Formulaic Captain Marvel Flies High Thanks to Brie Larson (Review)

by | Mar 6, 2019

Thanos better watch out in next month’s Avengers: Endgame because the Avengers’ secret weapon is coming: Captain Marvel.

That’s not a spoiler from Captain Marvel, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). For those who saw last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, audiences were teased at movie’s end via a pager that the “most cosmic superhero of all” is on her way. And ever since then, audiences eagerly have been awaiting the female heroine’s big screen debut. Surprisingly, and despite being formulaic, the first female superhero movie in the MCU (only took 11 long years); Captain Marvel is another bonafide entry in the ever-growing superhero movie universe thanks to a likeable lead heroine in Brie Larson, her supporting cast, and some fantastic action sequences and visual effects.

Captain Marvel gets caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.

Taking place in 1995, you should expect all of the 90s nostalgia. From technology to music to stores that essentially no longer exist, Captain Marvel pulls out all the stops when it comes to riffing off punk nostalgia that helps solidify the humor we’re used to seeing in the MCU movies. In this day and age, it’s difficult to make a superhero origin story that doesn’t feel formulaic. And Captain Marvel is like every other origin story you’ve seen in the MCU; it shows you the hero (in this case Carol Danvers) before she got her powers, how she got her powers, struggling to use her powers, being mentored by others while she searches for herself, and facing off against enemies (the Skrulls in this case) with a twist or two thrown in. While the narrative structure is nonlinear, and we see Carol Danvers with powers in the beginning with flashbacks sprinkled throughout, this formulaic origin story might feel tiresome for some viewers; the first act of Captain Marvel takes a bit of time getting traction and actually get moving. If you want to make a superhero origin story that’s not so tiresome, you need to sell audiences on what’s inside the story. And thankfully, once Captain Marvel gains traction, it soars past most of the formulaic plot points, thanks to its characters, visuals, and action sequences.

Brie Larson shines in the boots (or helmet) as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers. While it would have been nice to see more of Carol Danvers rather than Captain Marvel, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have to rethink presenting another origin story here given past stories that have either met or exceeded expectations. I’m sure we’ll see more of Carol Danvers in a sequel, but what we get here is just enough to wet our appetite to get a feeling for how strong a presence she is now and for the future of the MCU. With Captain Marvel likely becoming one of the leaders in future MCU movies, the Avengers are in good hands thanks to Larson’s confidence and swagger as the cosmic hero from the 90s. Other standouts in the cast include Samuel L. Jackson, who gets to show off more of his Nick Fury character thanks to his involvement in the growing presence of SHIELD. Also making a strong impression is Ben Mendelsohn as the Skrull leader, Talos, who has more depth than you might expect. Another character that stands out is Carol’s feline friend, Goose the cat, who is more than just an adorable, orange pet and actually has a couple of highlight scenes in the movie.

In some ways, Captain Marvel’s aesthetic feels like Guardians of the Galaxy, a previous MCU movie. It makes sense because like Guardians, Captain Marvel is a cosmic movie as well. Production wise, Captain Marvel features some great visual effects. Largely due to the use of Captain Marvel’s powers and association with her suit, she radiates (literally) without it feeling too glaring. The biggest surprise, and the best thing about Captain Marvel’s visuals, comes from the “de-aging” look of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. Knocking off a good 20 years (at least), the perfectly aged Samuel L. Jackson (who is 70) leaves quite an impression that will help modernize de-aging for future movies. While the visuals in the action sequences are good, the action itself feels by the book; this likely can be associated with the movie’s directors, who never have made big-budget action movies and previously made only indies. Accompanying Captain Marvel is a somewhat techno score that comes off as a change of tone for an MCU movie, along with a few 90s songs. Naming them here would be a bit of a spoiler and give away the fun.

The MCU continues to expand with unlimited potential thanks to its willingness to become more cosmic and weirder than ever before, and Captain Marvel exemplifies both. While there is no denying that Captain Marvel is as formulaic as previous MCU origin superhero movies, it’s just as satisfying as the others thanks to its loveable lead in Brie Larson as Captain Marvel. While audiences will rush to see the female heroine’s first appearance in the MCU this week, they won’t have to wait long to see her again in next month’s Avengers: Endgame. And if Endgame, the third act of Captain Marvel, is any indication of what to expect from Carol Danvers, then by all means, bring it on.

Rating: [star rating=”3.5″]