“Captain Marvel” had a big weight on its shoulders. It’s the first Marvel film in the 11-year-old comic film series’ to feature a superheroine lead. But no worries — this film soars.
The film starts with Vers (Brie Larson) living among the Kree and training with Yon-Rugg (Jude Law), the leader of a top Kree military team called Starforce. She has no recollection of her past, only a mysterious figure (Annette Bening) who is somehow the key to her memories.
The first 30 minutes give us the film’s tedious backstory, setting up a battle between the Krees and shapeshifting Skrulls lead by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). It’s formulaic Marvel groundwork that can drag if you already know the Marvel Cinematic Universe and bores if you’re a casual movie-goer.
It’s not until Vers crashes down to Earth that “Captain Marvel” kicks into gear and most importantly, when Vers, as known as Carol Danvers, meets Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The fact that Larson and Jackson are stars doesn’t need explanation but putting those two together is genius. Danvers and Fury are the buddy-cop duo we never knew we needed, providing great laughs and surprising heart.
This whole cast shines. Lashana Lynch and Akira Akbar as Maria and Monica Rambeau are warm and fantastic. Mendelsohn is hilarious, Gemma Chan as Minn-Erva is sharp-witted, and how can we forget Goose the cat, the ultimate scene-stealer.
One of the beautiful things about this film is its female characters, although it’s unfair to say Marvel doesn’t have good female characters. Most recently, we’ve gotten Okoye, Shuri and Nakia in “Black Panther” and Scarlet Witch and Black Widow have been in previous Avenger films, but “Captain Marvel” shows something different — a truly developed female friendship between Maria Rambeau and Danvers. As Danver’s fractured memories slowly coalesce, you see flashes of their deep bond throughout the years. Lynch is a star, and she and Larson become the emotional center of this film.
Most of “Captain Marvel” follows a formula a lot of Marvel films fail to escape, but this film digs deeper. There is something intrinsically special seeing someone other than a white male take up the mantle of a superhero. The layers created within this film provide a new norm for superhero movies: that women can lead their own films just as well.
There is one scene where a male character is constantly telling Danvers to prove herself, to tone down her powers and fight him fairly. Then there is another where a man tells her to smile more, as if a smile would make any difference. This depth makes “Captain Marvel” larger than just a hero film.
Superheroine personalities and stories are growing wider, a sentiment Larson helps bring to life as Captain Marvel. Where Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman shows us grace and fascination, Larson’s Marvel emotes a demure sarcasm and grit. There’s variety to our superheroines.
In the film, Danvers says “this whole time I’ve been fighting with one hand behind my back. Let’s see what I can do with both.” That rings true as “Captain Marvel” lets its women shine higher, further and faster than any other Marvel movie. Hopefully, it continues that way.
Runtime: 124 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13