Review: 'Captain Marvel' is a Photon Blast of Fun and '90s Nostalgia

March 7, 2019

Captain Marvel Review

Created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, Captain Marvel debuted in 1967's Marvel Super-Heroes #12. During the Silver Age, the name belonged to Mar-Vell, a Kree military officer who becomes Earth's protector. In the '80s, Monica Rambeau assumed the title and later became the leader of the Avengers. In the '90s, Rambeau ceded the name to Mar-Vell's son, Genis-Vell, who passed it down to his sister, Phyla-Vell, in the 2000s. In 2012, Carol Danvers, a super-heroine long known as Ms. Marvel, assumed the mantle in a series written by Kelly Sue DeConnick. That series serves as the basis for the twenty-first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), titled Captain Marvel, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, and starring Academy Award-winner Brie Larson as Marvel Studios' first stand-alone, female-franchise title character.

Set in 1995, Captain Marvel sidesteps the traditional origin-story template, with Carol Danvers (Larson, of Short Term 12, Room, and Kong: Skull Island) imbued with the powers of the alien race known as the Kree, including superhuman strength, energy projection, and flight. On the planet Hala, home of the Kree Empire, Carol trains as a member of Starforce, an elite intergalactic military team led by commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). As Carol begins to realize her true potential, she finds herself back on Earth where she lands on the radar of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). Together, they must unite against a formidable enemy in the form of the Skrulls – shape-shifting aliens—and their leader, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), who is spearheading an invasion of Earth.

Captain Marvel Review

Co-written and co-directed by filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (of It's Kind of a Funny Story, Mississippi Grind), Captain Marvel is a pastiche of '90s cinema. Like Speed and Bad Boys, it's a buddy action-comedy in which two very different people are forced to work together to stop a greater threat. Like The Rocketeer, it's a comic book movie about a pilot turned high-flying hero fighting foreign spies. And, like Independence Day, it's a sci-fi blockbuster about an alien invasion, complete with an action set piece in which fighter jets and alien spacecraft engage in a high-speed chase through a desert canyon. With its grunge aesthetic and a soundtrack featuring classic tracks by No Doubt, Nirvana, TLC, Garbage, and Hole, Captain Marvel is a love letter to the '90s in every way.

From Pepper Potts and Black Widow to Scarlet Witch and Gamora to Wasp, Okoye, and Shuri, there is definitely no shortage of strong female characters and heroes in the MCU. Having a female-franchise title character and her own stand-alone movie, however, has been long overdue. Luckily, Captain Marvel was worth the wait. In the same way Ryan Coogler's excellent Black Panther tackled complex themes about race, representation, and greater issues affecting modern-day black life, Captain Marvel deals directly with female empowerment and equality. As the MCU's most powerful character, Carol is a fully capable, hyper-intelligent Kree warrior with special abilities, but she's also very much human. And as a flawed emotional being, she's allowed to be vulnerable, confident, funny, aggressive, loving – everything, all at once.

Brie Larson, who won the 2016 Academy Award, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, and BAFTA for her lead performance in Lenny Abrahamson's Room, is the perfect choice to bring this iconic character to life. Capable of conveying a great range of emotion, she embodies Carol Danvers in the same definitive manner in which Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. portray their comic book counterparts. This isn't just Larson's movie though – her performance is bolstered by a fantastic ensemble. Marvel's incredible de-aging technology returns Samuel L. Jackson to his Die Hard with a Vengeance days with stunning realism and gives the legendary actor his juiciest role in an MCU film since 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Captain Marvel Review

As the Skrull leader Talos, Mendelsohn is an absolute delight. You've seen the Australian actor play the bad guy in movies like The Dark Knight Rises, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Ready Player One, but Talos is a rather unique villain. Mendelsohn is able to convey menace, charm, and humor in equal measure, and his interactions with Larson, Jackson, and scene-stealer Goose (the cat) are fun to watch. Visual effects supervisor Christopher Townsend and his team did an excellent job of translating the Skrull species – and their shape-shifting abilities – from the page to the screen; I can't wait to see the role they have to play in further MCU entries, as there's quite a bit of enticing potential.

In addition to Jackson & Mendelsohn, the cast is rounded out by Lashana Lynch, who plays Carol's friend and fellow pilot Maria Rambeau, Annette Bening as the "Supreme Intelligence", the AI spiritual leader of the Kree, and Lee Pace returning as Ronan the Accuser, last seen in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy.

Overall, Captain Marvel is another top-tier addition to the MCU canon and their best origin story since 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger. Boden, Fleck, and Geneva Robertson-Dworet's nonlinear screenplay is solid but feels uneven at times. The film moves at such a brisk pace that when it slows down, it feels like it comes to a complete halt before shifting into narrative light-speed again. The pacing issues lead to a finale that isn't much of a conclusion; it's an emotional climax for Carol, but the final battle doesn't feel like a climactic showdown as much as a setup for more in the future. Still, Captain Marvel is a massively entertaining movie with great performances, stunning visuals, and exhilarating action that re-shapes the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it and sets the stage for the upcoming Endgame in a major way.

