Even though the character has been pratting about in comics since the late ‘70s, it’s only of late that Marvel have really been pushing Carol Danvers as one of Marvel’s (literally) hardest-hitting A-listers. There has been mixed success with this, with some frustrating inconsistencies in writing, her design, no less than seven #1s in as many years and, until recently at least, a more definitive, up-to-date origin story. Ask yer average moviegoer how Carol got her groove back, and they may be hard pressed to tell you. It’s fitting then that an amnesiac Carol spends much of the first act of the movie searching for her identity.
When she does though, the movie becomes an unrelenting rollercoaster that’s simply a joy to ride. It’s become par for the course by now, but after ten years and over twice as many films, Marvel Studios have become almost predictably reliable in terms of delivering the goods.
Being the first real proper period piece since 2011’s Captain America (can we get Carol, Steve Rogers and America Chavez together in the same room for a “Who’s on first?” sketch please?), it’s free from the (surprisingly scarce, now I think about it) continuity trappings of later MCU entries – obvious mid-credit sting aside, you could quite easily jump into this adventure with no prior knowledge of the MCU at large.
The tone is breezy, energetic, and at times quite campy; Larson plays Danvers with a dry (harkening very neatly to the ‘90s Gen X attitude, with less emphasis on the “tude” aspect of the era), very human wit, but at the same time scrappy, loyal, and very likeable. When the movie pairs her up with a fresh-faced, depth-perceiving Samuel L. Jackson, they make a great double act. Even Fury (nobody calls him “Nick”) has a real joie de vivre, which is at odds with the more stern cyclops we’ve grown to love in the past decade. There’s a surprising lack of Coulson, though, given (or possibly because of?) his prominence in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and his general adoration amongst long-time Avengers fans.
Because of the relatively small cast, we get a very lean, focused story, clocking in at just over two hours including credits (and their respective scenes — I went to a midnight screening in Leicester Square, which was introduced by someone clad in Carol cosplay, and STILL people starting leaving during the credits. The first set of credits as well, no less! When will these mortals learn?), so it runs at a fair whack. Similarly, the origin story we do get eschews a lot of the complicated history present in the source material, and neatly combines characters and streamlines a lot of the main points into an easily-digestible second-act reveal. It was something I was both equal parts concerned and intrigued to see how deftly director/writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck would handle it. I need not have worried.
The soundtrack deserves a mention. It’s not since Guardians of the Galaxy that we’ve really had a pop song-laden soundtrack in a Marvel movie. Again, being a period piece, this protects the movie from dating too badly. Based on the songs used, and quite possibly the cleverest Stan Lee cameo I’ve seen yet, I did spend a lot of the movie putting my detective hat on a jaunty angle and trying to place the exact year the movie was taking place. There’s one particular song by a certain Orange County-based band that’s a complete no-brainer given the scene in which it crops up. As a huge fan of the band, it brought a real smile to my face. They are used sparingly, though; in general, the movie is quite restrained in its hammering home of the ‘90s nostalgia. No Spice Girls or Ace of Base, here (sadly)…
A pleasant surprise that I won’t delve too much into here for fear of spoilers, were the Skrulls. Led by Ben Mendelsohn’s Aussie-twanged Talos, they were a welcome presence, and certainly not quite what I was expecting; a very interesting and relatable allegory for inclusivity and acceptance. The marketing for this film has been very canny in focusing on our Carol and her Kree compadres, and keeping the mystery of the Skrulls to a relative minimum. Marvel have obviously been doing due diligence to audience feedback and have created very compelling antagonists for this movie. Moreover, the introduction of the Skrulls now brings a whole new paradigm to the MCU, leading to speculation about retconning established characters that might have been undercover usurpers all along… *shifty eyes*. I’m pretty sure Feige has a plan in place for a fully-focused Secret Invasion movie down the line once the, er… dust has settled after Avengers Endgame.
Overall, it’s bright, cheery sci-fi adventure fare. Not quite as bonkers as Guardians, nor quite as gritty or grounded as Winter Soldier, but It feels as fresh and as vital as the decade it’s set in, and as an appetiser for the sure-to-be sombre Avengers Endgame, Captain Marvel is a refreshingly light and standalone rip-roaring romp.
When it was announced that Marvel were to release their first female-fronted film (try saying that ten times really fast) 11 years into their reign (11 years!) they were met with a general chorus of “finally!”. After all, nearest rival DC managed to beat them by nearly 2 years in that regard and just 4 films into their own shared universe. Captain Marvel is then long overdue it would seem. The question now is, was it worth the wait and did Marvel achieve something that would have the same cultural impact as their 2018 mega-hit Black Panther? In short, yes and no. Captain Marvel isn’t without its problems but happily, there’s an awful lot to like about it.
