It’s fitting that this 21st entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe starts with a reimagining of the Marvel title introduction that honours the late legend Stan Lee. Captain Marvel is all about memory and uncovering the past to learn more about yourself, and using this knowledge in the name of a better future. The first female-led Marvel movie is a legacy that has surely got Lee’s blessing from the afterlife.
Crashing to Earth following a botched rescue mission, Kree warrior Vers (Brie Larson) crosses paths with a fresh-faced, two-eyed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in 1995. Fury learns that Vers is from another planet and plans to stop the evil deeds of a shapeshifting race known as Skrulls, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). Meanwhile, Vers’ commander Yon- Rogg (Jude Law) is racing to Earth to rescue her, but things take an unexpected turn as Vers realises that her own memories are interlinked with those of a human fighter pilot, and she comes to learn where her unbelievable powers really come from.
Fronted by indie directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel feels different to most other Marvel movies. The sparse time spent on explaining the context of an unfamiliar intergalactic war, combined with the absence of a wise-cracking and obnoxious male lead, can initially make it hard to get invested in. The film really finds its feet in the relationship between Vers and Fury. Far from feeling like a buddy cop trope, it feels refreshing and entertaining courtesy of some great chemistry and the fact that for once Fury is the one getting a talking to. Jackson never detracts from a powerful showcase of Larson’s talent, but gets his own moments to shine, several of which involve a certain ginger tabby cat.
Larson’s Vers (or Carol Danvers, as she later becomes) is a more mature, sincere and determined hero than the franchise has really had up until this point. She has to battle against constant mansplaining, being beaten down by her peers and being told that her ‘silly emotions’ are clouding her abilities. Her photon-fuelled retorts lead into some incredible visual set pieces and her bluntly telling Yon-Rogg that she no longer has to prove anything to him leaves you are in awe at Danvers’ power and authority.
That’s not to say that the film is a humourless affair. Some of the best moments of Captain Marvel arise when this powerful and serious character maintains composure in strangely comical moments, regularly flipping from paranoia to Punch and Judy without skipping a beat. Add in some painfully funny 1990s throwbacks and some neat fight sequences, and you get a film that pushes all the right buttons.
Carol Danver’s first feature film may not be as outstanding or revelatory as Black Panther, or even Wonder Woman for that matter, but it carves out its own significance. A necessary and resonating message of empowerment underpins an explosive action film that balances humour with sincerity; which might just prove useful against Thanos when Danvers returns for Avengers: Endgame in April.
Image: Chuck Ziotnick via Image.net.