Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, soars into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) higher, further, faster, with much fanfare and a fair amount of anticipation as the first solo female helmed movie in the every expanding Marvel Studios cinematic franchise. Despite much derision and push-back from some corners of the fanbase due some poorly chosen comments along the movie’s promotional campaign, ‘Captain Marvel’ delivers just about what you’d expect from an MCU film at this point. A perfectly fine and entertaining film in its own right, but not necessarily one that overly excels in a given area or delivers any awe inspiring locations, effects, concepts that helped propel many other recent Marvel Studios efforts above the rest.
Taking place on Earth as well as space and alien planets, Captain Marvel gets caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races. Paraphrasing the synopsis, I’m still surprised there isn’t more to it. That is basically the movie in broad strokes. I should also add that along the way; Carol Danvers must explore her past to embrace her future. The movie starts off on a new set of alien worlds we have not yet seen before in the MCU, one of which would have been interesting to explore and get to know more, but we are only treated in this film to a cursory glance at this time. Things seem a little out of sorts and confusing at first as we are thrust right into the story and are placed in the protagonist’s point of view and attempt to make sense of lots of different information and exposition in a short span of time to figure out things along with her via information and flashbacks. This is an interesting narrative choice and something a little different from previous MCU offerings. As a result much of the first act seems to meander along and drag a little, despite an action scene to keep things from getting too stale early on, until the action moves to Earth which is when the movie starts to really get going and settle into a good stride. It’s no coincidence that this is soon when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) enters the story; more on him later. This movie does a less graceful job of carrying the girl power message than ‘Black Panther’ did in delivering a non exclusionary embrace of African culture. Most might not even notice among the kinetic action scenes and girl power music but there are some moments when the movie tries a bit too hard to take a jab at men or show how Captain Marvel could be so much more if not for these male figures in her life. While subtle enough to not overtly offend anyone (particularly at least about half the target franchise audience), it’s still there nonetheless.
One thing that the film has going for it is being set in the mid 1990’s and they do a decent job of playing up some 90’s brands, jokes and technology in contrast with what we’re more familiar with at the tail-end of the 2010’s. Visually speaking this is one of the more low key films from the recent years of the MCU. There’s some splashes of vibrant colour in space settings, in the visual representation of powers and energy blasts and some of the costumes are colourful and don’t downplay the colour palette but overall more of a low key affair visually for the most part, more akin to ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and earlier MCU movies of the early-mid 2010’s, which isn’t s knock on the production and visual effects departments as much as an observation. Aside from some good portrayal of the Skrull transformations, the most impressive thing visually is definitely the now infamous de-aging effects that have been used for a couple years now in multiple Marvel Studios and Disney related films. It is so seamless and so perfectly applied to Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg in particular (and possibly also Annette Bening perhaps) that you won’t even notice it. Some truly fantastic visual effects work in that regard.
The score courtesy of Pinar Toprak is an interesting one and bares some slight audio similarity in places to a ‘Thor: Regnarok’ or ‘Captain America: Civil War’, although much like the movie itself, a low-key score that services the visuals on screen and mostly fades into the background, so much so that I barely noticed it throughout much of the film compared to the songs. The main theme is probably one of the better pieces of music in the movie but it barely featured that I could tell except for perhaps the climax which is a shame.
The runaway star of this movie isn’t even the lead actress protagonist, but rather her co-star Samuel L. Jackson. He owns the role of Fury after more than a decade of playing the character and immediately commands the screen whenever he is on it and gets to portray a young, more bright-eyed and bushytailed version of Fury. He has so much personality, energy and enthusiasm and it comes across on screen. He has great interactions and on-screen chemistry with whom every he’s interacting with and elevates the whole movie simply with with his presence. Trailing behind (but not by much) is everyone’s favourite British villain Ben Mendelsohn playing alien Skrull leader Talos. He has some fun with the role and gets to play things up more than I’ve seen of him in other movies he’s appeared in and by the movie’s conclusion was of the character’s who left the most lasting impression. I left very impressed by Lashana Lynch in this movie, playing Carol’s best friend Maria Rambeau. I hadn’t recalled seeing her in anything prior to this movie and while she isn’t given that much to do and work with, she easily won me over in the time she got and with her delivery. Phil Coulson returns to an MCU movie for the first time since ‘The Avengers’ in 2011; having maintained a presence to the shared saga’s narrative though the televised series ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’. He is great for the time he is given but is criminally underused in this movie.
Brie Larson herself plays fourth fiddle in this movie and seemingly only escapes ranking fifth due to having more screen time and importance than Jude Law. Brie Larsen seems likeable enough as her character evolves throughout the movie although for the most part comes across as very stern and emotionless throughout. Early on these fits the character’s situation, but even later, save for a smile and slight chuckle her here there, she never seems to shake that. She seems far more expressive in interviews along the marketing tour and some interviews. Hopefully she will grow into the role and/or maybe get to display more under the helm of different director’s but as of right now, Carol Danvers seemed like one of the less engaging heroes to come from Marvel Studios in quite some time so hopefully she and The Russo Brothers can turn that around next in ‘Avengers: Endgame’.
All in all, a rather standard film by Marvel Studio’s standards, which has set the bar high in recent years, but is still overall fun enough and entertaining compared to many action adventure films available. I didn’t feel like Marvel Studio’s out did themselves with this one as I did after ‘Captain America: Civil War’, ‘Doctor Strange’, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’, ‘Black Panther’ or ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ but also had a good time watching it all the same and I feel like audiences and fan of the franchise will as well. With a touching Stan Lee tribute and story to explore before ‘Avengers: Endgame ’ next month; there’s hopefully enough here to wet people’s appetites before then as if they aren’t wet enough already . And as always, mid and post credit scenes at the end so stay tuned and get your money’s worth.