We’ll begin with the positives. Captain Marvel is a blast and comfortably wins in almost every aspect. As an origin story, while not quite up there with Black Panther or Thor, still exceeds the majority of MCU origin efforts. This is helped by giving us a strong ensemble cast filled with fan favourite characters and A-level talent such as Jude Law and Ben Mendelson (soooooo good) and peppering the story with action scenes that feel warranted and not just another CGI fight for the sake of it.
Casual audiences who haven’t closely followed every MCU entry might feel lost amongst all the Kree war references, intergalactic politics and previously dead characters alive again but in its defence, Captain Marvel can definitely work as a stand-alone entry or even a jumping on point. The 90’s references aren’t too on the nose (I was dreading an episode of Friends to be playing in the background but then I remembered Friends is owned by WB) and credit must be given where it’s due to the superb de-ageing CGI work applied to Sam Jackson and Clark Gregg. Captain Marvel probably won’t win any best picture awards but if it isn’t even nominated for best visual effects I’ll write a strongly worded letter to the Academy. And there are a couple of lovely Stan Lee moments that’ll make you feel all fuzzy inside. And then there is Goose the cat. It’s a cat in a Marvel film. Nuff said.
However, and as much as it pains me to be in agreement with the awful trolls who have been wetting the bed over this film for months now, Captain Marvel has a major weak link in the shape of its lead star, Brie Larson. Her performance is as wooden as a pirate ship. This is rather astonishing given how talented she is as an actor. Whether or not the decision to make Carol Danvers distant and unrelatable was hers or down to the direction is a mystery but the cynic in me thinks that Marvel knew this all too well, hence why she is surrounded by fan favourite characters and engaging screen presences. Even the bloody cat is more interesting to watch. Perhaps Marvel should have taken a leaf out of the DC book of “How to Make a Godlike Female Hero Sympathetic” when you consider that Gal Gadot (Miss Israel Winner 2004) managed a more captivating performance than Brie Larson (Academy Award Winner 2005).
There are other issues with Captain Marvel. It’s tonally messy, especially in the first half. It veers from buddy cop comedy to The Bourne Identity in Space but can’t quite pull off either with any sense of drama. Because we as the audience are shown Carol’s backstory in advance it removes any tension and we just end up watching the characters figure out things we already know, like an episode of Columbo.
The fact that part of this feels like a Phase 1 film shows how the MCU have moved so far forward in the last 11 years (seriously, 11 years it’s taken you!) and with Marvel’s track record and the sheer amount of time they must have spent on this we really should have gotten something less flawed. Taken in that context, one can only walk away from this film with a tinge of disappointment. Perhaps we’ll get a more cohesive female-led Marvel film when (the extremely overdue) Black Widow hits cinemas in a couple of years. As for now, it seems that Wonder Woman is still the high watermark that Captain Marvel, despite being Higher, Stronger and Faster fell short of.
The cat is ace though.
Greetings my Movie Geeks!
Marvel seem to have waited a long time to introduce us to their first leading female Superhero. With Captain Marvel being the MCU’s 21st film, it nicely slips into the space left between Captain America the First Avenger and Iron Man. But given that Marvel’s track record with producing quality solo origin movies, it would seem they have reverted to their original game plan.
Brie Larson plays the titular Carol Danvers and for her part, she does it well. The interplay between her and Sam Jackson’s Nick (don’t call him Nicholas) Fury is one of the stand-outs of the film. We get the first use of the Skrulls within the Marvel Universe (as far as we know) in the form of Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos, who brings humour and emotion to a film that is sadly lacking.
To say the film doesn’t have humour in it is false, but the humour that is rolled out was tired and predictable. It felt like a step backwards in both story and humour and as a result feels like a Phase 2 film, if not Phase 1.
Saying that it is an origin film and after 20 movies that are a mix of origin, genre and team-up films it seems the origin story has no place now. But then again, we recently had the Oscar-nominated Black Panther and Spider-Man Homecoming. Could this be a misstep for Marvel or are we just needing to get Captain Marvel to the Endgame?
There are moments within the film that work brilliantly, for example, the chase sequence on the train. Then the final battle sequence, but the better parts of the film are the quieter moments between the characters. Unfortunately, it feels like the trailers once again have spoiled some of these scenes.
This review appears to be negative on the face of it, but it was an entertaining film. It felt as though it was a stepping stone to Endgame, so that’s what is disappointing. Given Marvel’s track record with introducing characters, it just felt too flat.
Highlights to this film are Mendelsohn’s Skrull warrior and good old Goose the cat. We get an origin for Fury and Coulson which doesn’t interfere with what we already knew. It does, however, raise some questions over what happened to Fury over the intervening 13 years that turned him into the badass he is. A Nick Fury Film anybody?
Overall Captain Marvel was an enjoyable trip to the cinema. It introduces us to the ‘big gun’ character for Endgame albeit a little clunkily. But in this reviewers opinion, they waited too long to roll out the character, and this film felt as though it should have been released in an earlier phase.