of Captain Marvel, we know that Fury will look for others, S.H.I.E.L.D. will form, and Avengers will assemble. We even learn how the Avengers got their collective name.
Perhaps more importantly, Larson drills down to the core of Carol Danvers and creates a character we can relate to. This is where bringing in Boden & Fleck pays dividends, as they understand the need to humanize and demystify their main characters.
Larson plays Carol understated in the film’s first half-hour. She is observant, asking questions, introspective and processing. The longer the movie goes, the more confidence Larson infuses into her portrayal.
Whether rocking a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt and jeans, or a superhero costume with colors designed by the 10-year-old Monica, Carol’s maturation over the course of the film is a testament to Larson’s terrific performance. There is a pronounced authenticity with Carol that is refreshing, also important to many of the eyes watching excitedly at only the second female-led superhero movie of all time.
From a technical standpoint, the sound design and visual effects largely impress, with Marvel’s VFX teams exponentially improving the age-reduction technology we have seen used in the past on Kurt Russell and Michael Douglas. Jackson’s Nick Fury (and Gregg’s Agent Coulson) are made to look around 25 years younger, and once our mind grows accustomed to seeing recognizable people younger than we are used to, the process works almost too well.
The 1990s pop culture references lighten the mood, and even if the story is a bit convoluted from a scripting standpoint, Larson, her terrific chemistry with Jackson, and a nice turn from Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, leader of the Skrull army, makes the second half of the film cruise right on by.
Captain Marvel is a solid, important entry in the MCU. The optics and representation are important, but the message it delivers of female empowerment and confidence with one’s self proves equally as vital.
While it may have taken way too long for Marvel to get here (21 films?!) in bringing a female-led superhero movie to the multiplex, Brie Larson and Carol Danvers are here now.
We shouldn’t want it any other way.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Lashana Lynch, Clark Gregg, Rune Temte, Gemma Chan, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Akira Akbar, Algenis Perez Solo, Mckenna Grace.
Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet (screenplay); Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve, Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet (story).
Based on the character “Carol Danvers” created by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan
Release Date: March 8, 2019
Walt Disney Pictures