The Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken audiences to many strange places. We’ve explored different planets, galaxies, past decades; but never have we gone back to the 1990’s. We’ve also never had a female-led film in MCU, until now.
Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Oscar-Winner Brie Larson) has no idea who she is. She gets flashes of a life she doesn’t recognize and gets the feeling that before her time with the badass squad of warriors known as Kree, led by commander Yon-Rogg (an underutilized Jude Law), she was somebody else. After crash landing in a Blockbuster Video on Earth in the year 1995, Carol is on the run from an alien species known as Skrulls, who can shape-shift into any being but only retain that beings most recent memories, making her even more paranoid than she already is. She teams up with a younger Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the two of them set off to discover who Carol really is and why she’s in the middle of an intergalactic battle.
“Captain Marvel” begins by throwing quite a lot of information at you. The first 20 minutes or-so are honestly quite incoherent. We’re introduced to new planets, new species of aliens, a new galactic war between said aliens, all while meeting our heroine who has no idea who she really is or why it is she’s fighting this war.
Taking plenty of inspiration from “Battlestar Galactica” and even David Lynch’s “Dune”, “Captain Marvel” would’ve strongly benefitted from a small cheatsheet given to audiences beforehand, not unlike Lynch’s Dune. As a fairly well-versed comic book reader, this reviewer was particularly struggling with keeping up with such character names as Minn-Erva, Bron-Char, Talos, and Att-Lass.
Taking place in the mid 90’s means there are a ton of nostalgic references. Thankfully they don’t suffocate the film and aren’t overbearing, but if you have any nostalgia for Blockbuster, Nirvana, No Doubt, TLC, Sega Genesis and tons of other 90’s goodness, you’ll find something to appreciate.
Directed by “Half Nelson” and “Mississippi Grind” helmers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, “Captain Marvel” is certainly more cosmic than most previous MCU films, but lacks a critical visual flair. We’ve come to expect eye-popping adventures from Marvel with films like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & 2”, “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Avengers: Infinity War”, but “Captain Marvel” has a mostly flat color palette and no sense of style from its directors. It’s disappointing seeing such gifted filmmakers offer nothing new to this gigantic franchise when countless other auteurs such as James Gunn, Ryan Coogler and Taika Watiti have directly left their stamp, not only on future Marvel films, but pop culture directly.
The filmmaking duo have brought together quite an ensemble of actors that carry most of the film. Brie Larson brings a charismatic charm to the character of Carol Danvers. Although she doesn’t have the biggest character arc compared to other heroes in the MCU, her journey is nevertheless compelling when its not jumbled. She is an empowering hero that audiences are going to love for years to come.
Samuel L. Jackson, sporting the best de-aging effects this franchise has seen so far, brings more layers to Nick Fury. He and Larson have a fun rapport with each other, with their chemistry feeling like a 90’s buddy-cop comedy at times.
Annette Benning brings some gravitas to the film. I can’t really go into her role due to spoilers, also because its fairly complicated, but Benning seems to be having fun. Ben Mendolsohn is perhaps the biggest surprise out of the cast. Mendolsohn is a terrific actor even in films that are far beneath him, but his character turns out to be the most surprising, witty and layered character of the entire film. Other returning MCU actors such as Clark Gregg, Djimon Hounsou, and Lee Pace pop up for a few scenes. The biggest standout in the cast however is newcomer Lashana Lynch. Playing Danvers’ best friend/co pilot in her previous life, Lynch brings most of the films emotional core. You feel her sorrow and her strength in spades. The scenes between her and Larson are some of the best in the film. This film also features possibly the best feline side kick in Goose the Cat since Alien’s Jonesy.
Captain Marvel doesn’t do much thematically for the MCU, but it does introduce a new hero that audiences are going to love, some well constructed action set pieces, a memorable score by Pinar Toprak and some interesting layers to the MCU, but it’s held back by a lackluster script, muddled plotting and generic direction.