Oscar winner Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel rightly takes her place alongside the boys. The Marvel Universe may seem a bit late to the game when it comes to having a female in the absolute lead of an MCU movie. Writer/Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck give us a multi-layered female superhero who is as quick with a quip as she is with blasts from her glowing hands.
This origin story, set in the 1990’s introduces Larson as Vers is an intergalactic soldier for the Kree Starforce. In this film, Vers is promptly captured by the shape-shifting Skrulls who probe her mind and find she recalls a past lived on “Planet C-53” where she was just a girl. It was where men and boys exercised power over females, telling them they were weak and inadequate whether it was playing baseball, riding a bike or piloting an Air Force fighter.
When Vers wakes up, it’s hammer-time as she pounds the Skrulls and she only gets stronger. Vers (Captain Marvel) and Fury end up fighting not only the Skrulls led by Ben Mendelsohn, who’s a good addition to every movie he’s in regardless of the Star-Trekkie make-up, but also the Kree under the biggest sexist in the bunch, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). It’s Yon-Rogg always telling Vers she can’t win because she’s too emotional and vulnerable (just like a girl).
Jude Law is her tough trainer, physically trying to keep her emotions at bay to keep her powerful hands from glowing too much or too soon. Larson trained hard for 9 months. The female-empowerment message is front and center. In the comics, the first iteration of this character was a man, Captain Mar-vell, but there is never a hint of that in this movie version.
Brie Larson is one of the most ordinary-extraordinary woman to ever show up on the big screen. She has wit, humor and an inner glow that isn’t computer-generated, but she has that too. Her costume is certainly form-fitting, but not overtly sexy and not at all revealing. She’s beautiful, but no one would dare say that defines her, lest he be plastered with a power bolt. This is Larson’s movie and she carries it with ease.
She tells a startled, computerized younger version of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson without the eyepatch) she is from a ”race of noble warrior heroes.” Even Jackson had to get used to not having the eye patch he wore in 8 films as Fury. It was like his blankie and found he still put it on while learning his lines. Must be nice to be forever young, at least on film.
The movie, itself, gets off to a pretty slow start and picks up steam along the way. The first battle and the scenes on the planet Hala look like Boden and Fleck were trying to find their rhythm. The initial battle scenes are pretty run-of-the-mill with some poor shot selection and staging. Annette Bening turns up as the “Supreme Intelligence” dispensing wisdom and encouragement through a sci-fi mist that is supposed to infuse the scene with meaning. Bening also appears as flashes in some of Vers’ memories from C-53. Too bad the simplistic, dull lines Bening were given wasted the talents of one of the great film actors of this era.
The action doesn’t really begin until Vers crashes through the roof of a 90’s Blockbuster store (There is only one left) as she falls to C-53. This is where she teams with the CGI younger version of Samuel L. Jackson who just starting out as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Vers and Fury turn into a buddy-cop team with some playful banter with the also youthful Clark Gregg as Phil Colson looks on in bewilderment. The CGI effect on him was not as kind. His face looked more like a failed botox treatment.
While Captain Marvel keeps getting stronger and more resilient the special effects team has trouble keeping up with her. At times there were inconsistent shots of her rocketing through space that look more like Saturday morning cartoons than high tech 21st Century computer animation.
The best unexpected pleasure turns out to be Goose, the orange tabby. In the original comics, Carol Danvers, the earth girl who becomes Captain Marvel had a cat named Chewie. For obvious Star Wars reasons that name is already taken so enter Goose. This name is an homage toTop Gun and Carol Danvers’ past fighter pilot history. Samuel L. Jackson tells how easy it was working with the cat since he responded for treats. The cat’s scenes are a most enjoyable treat on screen too.
More female empowerment comes from Lashana Lynch, who plays Carol’s former best friend and pilot Maria Rambeau. Maria has a little girl, Monica (Akira Akbar) who gets to tell her Mom to go fight aliens with Vers or she’ll have to “Consider what kind of example you’re serving for your daughter!” Maria is another strong, indomitable female character who will likely turn up in future Captain Marvel adventures.
Disney/Marvel made a smart business move as well as satisfying the fan-base by releasing Captain Marvel just weeks before Avengers:Endgame. The story of Captain Marvel’s emergence must somehow dovetail into the coming battle with Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk to save half the planet including Black Panther, Spider-Man, and Dr. Strange. Isn’t it timely that the fate of the world, not to mention the Marvel Universe sits squarely on the shoulders of a woman?
The biggest kudos go to Brie Larson who already showed what strong women look like in Short Term 12 and her Oscar winning performance in Room. Now she takes being female and in control to unimaginable heights as the most powerful superhero in the MCU. She actually glows as she dives, swoops and blasts the bad guys, but still manages to keep that little smirk on her face. Another star is glowing in the Marvel Universe.
Disney/Marvel Studio 124 Minutes PG-13
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