Captain Marvel, 2019.
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.
Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, Gemma Chan, Lashana Lynch, Kenneth Mitchell, Colin Ford, Chuku Modu, Robert Kazinsky, Lee Pace, Mckenna Grace, Djimon Hounsou, Rune Temte, Jude Law, and Clark Gregg.
While in training to be a Kree warrior, an intergalactic race of militaristic soldiers from the planet Hala, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) crash lands on 90’s Earth, only to find herself caught up an invasion by an alien race called the Skrulls.
With little more than a month until the release of Avengers: Endgame, the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe may not pack a lot of punch in the grand scheme of the MCU’s overarching story, but Captain Marvel delivers a great origin story for Carol Danvers that star Brie Larson absolutely nails. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck made Captain Marvel a film anyone can enjoy, whether they are well-versed in Marvel lore or a casual viewer just looking for a good time. The film is entertaining with a great ensemble cast that doesn’t lose sight of its focus on Carol’s journey or the film’s messages.
Larson stands out as Carol with a charismatic presence. She develops very well throughout the film as Carol begins the film not knowing who she truly is and trying to become another emotionless fighter of the Kree military. Larson does a good job of trying to master her emotions, yet still retains her wit and playful attitude among her Starforce teammates. The beginning of the film may see her a little bland, but that is by design and Larson is able to open up the more she interacts with her human allies, particularly Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Lashana Lynch and Akira Akbar’s Maria and Monica Rambeau. The chemistry she shares with those three is one of the highlights among the cast and its at these moments with them Carol’s personality really shines through.
Jackson utilizes the prequel aspect of the film to show a side of Nick Fury we haven’t seen before. While a little less gruff than he is in the present day, Jackson explores more of who the spy master is and how he came to be. It’s enjoyable to see him open up a little more lightness in Fury, such as how excited he gets at the sight of a cat or trademark deadpan snark (which is pretty light compared to his future self). He and Larson make a great on-screen team that only compliments the other’s performance.
The rest of the cast do great jobs as well. Lynch delivers an earnest performance as Carol’s old friend and co-pilot Maria with a few fairly emotional beats between the two. Jude Law is another stand-out as Carol’s team leader and mentor, mixing together a bit of a cold personality and tough-love form of teaching with the belief he’s doing what is best for Carol and the Kree race. It should come as no surprise either that Ben Mendolsohn makes a pretty entertaining villain as the Skrull Talos, combining together humorous and threatening aspects while exploring his motivations. In the latter half of the film Talos becomes a pretty fleshed out antagonist and makes a nice foil for Larson.
Annette Benning isn’t in the film quite as much, but she still makes an impression as a figure tied to Carol’s mysterious past. Out of Carol’s other teammates, Gemma Chan as Minn-Erva is the only one who stands out among them with a bit of a rivalry between her and Carol. The other members of the cast stay on the sidelines more and don’t get too much depth, including Djimon Hounsou’s Korath, Lee Pace’s Ronan and Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, all of whom are relegated more to extended cameos than anything.
Most of the film’s special effects are well done too, from Carol’s use of her powers to the Skrulls’ shapeshifting abilities. The only wonky bits are Carol’s use of flight and the glow of her eyes. While it mimics the comic books and the lenses of her mask, it doesn’t look quite right and also loses out on Larson’s emotion since half of her face is obscured. Despite the spectacle of some of the film’s action though, its really some of the small scale effects that are more memorable than the bigger stuff. Previous Marvel films have had success with the de-aging aspect of its actors, particularly the Ant-Man films, but Captain Marvel is the first film to use it for a sustained effect on Jackson. The de-aging effect on him is great, making him look like how he was in the 90s without coming across as fake or in the Uncanny Valley. Likewise, the practical look of the Skrulls is impressive with some great prosthetics to make each Skrull have some unique features of their own.
Captain Marvel also tells a fairly concise story that is quieter than most of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Boden and Fleck allow more room for the audience and characters to breath while focusing less on an end of the world plot. It’s much more personable as Carol goes on a journey of self-discovery to find out who or what she really is. That’s one of the strongest themes of the film that resonates pretty well. So much of Carol’s journey focuses on how she’s been told she can’t do things or isn’t capable of being tough throughout her life, yet still finds the strength to fight the odds and prove her detractors wrong. Larson embodies this aspect of Carol nicely and it sends a great message to audiences about the desire to prove something battling the need to be comfortable with your true self.
Captain Marvel succeeds thanks to the strength of its cast and themes with Larson carrying the film’s message on her shoulders very well. It’s a quieter film than fans of the MCU might expect, but Boden and Fleck make a wise choice to double down on Carol’s character and explore the struggles she’s faced and the perceived flaws with her emotions. The balance of comedy and the seriousness of Carol’s story is handled better than most of the film’s in the MCU due largely in part to Larson and Jackson’s ability to flow between them when needed. As far as Marvel’s origin stories go, Captain Marvel is definitely one of the MCU’s stronger debuts.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★