The type of super-heroine that cinema currently needs and fragile fanboys don’t deserve, Captain Marvel is the latest offering in the Marvel canon (its 21st, for those counting). The first in the roster to focus squarely on a woman, it’s been particularly disheartening to see Brie Larson’s entrance into the heroic realm be tainted by comic book readers dripping in toxic masculinity. Of course, these are the same people who don’t bat an eyelid at a Bradley Cooper-voiced space racoon or (throwing it to the DC bench, briefly) a Polynesian who can talk to fish, but give a vocal feminist like Larson a platform and they react as if they’ve been castrated.
Nonsense aside, Captain Marvel wastes next-to-no-time in introducing us to the titular hero when she’s known as Vers (Larson), a blue-blooded “noble warrior hero” (as she later self-describes) who lives among the alien race known as Kree, a technologically advanced military unit inhabiting the planet Hala. While on a mission with her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law, upping the smarm), Vers is kidnapped by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn, indeed Marvel’s most exciting antagonist since Tom Hiddleston’s Loki), leader of the supposedly villainous Krulls (shapeshifters for the uninitiated), and managing to escape their clutches after an extended probe into her memories (ones that she has no personal recollection of), she crash-lands her way onto Earth circa 1995 via a Blockbuster video outlet.
Admittedly up to this point Captain Marvel has been somewhat of a clunky, near-confusing, slightly fractured affair, with co-writing/co-directing team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (the duo behind such indie darlings as Half Nelson and Mississippi Grind) focusing heavily on flashbacks pertaining to Vers’s life pre-Kree that doesn’t always feel as neatly executed as both the story and the audience deserve. There’s not much to fear though as once Vers is paired up with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, pre-eyepatch and looking remarkably youthful thanks to some stellar de-ageing CGI), the film embraces a buddy-cop temperament between the two, with enough mileage earned out of the 90’s setting, with the soundtrack offering up its share of choice era cuts (TLC’s “Waterfalls” and Nirvana’s “Come As You Are”, to name a few) and the dial-up internet phase inescapable from a gag or two.
Whilst the film delights in a few neat (perhaps not-so shocking) story twists, and certain beats being put in place in a bid to tie it in to the Avengers films we’ve come to know and love, Captain Marvel‘s real journey is that of its subject’s own exploration towards self-discovery. Learning on Earth she was fighter-pilot Carol Danvers, a woman constantly standing up in an environment where she was put-down by men, the film’s third act reveals its heart when Vers is reunited with Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), a fellow pilot who manages to imbue Carol with strength beyond the radiant energy blasts she effortlessly conjures out of her fingertips.
Though it’s easy for Captain Marvel to be accused of not being as aesthetically accomplished as Black Panther, or for even attempting an origin story beyond the expected, it’s still difficult to fight against its pro-empowerment mentality. Additionally, taking its cue from the more humour-driven Guardians of the Galaxy infuses the film with a sci-fi goofiness that is perfectly balanced against its throwback timeframe. And then, of course, there’s the unlikeliest of scene-stealers in the form of Goose, an orange cat who steals Fury’s attention and, surprisingly, inks itself to one of the series’ most valuable ingredients.
An 11-year span was perhaps a bit too long to wait before Marvel served up a female-led offering, but Captain Marvel, as both a feature and a character within Larson’s capable abilities, is worth the wait – especially given that we know she’s a major asset in the next Avengers film (Endgame) and if this story is anything to go by (as well as the obligatory post-credit sequence), she may be the saviour the MCU needs.
About Captain Marvel
Set in the 1990s, Marvel Studios’ “Captain Marvel” is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that follows the journey of Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes. While a galactic war between two alien races reaches Earth, Danvers finds herself and a small cadre of allies at the centre of the maelstrom.
Captain Marvel (M) is screening in Australian theatres from March 7th 2019.