Directed by: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Runtime: 124 minutes
Ten years in, three phases, and twenty feature films later, Marvel has finally given us a female-led superhero film. While we have had a range of vibrant female characters to get behind in the MCU, this is the first front-and-centre female story. Of course, a film like this is privy to Ghostbusters syndrome; either people will violently defend it because ‘feminism’, or people will dislike it because ‘SJWs ruin everything!’ I can only speak for my own personal experience in seeing this film: I entered feeling quite blasé about the project, and left excited for the future of the MCU.
First and foremost, Captain Marvel is an origin story done exceptionally well. Rather than plod along a plot that’s sole purpose is to get her ‘geared up’ to play with the other Avengers, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck presented the narrative in a unique, interesting way. Set in 1995, the film follows Carol Danvers, a former pilot who, after a memory-wiping experience, is rescued by the Kree and joins ‘Starforce,’ an intergalactic military organisation in the midst of a war against shapeshifting aliens. In contrast to that ridiculous plot description, where Captain Marvel really shines is in its grounded nature; character development, interaction, and growth is at its core.
Brie Larson does a fantastic job as Danvers. She hits the exact right note between playful likeability, smouldering intensity, and plain badassery that a hero like Captain Marvel needs. This, paired with the very entertaining buddy-cop pairing with a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson cashing in on his retirement fund once more), makes for some great viewing. However, Ben Mendlesohn stole away a large proportion of my attention throughout the film—providing a unique, deep, and vastly entertaining character that serves as a worthy addition to the MCU. Lashana Lynch also does a fantastic job as Danvers’ best friend, Maria Rambeau, bringing a much-needed emotional punch to the narrative.
Stylistically, the film fits neatly into the MCU, without much overt stylisation unique to this entry. While this is a criticism for some, I didn’t mind the mixture of Guardians-esque cosmic landscapes with subtle ’90s flair. Despite being set back in time, I appreciated the filmmakers using the ‘nostalgia’ angle sparingly, relegating the ’90s-ness to a bomb soundtrack and a few technological jokes. Setting this back in time also ties the film into the wider MCU quite seamlessly, without making it feel like a mere Avengers prequel.
My one major criticism about the film is in some of its CGI. First and foremost, the de-aging work done on Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg is close to magic; I found myself forgetting that Jackson was not in his thirties towards the end of the film. The amount of care and attention that went in to such an undertaking meant that some CGI felt a little, well, off… scenes where our hero is flying through the sky, energy erupting from her, sometimes felt as if the film was actually MADE in 1995. Also, the first act can feel a little lacklustre; as soon as Danvers visits Blockbuster, the film picks up majorly, but a few people may tune out before that moment.
Captain Marvel has given us a strong, engaging female character that does not come off as an empty ‘agenda’. Larson’s magnetic performance paired with an entertaining buddy-cop romp and some strong character moments makes this another strong entry into the MCU. While some people on this god-forsaken internet may have already formed their opinion on the film due to its lead, I would say that viewing this film has both allayed my worries and lived up to my best expectations. I cannot wait to see where the next phase of the MCU may bring us with a new captain at the helm.