Potential spoilers ahead!
“Captain Marvel,” tells the origin story of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), a member of the elite Kree Starforce team who goes simply by the name Vers. For six years, Vers has been living on the Kree capital planet of Hala, training to become a top class warrior under her mentor and commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Vers uses powers bestowed upon her by the Kree after they rescued her. However, Vers doesn’t remember anything about her life before arriving on Hala and struggles to know who she was.
But when a Starforce mission goes wrong, and Vers is captured by the Kree’s sworn enemy, the Skrulls – led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) – they dig into her memories, giving Vers more insight into her past than she bargained for. The unlocked memories lead Vers and the Skrulls to Earth in the mid-90s, in search of a lightspeed engine that was developed by Carol’s mentor Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening).
With the help of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Vers looks for answers about her history and her connection to the technology the Skrulls are looking for on Earth. Fury and Vers track down Carol’s best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and her daughter Monica (Akira Akbar), who offer Carol insight into who she was before the accident that found her on Hala. Carol learns that her past changes much of what thought she knew about the never-ending war between the Kree and the Skrulls. And as she learns more about controlling her abilities, Carol will be forced to decide who she is, and whose side she stands on.
Despite being the twenty-first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Captain Marvel” manages to feel fresh and new by offering a new kind of spin on the typical superhero origin story. Instead of telling yet another linear, chronological story about how Carol Danvers became Captain Marvel, the film introduces her already with powers and features her already in battle.
What we learn of her past is told mostly in flashbacks, but even those manage to stand out from other films that use them because here it is done in different ways. It was also nice that we as the audience learned things almost at the same time Carol did. And all of this works because of Carol herself, and the relationships she forms with other characters during the film.
The best example of this might be Carol and Maria’s relationship. Although we don’t meet Maria for a long time, their friendship is the heart of the story and it gives the film a much-needed emotional lift. Now we know Carol Danvers was someone who had a life outside of the Air Force, with friends, family, and a sense to do what was right.
This is where Brie Larson’s performance won me over, and where her performance is the most successful. While Larson is fine at playing a Kree soldier and really good at the fish out of water angle. But where she truly shines is in the scenes playing opposite Lynch as Maria. It really felt like these two had been friends for years, and I liked how Maria welcomed Carol back into her life.
I felt that after reuniting with Maria, the character of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel truly became one and the same. Thanks to some key memories returning, Carol seemed more my confidant, and much more of a badass. Larson also had some great moments with Monica (Akira Akbar), which should be fun to explore in the future.
Carol and Maria’s Friendship may be the heart of the movie, but it doesn’t take away anything from the highly entertaining buddy cop banter Brie Larson shares with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. These two are amazing together and their chemistry is shown in the film. Whether it’s the scene in the bar or the one in the office, the two actors play well off each other and look as they had a blast making this movie.
Despite most of them not getting much to do, the rest of the cast work helped bolster Larson’s performance as Carol. Jude Law was fine as Carol’s Kree instructor and mentor. Their training scenes were fun, and he did seem to have her best interests at heart. But I don’t think we know anything about him. Likewise, the rest of the Starforce are there but don’t matter much in the long run. Neither does Ronan the Accuser who makes his second MCU appearance in what’s basically a cameo.
In a what is a relatively small role, Annette Bening was a pleasant surprise as Dr. Wendy Lawson. I liked what the filmmakers did with her character, though I’m sure some fans won’t be too happy. But I liked it because it made her much more important to Carol. So much so that whenever the Supreme Intelligence interacted with her, it took the form of Annette Bening. I just wish she’d been in the movie more.
The biggest surprise in the cast was Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). I was dreading this character for two reasons: one, I’ve never been fond of the Skrulls in the comics. Two, by now we’ve seen Ben Mendelsohn play every possible type of villain in movies. However, not only did he make the Skrulls entertaining, he gave them heart and a personality as well. He was great no matter who he was acting with, so well done Talos Ben Mendelsohn.
I do have two minor complaints about “Captain Marvel.” There were a couple of fights inside a spaceship that was so badly lit, that it was impossible to tell what was going on. Maybe this was done on purpose gave the co-directors lack of experience with big budget action sequences, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. The Russo brother lacked experience too, but look how good the action in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was.
The other thing is probably nit-picking, but as a fan of continuity, it got on my nerves. Throughout the entire movie, Nick Fury’s employer is referred to as S.H.I.E.L.D. Yet, in 2008s “Iron Man,” the running joke is that the Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate needs a shorter name. And it’s not until the end of that movie Agent Coulston refers to it as S.H.I.E.L.D. But in “Captain Marvel” the unit even has S.H.I.E.L.D. hats.
At the end of the day, “Captain Marvel” is an ambitious entry into the MCU, one that introduces its most powerful hero and looks towards the future. This is a must-see for superhero fans, especially those who have to beg Marvel for a female-led film. If you’re still on the fence, I leave you with this: Forget what the trolls are saying. Go see “Captain Marvel” and decide for yourself.
“Captain Marvel” score: A-