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Captain Marvel Review

March 8, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Captain Marvel 3 Brie Larson
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Captain Marvel Review  

Directed By: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Written By: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve; Based on the Marvel comics and characters
Runtime: 124 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language

Brie Larson – Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers
Samuel L. Jackson – Nick Fury
Ben Mendelsohn – Talos
Jude Law – Yon-Rogg
Gemma Chan – Minn-Erva
Annette Bening – Supreme Intelligence
Clark Gregg – Phil Coulson
Lashana Lynch – Maria Rambeau
Akira Akbar – Monica Rambeau
Djimon Hounsou – Korath
Algenis Perez Soto – Att-Lass
Rune Temte – Bron-Char
Lee Pace – Ronan The Accuser

Author’s Note: This is a spoiler-free review.

Marvel Studios delivers its latest comic book superhero film with Captain Marvel. While multiple heroes at various publishers have carried the moniker Captain Marvel, the new Marvel release showcases the Carol Danvers version, who ascended to the role in the comics some years ago. Brie Larson steps up to the plate to lead this sci-fi action-adventure and Carol’s journey of self-discovery.

The film opens with Carol, going by the name “Vers,” working for an elite Kree military unit called the Starforce, led by Vers’ strict mentor, Yon-Rogg (Law). By the way, the Kree are the blue-skinned aliens who popped up a bit in Guardians of the Galaxy and some episodes of Agents of SHIELD. This is the first major cinematic depiction of this Marvel mainstay alien race and the Kree’s home planet of Hala. Vers is haunted by memories of a past she does not remember, and Yon-Rogg attempts to teach her to shut out her emotions and how to maintain control of her photon-based energy powers.

At the start of the film, the Kree are embroiled in a bloody, inter-galactic war with a race of shape-shifting, green-skinned aliens called the Skrulls, who formally make their MCU debut here. During a combat mission, Vers is sent in to retrieve a Kree spy contact, but he turns out to be a Skrull infiltrator, Talos (Mendelsohn), who knocks Vers out and takes her captive.

The Skrulls’ advanced mind technology is trying to uncover clues from Vers’ past, showing her as a fighter pilot in a devastating crash on Earth. Apparently, Ver’s memories are the key to locating something that’s extremely valuable to the Skrulls. After forcing her way out of Skrull captivity, she crashes on Earth, which looks to be ground zero for the Skrulls’ next infiltration.

Vers’ pursuit of the Skrull infiltrators puts her in contact with younger SHIELD agent, Nick Fury (Jackson), who becomes an unlikely ally for the Kree hero in order to stop the Skrulls. The Skrulls are an incredibly dangerous foe who have the ability to take on the shape of anyone with whom they come into contact. With Ronan the Accuser (Pace) wishing to cleanse the Earth due to its Skrull presence, Vers must unlock the clues of her past in order to save the planet.

Captain Marvel is not the best MCU installment, but it doesn’t need to be. It does its job fairly well, and it’s anchored by a good performance by Brie Larson, who asserts herself well in a superhero role. She has good charisma and presence as this character. Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers is given a very layered character arc, where Carol truly comes full circle and unlocks her full potential.

Ben Mendelsohn is the other standout member of the cast here as the Skrull spy, Talos. Mendelsohn is clearly having fun here, and this is a good role to utilize his talents. Mendelsohn as Talos is given some nice moments to showcase his own layers as well.

While this is the formal introduction of the character for the MCU, it doesn’t start things from the very beginning of Carol’s story. Things pick up quite a bit later. The story starts with Carol already in the role as a Kree soldier enlisted in an elite paramilitary unit. As a result, the film is able to avoid much of the typical obligatory superhero origin story trappings. The narrative isn’t as focused on establishing Carol’s backstory bit-by-bit from the beginning.

Without giving much away, significant changes are made to the Skrulls in service of their MCU cinematic adaptation. The changes made to the Skrulls and other characters are a bit underwhelming. On one hand, introducing the Skrulls over 10 years into the MCU is a big can of worms. Joss Whedon ultimately avoided using the Skrulls in The Avengers. From a narrative standpoint, the Skrulls present a lot of logistical problems, especially for a movie that’s set in the 1990s before the events of Iron Man, The Avengers, Thor, etc. With that in mind, changes for the Skrulls were probably necessary, but the changes here are still rather irksome.

Another big change is made to an important character of Marvel lore. It’s not the first time this type of change has been made to the MCU. Looking at the breadth of Marvel TV shows and movies in the last decade, these specific types of changes happen a lot. It was clearly done in service of Carol Danvers being the MCU’s definitive Captain Marvel, whereas in the comics, multiple people have carried that title before her. Carol Danvers became Ms. Marvel in the 1970s and wouldn’t become Captain Marvel until 2012. The big problem with the character who has been altered for the sake of the Captain Marvel film adaptation, is that due to the character’s importance to Carol’s own backstory, this character really needed to be fleshed out more.

Clark Gregg makes a welcome return as Phil Coulson, his first outing as the character since 2012’s The Avengers. Unfortunately, this is pretty much a waste of Gregg and Coulson, who has little to do over the course of the film. It’s a disappointing bit part at best, and Coulson easily could’ve been cut from the film. It would not have detracted from the story at all.

The visuals for Captain Marvel are a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the effects look really impressive. This is big action-packed adventure with a lot of smash-bang CG-laden fights. Most of them look fairly good. However, there are some moments in the third act where the CG animation appears rather rough and unfinished. Last year’s Black Panther had some similar issues in terms of the visuals.

Unfortunately, villain-wise, the film is a bit lacking. Ronan could’ve maybe served as a stronger antagonist. Hands were likely tied due to the fate Ronan would later meet during the events of 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

The 1990s period setting imbues the film with a nice unique flavor. Multiple set pieces are built around how different things were back in the 90s, as weird as it might seem to now realize that a film set in the 1990s is a period piece. This also comes through in a 1990s-laden soundtrack that’s very much a part of the film’s identity.

Overall, Captain Marvel is a satisfying, fun action-adventure fans have come to expect from Marvel. Pacing-wise and villain-wise, it is still a bit lacking. It’s a good showcase and establishment for the Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel character, who is obviously going to be seen again very soon.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Captain Marvel is a good, solid superhero action-adventure with a sci-fi cosmic sensibility. The 1990s setting offers up a fun bit of nostalgic style to the film, along with all the 90s references. Some characters and ideas are, unfortunately, a bit wasted. More could have been fleshed out with the Skrulls and the Kree. However, as a first movie to establish Carol Danvers, it gets the job done.