By Kaely Monahan
Eleven years after Robert Downey Jr. first strutted on the silver screen as Iron Man, Marvel has at last given us a female superhero. Comic book buffs know that with many heroes their origin stories are often convoluted, blurry, and even rewritten entirely. And this is the case with Captain Marvel.
But the film’s directors -- Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck -- creatively manage Carol Danvers’ murky origins with finesse and skill expected of a Marvel movie.
Carol Danvers, or Vers as we first meet her -- played by the exceptional Brie Larson -- lives on a planet dominated by the Kree. An alien race of “warrior heroes,” as she puts it. They appear to be a multi-race group, with some looking more human and others more like blue-skinned Pantoran aliens in Star Wars. And true Marvel comic fans will recognize the true significance of the Kree race -- which appear in multiple hero’s stories. It is their duty to protect the Kree realm (empire?) from any and all threats.
Their primary enemies, in this film at least, are the shapeshifting Skrulls, who the Kree call terrorists. They look a bit like the dark elves from Thor, but with green skin and better senses of humor. Cutting in between all of this are disjointed dreams of a life Vers doesn't remember.
Oh, and let's not forget she can shoot fusion fire from her hands. How she got her powers remains a mystery for most of the film. More on that later.
Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) is her sensei of sorts. He “helps” her work through her confusion, frustration, and emotional imbalances. A yellow-eyed Jude Law is certainly something to see. There’s a thin veneer of menace to his appearance, but he plays the patient alien teacher role with ease. One thing that can be said about Marvel movies, is that each character is rich and filled out. There’s clearly a backstory to Yon-Rogg that keeps you thinking throughout the storyline.
Predictably, there is a space chase across the galaxy which ultimately sends Vers to the Earth of the 1990s. As Guardians of the Galaxy is to the 80s, so Captain Marvel is to the 90s. There’s plenty of nostalgia from Blockbusters to pagers to dial-up. Grunge is certainly back in -- and we can probably expect to see a new generation of grunge girls sporting plaid shirts and band shirts. In fact, Vers herself dons a pretty fly Nine Inch Nails shirt in her attempt to blend in.
And can we stop for a second and admire the soundtrack? Heart, Nirvana, and No Doubt all feature prominently, the jams timed perfectly with the mood of each scene. The music in all Marvel movies is stellar -- and Black Panther proved just how great these tracks are by claiming the 2019 Oscar for best score. Captain Marvel’s music is no exception. Even her epic superhero theme is worthy of repeat on Spotify.
Samuel L. Jackson returns -- with both eyes and some hair-- as Nick Fury. Relegated to the sidelines with his snappy remarks in the other films, we get to enjoy Fury to the max here. And it is about time too. Jackson has been entirely underutilized by the franchise. In Captain Marvel we get to see his back story along with Vers. He’s just as flippant as ever but is perhaps a little less jaded, as he is, in fact, playing a younger Fury than we have seen to date. This is pre-The Avengers Project era, before Fury knew that aliens were real. Meeting Vers changes his entire life and she will change the entire Marvel franchise. To say how would definitely lead to spoilers, which we’ll refrain from doing here.
Fury teams up with Vers as she hunts the Skrull who have infiltrated Earth. Along the way, more of her memories are unlocked and she discovers she had a whole life on Earth prior to ending up on the Kree planet. As U.S. Airforce pilot, Carol Danvers, she and her best friend were involved in a top-secret experimental aircraft development project. It was the failure of that mission that led to Vers, née Carol, to end up with the Kree.
The plot is more than predictable and sadly, there aren’t as many jokes as previous Marvel movies. (Although it’s doubtful any Marvel movie could be funnier than Thor 3.) While the plot is not novel, Captain Marvel makes up for it in solid storytelling. This is the first time where the way the story is told played with. Instead of the clear linear style of storytelling that marks the majority of Western stories, Captain Marvel plays with circular storytelling, which is much more common in Asian stories. It’s rather jarring at first, if you’re unused to the style, but it all knits together satisfyingly in the end. And that in of itself is unique to the superhero genre.
Brie Larson was a superb choice to play Marvel’s first female hero. The Academy Award-winning actress balances Carol’s alien identity with her innate humanity. The struggle between the two sides is subtle and thoughtful. Unlike the doe-eyed Diana in Wonder Woman, Carol has no innocence. She is a battle-hardened warrior when we first meet her. If anything, she gains (regains) her heart instead of becoming jaded.
And returning to her powers, she has some of the most spectacular and unbelievable abilities within the entire Marvel universe. If Doctor Strange left you with a raised brow, then Carol’s fusion-fire power will have you either cheering with glee or have you raising both brows and saying “really?” But as is expected, the filmmakers make it work. Now we just need a showdown between Captain Marvel and Superman.
But the real star of the movie, and one we have yet to touch on, is Goose. And if you don’t know who we’re talking about, for shame! Goose, the orange tabby cat, has been making her own press junket. Sassy, classy, and never missing a mark, Goose struts with such cool that it’s clear she’s not put off by her A-list co-stars.
And while Nick Fury is a massive cat fan, Samuel L. Jackson is not. He said during a press junket, “No, I am not a cat person...But I’m also not a dog, bird or a fish person, either. I just don't engage pets."
And apparently, Brie Larson is allergic to cats. But none of the anti-cat animosity is apparent in the film, proving that the casting was done right.
In truth, Goose, who is named after the Goose from Top Gun, was played by four cat actresses: Reggie, Rizzo, Gonzo, and Archie. Each brought their own pizzazz to the screen while keeping continuity. (Well done cat actors!)
And like the cat in Men In Black, Goose’s role seems almost an afterthought, but her character ends up being integral to the entire film. To find out how go see Captain Marvel.
Overall grade: B+
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