Captain Marvel, 2019.
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.
Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, and Jude Law.
Captain Marvel closed out the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a movie that was more notable for its incredibly realistically de-aged Samuel L. Jackson than for its story, which is pretty standard fare. This Blu-ray is also a run-of-the-mill effort – even the exclusive extras tossed in with the digital copy aren’t very exciting either.
Now that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has invested a decade in creating a rich continuity that has carried through 20+ movies, it was obviously time for a little retconning. That’s always been a staple in the comic book industry (remember Jean Grey’s death and retconned rebirth in the X-Men comics?), so why not bring it into the MCU too?
That’s the impetus behind Captain Marvel, which is set in the 1990s and reveals her origin, along with giving the back story of a few other things, such as how S.H.I.E.L.D. came into possession of the Tesseract and how Nick Fury lost an eye. It’s easy to poke some holes in the MCU timeline after watching this film, including why Captain Marvel is MIA during the Earth-threatening events of the movies that take place later, but I’m sure there’s at least one sequel planned that will explain most, if not all, of that away. And we’ll accept it the same way we accept most retcons in comics, because at the end of the day, these are simply fun roller coasters.
Brie Larson plays the title character, who’s introduced as a member of the Kree Starforce named Vers. Unlike many superheroes who begin their careers as nondescript nobodies who are suddenly thrust into a life of adventure, Vers is already at the top of her game in the war against the Skrulls. She has some troubling memories that don’t make much sense to her, but when she crash lands in Los Angeles with the shapeshifting Skrulls in hot pursuit, she begins to put together the pieces of the puzzle.
Her arrival catches the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) intercept her to understand what kind of threat she poses. They soon figure out that she’s one of the good guys, and the race is on to prevent a Skrull invasion of Earth. Jude Law plays Yon-Rogg, the Starforce commander and Vers’ mentor who encourages her to ignore her emotions, and Ben Mendelsohn takes on the role of the Skrull leader Talos.
While Vers’ introduction goes against type, the rest of the film feels more like a typical origin story, as she discovers her true past as Air Force pilot Carol Danvers and eventually assumes the mantle of Captain Marvel, complete with a costume reveal that’s played as A Big Moment. There are a few twists and turns along the way, though, as the Skrulls turn out to not be total bad guys, and Yon-Rogg’s true agenda is revealed.
The storyline is serviceable, albeit without the kind of panache that has made the other recent MCU films enjoyable, and the 1990s setting allows for plenty of nostalgic references that seem to play well these days. I’m not sure why anyone would want to pay 40 bucks for a handful of old VHS tapes, but Urban Outfitters seems to think that’s a thing. Just be kind and rewind if you make a purchase.
The retro setting also required Jackson to be de-aged via CGI trickery in post-production. The result is scary, not only because it’s so well done (even better than young Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and young Michael Douglas in Ant-Man) but also because of the future it portends. A recent Wired article mused on the possibility that we could get home after a long day at work and command Netflix to give us a sitcom with a specific cast and storyline, and the computers in Silicon Valley would conjure up some bespoke dinner entertainment.
Sure, that’s a far cry from Pulp Fiction era Jackson in a movie released in 2019, but we’re witnessing the early days of technology that’s akin to the silent film era. De-aging actors will some day seem quaint next to what will be possible in the future. That comparison will be like getting into a time machine with a celluloid copy of Captain Marvel and showing it to some folks who were just wowed by Birth of a Nation.
Back in 2019, we’re still straddling the transition from physical media to online streaming (DVD still hasn’t died out, folks). Captain Marvel has arrived on Blu-ray with a set of bonus features that are also found in the digital edition you can access with the included code. They’re a pretty standard set of extras, including a commentary, some brief making-of featurettes, and a batch of deleted scenes. You’ll find:
- A commentary track with co-writers and co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. They play off each other well and are fun to listen to, covering all the bases you’d expect, including the fact that this marked Stan Lee’s final cameo (unless he’s resurrected via CGI – no, thanks). They also shot a nearly two-minute intro to the movie.
- Becoming a Super Hero (7 minutes): Larson talks about her role and how she prepared for it.
- Big Hero Moment (3.5 minutes): A little more about Captain Marvel’s history.
- The Original of Nick Fury (3.5 minutes): You very likely know all this stuff.
- The Dream Team (3 minutes): A chance for Boden and Fleck to take a bow.
- The Skrulls and the Kree (3.5 minutes): Marvel comic book fans know all this stuff, but in case you don’t, here’s a quick summary of the warring alien races.
- Hiss-Sterical Cat-Titude (3.5 minutes): You knew at least one of the bonus features would be made to look like it was created during the era the movie is set in. This one is that, and it covers Goose, the film’s feline star that has a secret of its own.
- Deleted scenes (8.75 minutes): There are six of those, and they’re a mixed bag. Some of them, such as the ones that reveal more about Yon-Rogg, are good but were probably cut because Boden and Fleck wanted to move the story along and didn’t want to tip their hand about the character. It’s easier to see why others were cut, such as the scene in which Vers forces a guy to give up his bike and jacket after she crashes on Earth – sometimes the filmmakers can just cut from one moment to another and we can fill in the blanks.
- Gag reel (2 minutes): Funny stuff happens during the making of pretty much every movie (yeah, I know, except Schindler’s List). Here are a couple minutes of that.
The digital version has four short exclusive extras that discuss the visual effects and offer up concept art and still images.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★