The arrival of Captain Marvel may finally herald the arrival of the MCU’s first fully female lead and yet another massive step toward equality in roles in big budget filmmaking, but all the representation in the world isn’t going to mean a damn if the film in question is no good.
Thankfully, Captain Marvel holds itself up to the usual standard of the studio’s usual output and while it falls short of matching the gold standard the genre has to offer, still has more than enough thrills and spills necessary to make it in this crowded genre.
A big part of this is, unsurprisingly, Brie Larson. Marvel’s greatest strength over the last ten years has undoubtedly been it’s casting; hiring bright, likeable talent to make their characters fly with audiences and Larson, with her oodles of charisma fits the bill nicely. Her Carol Danvers is unapologetically smart and confident with a refreshing impish, jocular humour despite being saddled with a standard amnesia plot, but the addition of an impressively de-aged Samuel L. Jackson (the film is set in the 90’s) gives proceedings a buddy action movie boost, in fact this is Jackson’s finest outing as super spy Nick Fury since the second Captain America film. The look of the film is also familiar and colourful, taking many direct visual cues from Guardians Of The Galaxy (not to mention a villainous character or two) and hurling multiple massive nods to the original Avengers movie (Quinjet prototype! Colson!).
The flaws of Captain Marvel are somewhat harmless as they are merely irritating and not detrimental to the point of disaster but will definitely need some ironing out once the inevitable sequel arrives. The first problem is the same that Doctor Strange suffered a few years ago, that any origin story with such a cold start feels slightly out of place and a little bland in the full ahead, uber-confident world of the MCU’s third phase (Black Panther and Spider-man avoided this problem thanks to their head start in Civil War). Placed along side such epic cosmic-fests like Infinity War and Thor: Ragnarok the good Captain feels like it’s underachieving slightly but this really isn’t anything that won’t be cured by her appearance in the imminent Avengers: Endgame.
The other is that while it neatly takes care of it’s drama here of terra firmer, it chooses to leave one too many space set questions unanswered by the time the credits roll, one too many major conflicts left to play out in the future. With at least three multiple threats barely handled and numerous plot points left hanging, Danvers triumphant flight at the end of the movie is marred somewhat by the jarring feeling of unfinished business.
Of course If you’re a seasoned MCU fan (like myself) nothing negative I’ve just listed is going to matter a worth a damn in the long run.
By far the most refreshing thing about the movie is the relationships between Danvers and other characters. Be it her best friend or her various mentors played by Jude Law and Annette Benning, the script doesn’t resort to the usual stereotypes some female led movies fall back on in order to make her character “play better” to a wide audience like unnecessary clumsiness or jokes about giant lady pants, and that’s where Captain Marvel finds it’s strength, by treating it’s lead with the respect she deserves.
A great first effort but here’s hoping her subsequent appearances are, in fact, higher, faster, further.