Captain Marvel Flies High
Chris Kavan - wrote on 03/14/19
The MCU has been around so long (11 years now, people) that origin stories seem blasé and tedious at this point. But don't count out those origin stories just yet, because Captain Marvel manages to make something old seem new again - and not just because its takes place in the 90s and has plenty of throwbacks to that distinctive era.
No, Captain Marvel succeeds more thanks to an interesting story, powerful connections and, despite so much trolling, a fantastic turn from Brie Larson. Plus, Disney and Marvel keeps things light without being too comedic, with plenty of fun moments and the wonderful introduction of a character who certainly deserves their own movie - Goose the cat. And, unlike most origin stories, our hero already has her powers at the start of the film - most of the rest is piecing together who Captain Marvel really is.
What we do know early on is that Vers (Larson) is part of an elite group of Kree warriors. Those in the MCU know the Kree from the earlier appearance of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and Korath (Djimon Hounsou) in Guardians of the Galaxy. Both also show up here. But unlike the fanatical splinter group of that film, the Kree here are warriors, fighting a war against their shape-shifting enemies, the Skrull. Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) leads this elite team that also includes the sniper Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan), brawny Bron-Char (Rune Temte) and pistol-wielding Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto). Vers is trying to integrate with the group, but early on we learn her quite human emotions keep getting in the way. Despite her propensity for outbursts, along with a big chunk of missing memory, the Supreme Intelligence, A.I. ruler of the Kree homeworld Hala (represented by Annette Bening) gives the OK for a very important mission.
The mission goes sideways and our hero finds herself in the clutches of the Skrull, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). In an attempt to extract precious information from her memories, they begin to unlock keys to her past - as well as something called Project Pegasus that leads them to a backwater planet - otherwise known as Earth. Vers escapes and crash-lands in a Blockbuster where she is quickly approached by a young S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who still has both eyes at this point, along with a fresh-faced recruit named Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg - a welcome return for those who don't watch the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show). But before you can say "Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls" the Skrulls show up and ruin everyone's day.
The rest of the film revolves around Larson trying to reconnect with her past - including finding old friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) as well as trying to prevent the Skulls from getting their hands on Pegasus. We also get to fill in a few blanks about Fury, as this serves as a kind of origin story for him as well. Oh, and don't forget about Goose - because that cat pretty much steals every scene he (she?) is in. There's also a few surprises thrown in - so don't go spoiling yourself if you can help it.
The film is the first female-led Marvel film and I'm kind of surprised it took this long. The trolling reached Star Wars: The Last Jedi-level of horrified complaints about Larson's casting, her lack of smiling and how this was going to ruin the MCU. Those people are stupid, don't give them a second glance. Larson proved in Room she can act and Captain Marvel proves she can hang with the boys - and hand them their asses in the process. She kicks all kinds of ass but it's her connection with Rambeau that gives the film real, emotional weight. And, yes, she smiles plenty in the film.
The origin story also works because of the 90s setting, whether it's the excellent soundtrack (featuring Nirvana, No Doubt, TLC, Garbage and Hole among others), the dial-up internet, grunge style, snappy references and even Stan Lee's cameo (reading a Mall Rats script - natch) - all these touches make it stand out from the rest of the MCU while drawing inspiration from the big, 90s action films. Sometimes you think they're trying too hard to throw in references, but I'm not complaining much, since that is my era.
Captain Marvel isn't perfect - like any origin story, there is a lot of things that need to be spelled out that tend to drag things out. I also think the CGI (especially the big space battles) is just not as impressive as some of the previous films. And, because it's set in the past, it has very little to connect it the the next big film - Endgame (aside from the mid-credits teaser - so don't leave early!). Because of the nature of the film - there is also not a solid villain (like Thanos) - more of a fluid evil running throughout.
I still consider Captain Marvel a strong MCU film and I find Larson a welcome addition to the lineup and it will be interesting to see how she is brought into the fold when Endgame comes out. If this is the start of the next phase, the MCU should have no problem keep audiences entranced for the next 11 years.