After all the negativity, the backlash and controversy surrounding this film – and lead actress Brie Larson – it is something of a triumph to see how marvelous this film actually is. Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have created something very, very special. Not only does it equal the cinematic masterpiece that is Wonder Woman, but in some places it even manages to surpass it. It is a better origin film than any other in the MCU thus far, including Black Panther. Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers is one of the most likable protagonists to come from Marvel – it’s not just her wit and sass that make her so much fun to watch: it’s seeing how she was before the event that changed her life, and seeing her try to rebuild the relationships she had with friends and loved ones on Earth. There is something bittersweet about the movie, something very sad about every scene where Carol reminisces on her past life, or has a sudden memory of something she cannot fully understand. Seeing her struggling with this trauma is moving, and is one of the finest aspects of the film.
Of course, it is made so only by the fact that Brie Larson is an incredible actress, and even when she is an amnesiac on the planet Hala she still manages to take very difficult material and run with it – fly with it, in fact. When the film opens, she is a soldier living on Hala, the homeworld of an alien race of “noble warrior heroes” – the Kree. But she has memories of something else, a different world, a different life: it’s a classic storyline, but there are so many interesting and unique elements, so many unexpected twists, that it feels fresh and exciting: and poignant – and also, it has Brie Larson, and she carries the whole story with ease. She has moments of intense drama and laugh-out-loud humor, and she blends the two in a way that no other Marvel hero has done with such skill. She is, without a doubt, the definitive reason to go see this film: I, for instance, went into the movie as a Thor fanboy – but when I left, Carol Danvers was my favorite Marvel superhero, and one of the best heroines ever brought to the big screen.
The aforementioned storyline of Carol Danvers, however, is the second reason to see the film – if you like a story that is twisty, complex, and as deeply layered as Captain America: Winter Soldier, or Captain America: Civil War. Admittedly, when the film begins it is hard to follow. There are dream sequences and vague hints, and things that happen very fast and very chaotically – but even Carol doesn’t know what’s going on, which is both a help and a hindrance: on the one hand, it gives us the opportunity to relate to Carol as we see things through her eyes and learn with her, but on the other hand…her confusion rubs off a bit on the audience, leaving us a bit perplexed in the first fifteen to twenty minutes. But then, just as we are wondering what is going on, clues start falling in place, things happen that set off a chain reaction of other things happening, and we suddenly realize that things are not as they seem. The major problem, I think, with the flashbacks that are used frequently in the movie is that, while some of them are relevant, there are others that are not – though they appear to be – and they are interspersed with the relevant flashbacks in a way that can be confusing. Thankfully, this problem goes away early on in the film, and after that it’s smooth flying – well, aside from one spot of space turbulence.
The space aspect, actually, is one of the most interesting things in the film: we are brought to a total of three different worlds in the film – the Kree homeworld of Hala, the Kree border-world of Torfa, and Earth. Hala is the most interesting of the three worlds – since Torfa is mostly irrelevant. Hala is a fantastic place, brilliantly lit, and is inhabited by a race of blue alien warriors – or rather, mostly blue warriors: Jude Law’s character is, for some reason, not blue. This race, the Kree, are for the most part background characters: Jude Law portrays the Commander of Starforce, a team that consists of “Vers” (Brie Larson), Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan), Korath (Djimon Hounsou), Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), and Bron-Char (Rune Temte). Aside from Law and Larson, the rest get very little screentime – though not as little as Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser, a character that will no doubt be familiar to fans of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Besides Ronan, there are many other tie-ins to various Marvel movies – and the most notable is the appearance of Nick Fury, once again portrayed by the great Samuel L. Jackson (though here, Fury is much younger and more naive, and has both of his eyes: his apparent youth is achieved by incredible de-aging techniques that are so seamless you will actually believe you’ve been transported back in time to 1995, which is when this movie takes place). S.H.I.E.L.D agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) also shows up – also de-aged – though very briefly. There are some terrific nods to the first Avengers, one of which will make fans gasp in surprise, and one of which will fill in some blanks. The mid-credits scene is also…shocking.
Speaking of shocks, there are twists in this movie, twists that you will never see coming. And obviously, because this review is Spoiler-Free, we will leave it at that.
However, I can say this: the film takes place during the war between the Kree and their mortal enemies, the shape-shifting Skrulls – and Ben Mendelsohn portrays the leader of the Skrulls, Talos. I went in expecting a two-dimensional villain: I was very surprised at how much depth this villain had, though, so much so that by the end of the film he was one of my favorite characters. I can’t say any more, but there’s a lot to say about Talos.
No review of this film would be complete without mentioning three stand-out performances: Lashana Lynch, who plays USAF pilot Maria Rambeau, Annette Bening, who plays…well, somebody whose name should not be revealed in the Spoiler-Free review, and Goose the Cat. Lynch is incredible, and the first scene that she appears is one that left me in tears: the sheer force and range of her acting was extraordinary, and entirely unexpected. As for Bening – well, she is surprising. That’s all I’ll say about her. She has one very interesting action sequence, though, that had me at the edge of my seat. And Goose? He’s adorable, and is a great mascot for the film, just like Groot is for Guardians of the Galaxy.
What about the action – and especially, the third act battle? Third act battles have become synonymous with “meh” in comic book movies, with even great ones like Black Panther and Wonder Woman failing to stick the landing. So how does this one hold up?
Very well, almost perfectly. There are only two fights in the film that are somewhat flat – a fight on Torfa, which actually does get more interesting after a minute, and the fight sequence on the subway train that we’ve seen in basically every trailer for the movie: more interesting to me was the car chase that was happening at the same time as the train fight – and there was one particularly shocking moment in the sequence that does elevate the stakes a lot. As for the third act battle: perfect. The crown jewel of the film, in fact. Again, it’s too spoilery to say much about, but it has a lot of layers, and all of them are very well-done: and there is one very special moment that seems to tease something that I really hope we get in a future Captain Marvel movie.
So to sum it all up: don’t miss out on Captain Marvel. You need to see her to believe her, really – her powers are incredible, and she could very well become your new favorite Marvel superhero. The movie has a great cast, great acting, a great storyline, and sets up neatly for Phase 4 of the MCU. Also, there is a very touching tribute to the late Stan Lee, that will have you in tears before the movie even begins. This movie is a great tribute to the power of women, and to the power of all individuals to choose for themselves who they want to be.
Movie Rating: 9.5/10