There’s certainly been a lot of fuss on the Internet about Captain Marvel in the weeks and months leading up to the film’s release. Rotten Tomatoes was hit with so many negative ratings for the film – well before it had even been released – that the ability to leave pre-release comments on the website was disabled as a result. I’ve found it hard to understand all of the reasons for this negativity: whether it’s because there really are people who don’t like that it’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first female-led film, or because Brie Larson’s comments about wanting a more diverse press pool were misinterpreted as meaning she didn’t care about the opinions of white men, or because the character of Captain Marvel was being pushed too hard as the MCU’s next big thing. The main thing that mattered to me was whether the film was good or not. Happily, it is. In fact, I found it to be one of the strongest films in the MCU to date.
Taking place all the way back in 1995, the film begins with Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) – or Vers, as she is known – living among an alien race called the Kree. (This race of mostly blue warriors will already be familiar to those who watch Agents of SHIELD.) Armed with super strength and energy-blasting powers, but with only fragmented memories of her past life, she is a member of Starforce, a commando squad who play an important role in the Kree’s war against their mortal enemies, the shape-changing Skrulls. When a mission goes wrong, Vers is captured by the Skrulls, and her subsequent escape sees her crash-landing on Planet C-53, otherwise known as Earth. After meeting future SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Vers sets out to uncover the truth about her past on Earth – while also battling the Skrulls as they try to obtain a secret locked inside her head.
This film certainly follows the “Marvel formula” in that it contains pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from MCU films: action, humour, emotional moments, and a soul-seeking journey for the hero. But that’s not to say that Captain Marvel is stale – far from it. The film finds a good balance between its different elements: the action is very watchable and not overdone, and the humour is as effective as ever. Many of the best jokes come courtesy of a cat named Goose, and pointed reminders of how primitive 1990s technology was compared with today. And for all the familiar bits and pieces, the whole thing feels perfectly fresh, mostly thanks to the particular conflicts and character traits of Carol/Vers that propel the story. Although much of the audience will probably know more about Carol’s true identity than she does at the beginning of the film – and the central twist about halfway through isn’t that hard to see coming – that doesn’t take anything away from the experience of watching her fill in the blanks herself. I found Carol very easy to get behind, and by the end, I was really rooting for her to give her enemies a pounding.
Brie Larson has to take a lot of credit for making Carol/Vers such a great protagonist. She is able to show off a good range in the role: starting off as a self-assured soldier, she gradually becomes more emotionally vulnerable as her journey progresses, before finally coming out the other end as a hero that it’s a pleasure to watch. I enjoyed a lot of the small expressive moments in her performance, like how she smiles brightly and claps her hands after getting them out of restraints. Samuel L. Jackson gives what is probably his best performance in the MCU so far, as a more casual, less battle-hardened Nick Fury; he and Larson spend most of the film together and play off each other very well. Jude Law as Vers’s mentor Yon-Rogg, and Ben Mendelsohn as the Skrull general Talos, also give enjoyable performances. Clark Gregg finally gets to re-appear in the films as Agent Phil Coulson, though he doesn’t get very much screentime.
In conclusion, Captain Marvel is fun and engaging from beginning to end, with just about everything that a fan of superhero films could want, and I look forward to seeing where the franchise is going to take Carol Danvers from here. Rating: 4.5/5.