Based on my enjoyment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general, there was a 95 percent chance that I was going to enjoy Captain Marvel when I first saw it.
That being said, I wasn’t overly impressed at all by the marketing for the movie in general. None of the trailers or TV spots had that “it” factor that I was looking for that would hook me and more importantly the general audience in. After at, it had the difficult task of being the movie right before Avengers: Endgame, which will be the comic book movie event of the year that we are all heavily anticipating. Would we go see this movie just to spend two hours wondering when we would get to anything that referenced the big event, or would this movie captivate on its own?
I’m legitimately happy to say that it’s the latter, at least for me. Very much so.
Captain Marvel surprised me. Big time. The “it” factor that I was searching for in the trailers and TV spots was there and in my opinion, it’s “heart.” This movie has a soft spot for its audience from start to finish, especially for the women in particular. It manages to convey the strength, resolve, intelligence and determination of women as a theme without getting heavy handed, preachy or allowing the message to disrupt the story itself, and it very easily could have descended into those “tropey” territories, but I appreciate very much that it didn’t.
This IS an origin story for Carol Danvers, but a seriously unconventional one in the sense that it’s told out of order, or rather it’s told in HER order, as she is recalling it from her memory. She begins the movie believing that she is nothing more than a talented and powerful Kree special forces warrior, and through her and her team’s battle against the Skrulls, she meets up with Agents Nick Fury and Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D., circa 1995, and begins to understand the real truth of who she is and how she came to be the powerful hero that she displays in this film.
I didn’t have an issue with how this film flowed in terms of pacing or timing, and if you’re someone that considers this film to be cookie cutter and boring, we’re not going to agree on that one. Yes, it is without question a film that fits right into the MCU mold as another episode of the grand and glorious 11-year cinematic television series, but structurally it’s not a cut and paste job from any of the rest of the MCU films. In fact, I would say it’s a blend of different storytelling types that we have seen in the franchise, structurally speaking. How the movie begins and how Carol gets to Earth reminded me of the first Thor movie, the cosmic aspects and space travel reminded me of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and parts of her origin and the military aspect at times felt like Captain America: The First Avenger, just to name a few of the MCU movies that this one evoked in my mind. It’s not a copycat movie though, as it’s very different in many ways from those other films in telling a new story with a different overall structure.
Whether you like Brie Larson or not, she’s a talented actress. I’ve never had any issues with her and her performance here is more than solid to warrant me being very eager to see her in the future of this franchise, beginning with Endgame. The concerns about her ability to convey emotions and vulnerability based on what we saw in clips and marketing are greatly exaggerated, in my opinion. She has a sharp wit and is comical to a fault at times in this film, but Carol Danvers in the end is an endearing character that embraces her humanity and her will to survive and fight for what is right in the long run. I rooted for her in this movie and when she is given the opportunity to be badass, she takes it and rises to the challenge without question.
The rest of the cast is solid. Samuel L. Jackson turns in his longest on screen performance as Nicholas J. Fury since the first Avengers film and he’s consistent, showing us what Fury used to be like before he became the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and where his inspiration to believe in heroes actually came from. Jude Law does a solid job of avoiding a one-note performance with his character Yon-Rogg, and Lashana Lynch’s performance as Maria Rambeau is strong and critically important to the movie’s heart and soul, especially in some of the decompression moments where Carol is struggling with the memories of who she used to be.
I thought Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos, leader of the Skrulls, was going to be a one-note plot device villain. Thankfully, that really wasn’t the case here as he turned in a much more nuanced performance than I’ve seen him give him in recent years with similar roles, like in Rogue One or Ready Player One. His character is one that I grew to enjoy for a number of reasons and they gave him a good amount of depth and development for it. I was very impressed by that.
There’s really no major complaints about the visual effects either. Most of it is very well done and extremely fluid throughout. Yes there are a few times where Carol is wearing her helmet in space and it’s obvious CGI, but I’m forgiving about a lot of that kind of stuff anyway if the movie has my attention, which this one did, and it’s certainly not a Black Panther situation, in my opinion. There are some very good and epic visual sequences in this movie and my hats off to the production team for that one.
There’s also a big thumbs up to give Pinar Toprak, the female composer that created the score for this film. It’s a top tier MCU score without question to me. Carol has a definitive theme here and it appears in the movie at the absolute right time for it to do so based on the structure. The rest of the score complements and fits the vibe of the drama and action when we aren’t hearing the 90’ soundtrack throwbacks, which were much appreciated.
The easter eggs are plentiful in Captain Marvel, not just for things within the MCU, but also from the 90’s era. If you are a child of that decade as I am, you will appreciate a lot of it when you catch it. As for the MCU connective tissue, there were a few things I didn’t expect, including a particular plot device that I wasn’t aware was going to be in the film at all, and it was a pleasant surprise to see it again. That’s all I’ll say about that one.
Most of the humor connected with me, some of it fell flat. There’s a big easter egg joke with Fury that didn’t land with me at all, but I didn’t hate it and it’s designed specifically for the general audience that doesn’t read the comics or is beholden to the comic lore, so I forgive it as I understand why it is there. You probably won’t like it if you are a comic fan, though. I’m also not big on cats in general, so while Goose stole the show for a lot of people, I just found it mildly humorous at times here and there. If you’re someone that doesn’t care for the MCU Phase 3 humor in particular, there’s a number of jokes I suspect you won’t like, but it wasn’t overloaded for me at all. Maybe one or two less would have done it some good for me, but I can take it or leave it.
The bottom line is that Captain Marvel was a better movie than I was anticipating it to be, and while I wouldn’t put it as a top-tier MCU film in my list, it’s definitely a solid one that I did very much enjoy, as I have with the overwhelming majority of MCU movies to date.
Now we wait to see Carol beat the absolute crap out of Thanos in about a month and a half.