Set in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races, Captain Marvel isn’t just the 21st entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s also the first to feature a female superhero in the starring role. If that wasn’t enough it’s also a prequel, set in the grungy 1990s, and helps explain why our newest hero, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), wasn’t around when the Avengers fought valiantly against Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, before becoming one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe.
I admit I knew nothing about this character, other than what I’ve seen in trailers, so I didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully, Captain Marvel proved to be fun and hilarious ride full of 90s nostalgia and a very memorable ginger cat. I enjoyed it immensely.
After a moving introduction sequence dedicated to Stan Lee, the film starts by introducing us to Carol Danvers as “Vers” on an alien world, where she is part of an elite Kree military unit called Starforce. Under the command and tutelage of Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Vers trains hard to be a better warrior in preparation for war with the shape-shifting alien race called the Skrull. She has no memory beyond 6 years ago and has flashbacks to memories of another life she can’t recall. She doesn’t even know her real name is Carol Danvers. There are hints of a deeper power within her that Yon-Rogg wants her to learn to control, lest she unleashes that power in moments of emotion instead of logic.
After a botched mission against the Skrulls, Vers ends up on Earth in 1995, separated from Starforce. She teams up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to find Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) before Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and his team of Skrulls do. Dr Lawson has developed technology that can change the outcome of the war and it must be found before it ends up in the wrong hands. Along the way she teams up with ex-U.S. Air Force pilot, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), and a cute ginger cat called Goose (who provides many of the film’s most memorable moments). Together, this team of heroes works together to help an alien race in need while also learning the truth about Vers’s past.
While there’s not going to be any award nominations for acting in this movie, the performances are very much on point for the comedic and sci-fi action style of the film. Brie Larson is perfectly cast as the tenacious, impulsive and witty Carol Danvers. She’s confident, sassy, tough and everything you’d expect in a larger-than-life superhero. It’s clear Larson trained for the role and is in her element with all the physical demands that come with being a superhero and a military pilot. She does a great job balancing a person with immense powers who can carve up a spaceship without breaking a sweat, while still being a woman with flaws who can connect with a little girl who looks up to her as a role model pilot. If she’s to lead the Avengers in future films, the producers have chosen wisely.
Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, however this is a different Fury than what we’re used to. Thanks to the magic of de-aging technology, this Fury is period-appropriate younger and less experienced, even missing his famous eye-patch. As he’s much earlier in his career he’s never encountered an alien before – or any kind of superhero. Jackson does a great job of portraying a less experienced version of Fury, and since he’s been upgraded to one of the leads he’s given much more screen time than other Marvel films. This allows him to show us Fury in a more human way than simply being a black overcoat-clad, one-eyed government agent who appears at key plot points in other films to tie everything together. We get to see his resourcefulness, perception and his love for cats – all in true Samuel L. Jackson style.
Jude Law also gives a solid performance with his militant and focussed portrayal of Yon-Rogg, making this warrior a force to be reckoned with. As both soldier and leader he believes giving into emotion breeds mistakes and people should act on pure logic (shades of Spock?). Law embodies Yon-Rogg’s philosophy with calculated and precise actions. You can sense the dangerous killer lurking behind his yellow eyes and the room dynamic responds to his alpha presence whenever he’s on screen.
What really makes this movie stand out is how funny it is. The directing team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Mississippi Grind, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) have done a brilliant job of delivering an action sci-fi superhero movie set in the mid 90s that takes full advantage of the period to produce a lot of comedy in the film. Scenes where characters are waiting for CDs to load or surfing the crusty world wide web with dial-up connections had the cinema audience in stitches. I also need to mention the amazing soundtrack, which bops along with several iconic hits from the decade. This really helped cement the feel of the 1995 Los Angeles setting and really helped transport us back to another time.
There’s actually a lot more I could say about this film, but there are too many plot twists and surprises I don’t want to ruin. Captain Marvel delivers on all the things you’d expect from a big-budget Marvel movie such as big action sequences, amazing special effects and a story (including some surprises I didn’t see coming) that ties into the nearly two-dozen other Marvel movies. However, it’s the comedy, soundtrack and Goose the ginger cat that really makes this film stand out from the rest (I’m serious – I love this cat). As with all Marvel films, make sure you watch the entire end credits to see the requisite bonus stingers about what to expect next.