The wait is finally over; Captain Marvel, the first female-led film from Marvel Studios, makes its debut this weekend. Does it make as fiery of an impression as its protagonist? Spoiler alert: minor plot details follow below.
Set in the bygone era of the ’90s (and yes, this review is coming from someone who was actually born in the ’90s) Captain Marvel follows pilot Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), or “Vers” as she is known to the Kree. After a test flight gone horribly wrong, Danvers is gifted with the ability to absorb and release energy, but has no memories of her past life on Earth apart from occasional flashbacks. As part of the Kree military unit Starforce, she helps combat the shapeshifting Skrulls. When a mission goes off the rails, she crash lands on Earth and meets SHIELD Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). With Fury’s help, Danvers tracks down the Skrull general Talos (Ben Mendelshon) and starts to piece together her past.
In yet another pitch perfect casting choice, Larson brings Carol Danvers, with all her strengths and flaws, to life. Carol in the comics is stubborn, driven, and doesn’t back down from a fight, qualities that translate well to the screen. She also differs from her fellow heroes in that her story is not about gaining power, but regaining humanity. Her chemistry with Jackson is off the charts and a driving force of the film. Jackson plays a Fury who is less jaded, and therefore less guarded, though over the course of the film, you see hints of the spymaster he will eventually become.
The other two standouts of the cast are Mendelsohn as Talos and Lashana Lynch as Carol’s fellow pilot and best friend Maria Rambeau. At this point in Mendelsohn’s career, he is becoming an “Actor Solely Known For Playing Bad Guys” but he relishes this role, chewing scenery with abandon. Lynch, on the other hand, is the heart of the film. She gets the best speech in the film and manages to remind Carol of the person she once was. Personally, I found it refreshing that instead of a romantic relationship, a friendship is the touchstone of the film.
It’s a shame then, that the rest of the cast isn’t utilized as well. While the throwback nature of the film means we get to see younger versions of Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), and Guardians of the Galaxy villains Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and Korath (Djimon Honsou), they are woefully underused. The script, which shares five writers – co directors Anna Fleck and Ryan Boden, Geneva Robertson-Duovet, Nicole Perlman, and Meg LaFarve – could have also used a bit more polishing, particularly in the first act.
Despite its flaws, Captain Marvel is a solid prequel, making great use of its period setting (the scene where Carol crash lands into a Blockbuster and raids a Radio Shack got a huge reaction from the audience at my nighttime screening) and has several great callbacks to previous Marvel movies. (Audiences will finally learn the origin of the Avengers Initiative, and the high-tech pager Fury had in Avengers: Infinity War.) I hope that Carol will continue to go higher, further, and faster in future films.
Final Verdict: Four out of Five Hala Stars.