HIGHER. FURTHER. FASTER
Movie Review – Captain Marvel
Review by Paul Preston
It’s time for Kevin Feige to receive a special Oscar from The Academy for creating and sustaining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain Marvel is another in a long line of MCU films that delivers humor, surprises and an unshakable consistency in quality of production. The action is so excellent from film to film in terms of its ingenuity and execution, you’re probably taking it for granted.
You may remember Nick Fury in the post-credits sequence of Avengers: Infinity War paging a mystery figure and now we get to see who is on the other end of that communication – Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot who becomes interwoven with an alien power source, giving her superhuman abilities. Upon receiving these powers, she is whisked away to the planet Hala by alien race The Kree to train her in their army, leaving her with a dim memory of her past. The film takes place in 1995 where a young Nick Fury meets Danvers in Los Angeles as she’s caught in the middle of a battle between The Kree and The Skrulls (and so is Earth). She must recover her past and determine the best course of action in a galactic war.
A lot going on here. There where the MCU is these days. It’s no longer “Hulk gets powers, Hulk fights the Army, Hulk smash, Hulk cry”. Feige & Co. have expanded their Marvel universe to complicated interplanetary heights. Luckily, they have a team of writers who can handle juggling all the characters and deftly infuse relatable characters and dialogue in the mix (there’s even great confidence to not even get to Carol’s real origin story until half way through the movie!).
The most welcome character is Nick Fury, who has been sidelined for much of The Avengers storyline lately. Samuel L. Jackson is having a ball playing young, fiery Fury and the de-aging effects given to he and Clark Gregg (returning as Agent Coulson) are very effective. That technology’s come a long way. Brie Larsen plays Danvers, later dubbed Captain Marvel, mixing a nice blend of charm and toughness. As ever, Marvel has filled out their cast with high-end gets including Annette Bening and Jude Law.
Though there’s a lot to get to, directors Anna Boden (first female director of the MCU!) and Ryan Fleck nimbly bounce around it all while tackling bigger-picture MCU issues that fans have been nagging them over, such as developing a more effective female hero (check!). They do that while exploring the male power trip and how to overcome it with individuality (that’s right, the villains try to GASLIGHT Captain Marvel!). They even set the film in the ‘90s as if to retroactively give fans a female superhero in a decade otherwise bereft of them (unless you count Barb Wire, and who would?).
Along the way, there are plenty of surprises, including The Skrulls being played as hilariously low-key and sly. Captain Marvel gives up another nice vehicle for Mr. Can-Only-Appear-in-Huge-Blockbusters Ben Mendelsohn (Ready Player One, Rogue One). After establishing himself in solid indies, it’s good to see Mendelsohn have a coming out party. It’s worth repeating that you’d be best not to take the action sequences for granted. Remember when Spider-Man 2 came out and Spidey and Doc Ock fighting on the train blew our minds? We’re in the anything-is-possible era now but the Marvel films still tend to deliver sequences that are character driven and STILL show us something we haven’t seen before.
And I can’t get through a Marvel review without comparing to baby stepchild D.C., so allow me to tell you one reason why Captain Marvel is better than the glass ceiling-breaking Wonder Woman. After Steve Trevor’s sacrifice, that movie’s over. And yet, there is a long, drawn-out, CGI-filled spectacle fight that means a whole lot less than what preceded it. Captain Marvel’s final fight isn’t two gods fighting. It is between two extraordinary beings, but the real storyline isn’t who can clobber the other, it’s more along the lines of something Rocky Balboa said: “It ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
Directed by: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Release Date: March 8, 2019
Run Time: 123 Minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures/Marvel Studios