Adam's Rating: 4 out of 5
Follow Adam on Twitter - @AdamFrazier

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Hopefully Brie Larson doesn't mind a "30-something year old white guy" telling her that her movie is good. lol Great review Adam! I figured it would be worth a watch.

THE_RAW_ on Mar 7, 2019


Sexism and Misogyny , simply put ...

Dominic on Mar 10, 2019


I hope they hint a lot at the body swap stuff.

DAVIDPD on Mar 7, 2019


Well, if you like this sort of am probably in the camp with Big Beard does look like Ms Larson is going the big bucks Hollywood poop films for mass audiences a la Jennifer Lawrence. Pity, as I have liked both of their early work, but don't waste my time with either now.

thespiritbo on Mar 7, 2019


talk about some seriously off-base comments on a movie ... FIRST off : Recognize that this is ONLY a Marvel PR strategy play , just like Black Panther . In that , they need a feel-good movie ( with bad pacing but a happy ending , again like BP ) opening NOW , because in two months they will be showing a doom-and-gloom Apocalyptic Avengers film . Again , just a PR ploy to pull more women and girls in like BP pulled more black families in . Nothing to have a cow over ... Secondly ; if you're REALLY against the movie just because its a female-empowerment story , You are the Exact Reason why the film is necessary . As it's your attitude that women inculcate , that makes them doubt themselves AS powerful people . Reviews have noted this is the best thing about the movie ... Thirdly : I'm not a big CM fan , whether the character is male or female ...So I can wait til it comes on cable ..Obviously they need to introduce her and her origin story , before they have her save the Avengers' butts against Thanos ...prob rescuing IM , from Thanos' homeworld ...I only care if the OTHER reason why they are introducing CM , is to fulfill the Rogue storyline where a "meeting" between Rogue and CM somehow grants Rogue her superpowers . A key facet , of the XMen universe ...

Dominic on Mar 10, 2019


Why? Why? Why would the MCU poop itself in this social justice warrior white-men-bad garbage?

whoafilms on Mar 7, 2019


Maybe Adam's just not terrified and hateful of women like all the insecure sexist louts bashing this (most without having even seen it)? 10-to-1 these are largely the same losers who bashed Black Panther for equally obvious reasons. Good review, by the way. I also liked the movie.

M. Peters on Mar 8, 2019


Yes. Exactly.

Alex Billington on Mar 8, 2019


Does Captain Marvel have any flaws? Was she beaten to the point of death (check Netflix Daredevil for reference)? Did Rotten Tomatoes delete the 'Want to See' feature for Black Panther? Did Chadwick Boseman came out saying "I don't care what white men say?" We the fans DON'T HATE WOMEN (check the Alita audience reviews on RT), we hate mary sues, feminist agendas and SJW politics shoved in our throats on our entertainment.

whoafilms on Mar 8, 2019


None of that is true, you are delusional if you really think any of this is an issue. It's just another Marvel movie about a superhero from the comic books, like every other superhero movie these days.

Alex Billington on Mar 9, 2019


Agreed. Most of these "alternative facts"-loving misogynists (you can ID them by their use of such terms as "SJW," "Mary Sue," "Feminazi" and/or "Trump 2020") keep whining that Larson stated she hates white men. She NEVER said that; she just asked for more inclusion in press junkets for women and POC. Larson quotes: “Am I saying that I hate white dudes? No, I’m not.""For the third time, I don’t hate white dudes." Of course, these neanderthals, most of whom also objected to the existence of a female Ghostbusters film because, eww! women!, don't care about truth, just their own fragile egos.

M. Peters on Mar 9, 2019



Daniel Hill on Aug 15, 2020


Of course, I agree with the review. It's a good one. It tells the story that powers up engines which take the road to finale in Avengers: Endgame. And all those that have problems with leading female characters or super heroes (super hero fatigue, they call it, if I'm not mistaken) are missing the point and are misplaced. The film is all those things that this review says but also one thing more. It says a lot of things about the problems or self-perception. Namely, the problems of that how a person sees herself (or himself too) which here arise as a need to come out of the safe haven of everyday routine and see things from outside. What gives freedom and power to a person is a strength to change one's perspective about one's attitudes to others and to oneself, but also to realize that changing that perspective really changes everything. And gives a strength to know more and better oneself. Maybe this was not conveyed here in the same vain as in some more subtle art film but it's still a good example of it. And yes, someday, those super heroes on film will have to be deconstructed, that's for sure. Which is also one of their qualities today and unpleasant, but also needy, consequence of tomorrow. And it will have to be done on film too, just like these ones, goodies, here. Of course, I admire the charm of Brie Larson, Samuel Jackson is good, Ben Mendelson does a terrific job, but Jude Law is also worth of mentioning. If I may say so. In my view, this one is definitely worth a watch ...

shiboleth on Mar 10, 2019

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