Review: Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel (2019)
Brie Larson: Carol Danvers/Vers/Captain Marvel
Samuel L. Jackson: Nick Fury
Ben Mendelsohn: Talos/Keller
Jude Law: Yon-Rogg
Annete Bening: Supreme Intelligence
Lashana Lynch: Maria Rambeau
Clark Gregg: Agent Coulson
Screenplay by: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Story by Boden, Fleck Roberston-Dworet, and Nicole Perman & Meg LeFauve)
Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Let's just get this out of the way right now. I thoroughly enjoyed Captain Marvel. It's a funny, action-packed film with heart anchored by a wonderful performance by Brie Larson. She carries the movie effortlessly and her chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury is playful and fun to watch. A couple of surprising twists keep the story fresh, including one with a cat named Goose that brought the house down in the screening I attended. Where does it rank among the other Marvel films? I dunno. Who cares, really? This movie does what it's supposed to do, which is introduce us to a new and interesting hero while advancing the larger narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
When we meet Brie Larson's character, she is a Kree named Vers fighting in war with a race of shapeshifters called Skrulls. She is having flashes of memory from a life she doesn't recognize. Her mentor is Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and he trains her in combat. Vers has powers, but Yon-Rogg wants her to supress it and control her emotions. A battle with the Skrulls goes bad and she ends up on Earth. The war follows her. Soon, Vers in on a quest to find out who she really is. This connects her with Nick Fury. The film takes place in 1994, so it's not the eyepatch-wearing badass we've come to love. This Fury is young and not yet educated on just what is out there. The movie has fun with '90s references and music and they're good for some knowing laughs. Of course, since this is a Marvel movie, everyone is chasing a special device.
There was some scuttlebutt on the internet from men who thought this movie was just a bunch of feminist Social Justice Warrior nonsense and those men don't want that stuff crammed down their throats in movies. They also are upset by those Captain Marvel this as an important moment for women audiences, not unlike 2017's Wonder Woman. What can I say? Man can be so emotional sometimes.
Like Black Panther, Captain Marvel simultaneously offers a unique point of view and explores themes that resonate with certain demographics more than others. Yet, stands alone as a wonderful mass entertainment. The audience at my screening was diverse and very into it. I recall three separate moments that caused enthusiastic applause. My wife openly cheered more than once. She loves this stuff as much as I do, but especially drawn to strong female characters. We both loved the Captain Marvel character, but it impacted us differently. I'll never understand why some folks struggle with that.
Is Captain Marvel a feminist film? I'm not an expert, by any stretch, but I'd argue yes. It explores themes and struggles unique to the female experience. Carol Danvers (this is who we find out Vers is; not a spoiler) has spent her life being told she can't do things. her father chastises her as little girl for driving too fast at a go-cart track, even though the boys were driving just as fast. Her fellow Air Force trainees told her she was too weak. Then, there is Yon-Rogg trying to control her power. Is Captain Marvel a movie that hates men? Well, of course, not. That's an absurd notion.
Captain Marvel is a movie about the power within us and how we use it. Understanding your identity. Harnessing what makes you unique. Using your talents to help the greater good. Those who get upset about a feminist superhero movie forget that all the films in the MCU celebrate diversity and inclusion. From Iron Man to Thor to Guardians of the Galaxy to Black Panther, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been about bringing together the special talents of a diverse group and not only recognizing they each have something to contribute, but also championing their individuality. I think one reason why these movies have been so successful is that most everyone can see something of themselves in the characters. These movies are for all of us, but some of them are important to some us for deeply personal reasons. And that is a good thing.
Captain Marvel is a blast and, like Wonder Woman and Black Panther, is also a cultural signpost. If it's not that for you, that doesn't mean it's not important for many others. I, for one, can't wait to see what's next.