It was predictable that Captain Marvel would face internet backlash prior to its release. The first female-led Marvel movie would no doubt force sniveling virgin men out of their mother’s basement and onto Twitter to voice their unrequested opinions on the roles of women in superhero movies. And while the internet allows these men a voice, it doesn’t mean these voices can drown out a good movie. So let’s ignore them and take a look at what I find to be an ultimately positive, if not somewhat choppy, entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Plot-wise, Captain Marvel is bound by the constraints of the obligatory origin story that must be told whenever a new hero is introduced. However, it turns the overused formula of origin films on its head a bit, using flashbacks throughout the film to explain how Carol Danvers (played by Brie Larson) acquires her powers while simultaneously progressing the plot and keeping the mystery of the story alive. Often, these flashbacks feel like data dumps that sometimes disrupt the pacing of the film.
Captain Marvel is at its best when Larson is playing the role of fish-out-of-water on Earth with a young Nick Fury (once again played by Samuel L. Jackson) as her sidekick. Unfortunately, as the film bares the challenge of venturing out into space, introducing the Kree and Skrull alien species and the war between the two, it tends to feel a bit outlandish to an audience that may have not done their comic book homework. The film fails to swerve into the curve of the ridiculousness of the space-based plot the way Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok do.
Larson is everything a fan of the Captain Marvel comics and/or badass women could’ve asked for: she’s charming, fierce, impulsive, complicated and strong without becoming a trope. Her chemistry with a CGI-aged-down Jackson is palpable, and her moments with Maria Rambeau, played by Lashana Lynch and her on-screen daughter (played by Akira Akbar) are some of the most visceral in the entire film. Larson is no doubt going to fit seamlessly into endless MCU team-up movies for the next decade. She can play the straight woman to Tony Stark’s wild card or the free spirit to Steve Rogers’ stickler (though I fear we won’t be seeing much of those two after the events of Avengers: Endgame).
Another task that this film faces is conveying that Captain Marvel is one of if not the most powerful hero in the MCU, and as a result, we are treated to dozens of wide shots of colorful CGI photon blasts that will evoke numerous “woah”s from the audience. However, the action of the film is at its most fun when Larson is fighting hand-to-hand, displaying her skill and technique rather than her seemingly unmeasurable power. Unfortunately, we don’t get enough of this close combat before the film becomes an all-out laser-light show by the third act.
You’d think the 90’s nostalgia, on which the film leans in heavily, would get old after a few bits, but it only gets more fun as it goes along. The soundtrack is full of 90’s bangers and the costume design is just grungy enough to be taken seriously. I look forward to seeing more Marvel period pieces in the future (X-Men in the 80’s set to Thriller, anyone? No? Okay nevermind).
Ultimately, Captain Marvel is an imperfect but necessary addition to the MCU. She is a hero that we need, and though her introduction felt disjointed at times, the end result is a fun, exciting story about trust and getting back up again. I believe the best is yet to come for the character of Captain Marvel, both in her own future movies and when she teams up with the Avengers to take down a certain buff, snapping purple dude.