REVIEW BY ZACH SMITH Captain Marvel has been a long time coming. Not necessarily the cosmic superbeing herself, though there was plenty to get excited about when Marvel Comics first announced the film debut of Carol Danvers back in 2014. Rather, it was the significance of the film within MCU itself that kept many counting down the days to its release. Captain Marvel has the honorable, yet long overdue, distinction of being the first major film within the MCU to sport a female lead. The only question that remains: was it worth the wait?
The film starts off on the Kree-homeworld of Hala. We’re introduced to an amnesiac Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) – or Vers, as she is known at the moment – training with the Kree-warrior, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Yon-Rogg serves as Carol’s commander and mentor, attempting to teach her how to control her emotions and chastising her when she slips up. Embarking on a mission to recover a Kree-spy, Carol becomes entangled with a group of Skrulls – the other half of a tumultuous, years-long war that has no end in sight. Events transpire and Carol finds herself crash-landing on a 90’s-grunge-infested planet called “Earth”.
What follows is a “fish-out-of-water” narrative with a sprinkle of mystery thrown in for good measure. “Fish-out-of-water” typically has a negative connotation when it comes to film, but it mostly works in Captain Marvel’s favor here. Brie Larson does a good job conveying Carol’s struggle in a foreign yet familiar place, as well her unrelenting drive to conquer all of the obstacles in front of her. Her dry wit will sit well alongside Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and his flippant sarcasm. The majority of the film is just fun – ostensibly throwing a god into a world that is barely prepared to deal with Iron Man and hoping for the best. In particular, once Carol discovers her full power towards the latter half of the movie, it’s a true delight to see what she has in store for Thanos in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. Throw in some great chemistry with a stellar supporting cast and you have the recipe for a solid Phase One Marvel movie.
Its pacing is somewhat scattered at times, however, particularly in first twenty minutes. You can really feel the script tripping over itself throughout the introduction just so it can get to its main point. Granted, that main point is a good one to make, it’s just a shame that the opening severely suffers for it. The preamble before Carol’s landing on Earth feels like a legitimate slog – drab and nearly colorless. This problem seems to stem from the decision to focus on Carol’s humanity in the face of such otherworldly forces. Once again, a fair point to make and one that holds a very specific thesis statement – but one that is also employed in such a way that devalues other aspects of the film itself. Nearly every scene on Earth is very vibrant and full of color – or at least it seems that way when compared to the very dark and dull scenes in space. Even Hala feels very boring and lacks any of the eye-popping visuals from either of the two Guardians of the Galaxy films or even Avengers: Infinity War. For a movie that’s supposed to be a harbinger of a very cosmic-heavy, post-Endgame MCU, it seems to find very little joy in exploring that realm. At times, I couldn’t help but think I’d stumbled upon some extra scenes from Thor: The Dark World.
Following the Phase One style of the rest of the movie is its villain…which is to say it’s not perfect. Ben Mendelsohn plays Talos, a Skrull general set on tracking down Carol for his own ends. This starts off as a very interesting take on the Skrulls as a whole. Some comic devotees might be a little thrown off by this change, but I enjoyed what its primary evolution brought to the table. With that, however, comes a hefty helping of predictability once you “get it” halfway through the movie. It serves a purpose, once again, when it comes to the larger theme, but it results in fewer cheers and more shrugs. Killmonger, this is not.
All of that said, Captain Marvel is quite enjoyable overall. Little decisions here and there weigh the film down from being truly outstanding; but the majority is well-calculated journey of discovery that builds up to a bombastic climax packaged with the message that should not have taken over a decade to be said. It knows what it wants to say, and it says it with a heart full of conviction. Even if it feels a little “on-the-nose” at times, it never feels insincere. And frankly, it’s about time. Captain Marvel is fun, full of both humor and purpose, and it finally fills in a missing piece of the MCU puzzle.