Captain Marvel (2019) Review

3:15 PM


Although Captain Marvel does not explicitly bridge the gap between Infinity War and End Game, it does introduce the MCU's most powerful character yet. Unlike last summer's Ant-Man and the Wasp - a fun but uneventful filler film - End Game wouldn't be able to happen without Captain Marvel. The character is set to have a crucial part to play in defeating Thanos, so her introduction is a fitting next chapter. Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is unstoppable; if I was Thanos, I'd be scared. 

At the beginning of the film, Carol Danvers (or Vers) is confused by her identity: she keeps having visions of a former life. It isn't until she crashes down to Earth and begins to investigate Skrull infiltration that she stumbles upon some answers. Carol discovers who she is, both as a hero and as a person. After Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming - introductory films that did not focus on the character's origin - it is weirdly refreshing to see the MCU revert back to its tried and tested origin story formula. While this choice will be divisive - some will be tired of Marvel's generic and unoriginal narrative structure - I found it fun to be taken back to the style of the MCU's Phase One movies.

There was one scene that stood out as the film's most profound: it wasn't an action sequence, it wasn't the reveal of a plot twist, it was a quieter moment between Carol and her best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch). Carol's visit to Maria's home in Louisiana brings back vague memories. This confuses Carol even more as she becomes overwhelmed by the perplexities of her past. Maria empowers Carol by reminding her of the person she used to be: a great friend, a second mother to Maria's daughter Monica (Akira Akbar), a fearless and selfless pilot. Lynch and Larson have excellent chemistry. From this one scene, they convincingly build a picture of a lifelong friendship. This scene, and its embrace of sisterhood and camaraderie, is moving, poignant and more potent than any of the film's action scenes. Carol's visit to Lousiana concludes with a touching interaction with Monica. Not only does Monica get to choose the colour scheme for Carol's suit, but Carol gives her some inspiring advice. Captain Marvel truly excels in its quieter, character-driven moments.

Aside from struggling with comedy (she nails some of it), Brie Larson is excellent (I'll refrain from using 'marvellous'). Her nuanced performance subtly carries the entire film. Larson's spunk and sass is never obnoxiously overt, and her character's empowering and emancipated moments are rarely preachy or patronizing. Captain Marvel is a great addition to the MCU. She's formidably powerful (maybe a little too overpowered), competent, altruistic and relentlessly determined. Throughout her youth, she has failed and has been told that she is incapable of doing the things she loves. This makes the third-act match-cut montage of Carol getting back up after being knocked down all the more exciting. The character is also labelled 'too emotional' by many of the men she encounters. While the film does not explore this as well as it could have (there is no pay-off), it was a relatable nod to how women are expected to act.

'Feminism', 'Politicisation' and 'Identity Politics' are all phrases being thrown at Captain Marvel to try and derail its success. My response to this controversy is, wouldn't we rather have films with strong voices than ones that switch our brains off? For the most part, Captain Marvel is the latter. It's never explicitly political or 'Captain Feminist: The Movie', as some are calling it. It's a generic entry into the MCU that happens to be led by a woman. However, there were some political undertones amidst Mar-Vell's (Annette Bening) secret plan. The Skrull's are battling an unwanted war with the Kree, so Mar-Vell was building a ship that could hold and relocate the entire Skrull population to a safe new home. Could this be interpreted as a commentary on the refugee crisis? The Skrull's, villainized and misunderstood, seeking refuge from the Kree oppressors. As well as tackling female empowerment, Captain Marvel has the intellect to implicitly tackle real-world issues.

Despite the stigma surrounding the politics of Captain Marvel, there are some strong male characters that should not be overlooked. Jude Law's Yon-Rogg was blatantly an antagonist from the outset. Anybody who knows superhero films will suspect this twist from early on. It was, however, interesting how Yon-Rogg captured and brainwashed Carol to believe that she was a member of the Kree. He even convinced her that her name was Vers! As he becomes more prolific, Law is becoming quite the one-note actor. His performance in Captain Marvel made me appreciate his performance as Dumbledore in The Crimes of Grindelwald even less. On the other hand, after playing what felt like the same character in Rogue One, Ready Player One and Robin Hood, Ben Mendelsohn finally delivers a performance that feels fresh. It probably helped that he wasn't actually playing a villain this time. There's also the ever-charming Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). It was great to see Fury back in action, and the answer to how he lost his eye was unexpected but felicitous. That answer? Goose the Cat (or Flurkin): Captain Marvel's loveable and hilarious scene-stealer.

Finally, Captain Marvel is a beautiful ode to Stan Lee. From the opening credits, Lee's legacy reigns over the film: a compilation of Lee's iconic cameos makes up the Marvel logo. His cameo in this film is one of his best. Before Carol starts to kick-ass on the train, she brushes past a smiley Stan Lee. Larson returns a warm and knowing smile that should touch the hearts of all viewers.

"We'll be back for the weapon. The core? The woman", says Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) after witnessing Captain Marvel unleash her powers to destroy his bombs in the film's third act. A third act that isn't overly inventive but enjoyable nonetheless. My point is, Captain Marvel really is the MCU's secret weapon. It's a film that introduces the exciting possibilities of the Skrulls, another compelling and extraordinary Avenger, and the superpowers that are strong enough to defeat Thanos. Although it might follow a generic story structure, Captain Marvel is an incredibly significant film, both as an entry into the MCU and as a step forward for representation in Hollywood.


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