REVIEW: Captain Marvel
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
My apologies for the late review. I had been out of town and am just now able to sit down and compose my thoughts.
Anyway, twenty-one films and ten years later, Marvel Studio finally releases its first major motion picture featuring the solo adventure of a woman hero.
To quote Hope Van Dyne, "It's about damn time."
I thoroughly enjoyed Captain Marvel and felt they successfully managed to bring the comic book character to life. Much of this success is from taking its lead from Kelly Sue DeConnick's 2014 run with newly designed uniform by David Lopez. They managed to tap into the feminist qualities that DeConnick infused within the character.
Back when Carol Danvers was created, she was more of a romantic interest for Mar-Vell, and then, when she was reinvented as Ms. Marvel, she, unfortunately, became a shadow of what women's liberation really was all about. Marvel has always had a history of taking on the social issues of the day. For example, the X-Men was a reflection of what was going on with the Civil Rights Movement. So, it would only stand to reason that Marvel would want to reflect the burgeoning women's rights movement. Unfortunately, as well intentioned as they could be, at the hands of men, she did not soar in the way she should have.
Now, we have a film written by women and co-directed by a woman and you could see that they really handled Carol Danvers with love. I've been impressed with the two women led films by the two comic book giants - DC's Wonder Woman and Marvel's Captain Marvel - for their capturing the spirit of what makes women women...but in different ways.
Wonder Woman represented the caretaker in women. Yes, she was a very strong warrior, but she came with a message of love and that the Earth should be taken care of rather that reaping the spoils for self purpose. She was an emissary who believed in sisterhood before being a killer.
With Captain Marvel, they captured women's spirit of persistence and perseverance. Throughout the movie, Carol is told to keep her true power at bay and that she can easily be controlled. These are the issues that impact women even today. Yet, they soldier on and work that much harder to be recognized. I also think they showed how important friendship among women is so important. I loved how her best friend Maria Rambeau was Carol's anchor to reality. These relationships really made me think of how DeConnnick's Captain Marvel was different from the rest. She was defined by her friendships as much as her ability to blow up spaceships.
Captain Marvel is not just a woman superhero but a woman who has extraordinary powers.
Now that I've given my immediate reflections on the film, I will be getting into SPOILER territory here. So, if you haven't seen the film yet, come back later to read the rest.
So, in the meantime, here is your SPOILER WARNING...
I thought Brie Larson was absolutely incredible. I don't know why I would doubt Marvel Studios's magic of picking just the right actor to play the part. Just as Chris Evans embodies Steve Rogers and Robert Downey, Jr. embodies Tony Stark, Brie Larson embodies Carol Danvers. She is able to be strong and kick ass while, at the same time, portray her vulnerabilities. She showed Carol's softer side where she portrays her love for both Maria and Monica who she clearly regards as family. I actually could see how, based on her performance in Room in which she won the Academy Award, they knew she was the right actress for the job.
I loved her relationship with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The film was every bit a buddy movie and Larson was able to hold her own with the venerable actor. She took what he gave her and made movie magic.
I loved seeing a different less jaded side of NIck Fury. His love for Goose, the cat...or should I say Flerken...just made me smile from ear to ear. And can I say how amazing the de-aging technology has come? It was as if he stepped right out of Jurrasic Park. You could see that Samuel L. Jackson was having a lot of fun showing his less intense side. And I love the fact that, after speculating about all the ways in which Fury could have lost his eye, it was really through Goose scratching him. Yet, in true Fury form, he's going to maintain that air of mystery and be all about his legend.
I really enjoyed Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau. Honestly, she is everything that I would love to see in Monica Rambeau in future movies, not just in spirit, but in her friendship with Carol. I loved Akira Akbar as the younger Monica. She was adorable and you could see she has the moxy that the adult version has. I can't wait to see the future of Monica Rambeau, who is a superhero in her own right in the comic books, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I wondered how they would handle Carol's origin story as her whole story is long and so loaded with continuity to make it simple for the movies. The power set and level that Carol Danvers started out as Ms. Marvel is much different from her powers today. And while they pulled from different areas, the movie version is ultimately its own. She doesn't get her power through the Kree weapon called the Psyche-Magnitron, but by destroying the power source on Mar-Vell's jet. Her DNA isn't spliced with Kree DNA (nor is she half Kree as recently written in Margaret Stohl's The Life Of Captain Marvel), but she was transfused with Yon-Rogg's (Jude Law) blood.
Talking about departures from the comic book origin, the biggest surprise to me was that Annette Benning didn't play Carol's mother as originally speculated but that she was Mar-Vell. In the comics, Mar-Vell was a male and, as I mentioned, Carol was originally created to be his love interest. In the comics, Mar-Vell was Dr. Walter Lawson. And, in the movie, Benning's character was Dr. Wendy Lawson. I love how they gender flipped the character and Benning looked like she was having a good time playing both her and the Supreme Intelligence, the leader of the Kree Empire.
As for the villains, I thought Jude Law as Yon-Rogg was great. He had that kind of charisma that would lull you into a state of trusting him. There was no reason to think that he was going to be the lead villain. It was wonderful seeing Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer and Lee Pace as Ronan The Accuser who, as you might know, were in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I loved Gemma Chan as Minn-Erva. I thought she gave off a wonderfully cold, creepy vibe. I really hope she survived that blast as I would like to see more of her. I felt we only got a taste of how nasty a villain she could actually be.
Some will most likely complain that Captain Marvel is too powerful...more powerful than anybody we've seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. But, if Avengers: Infinity War has shown us anything, there are threats out there that require such a power house. And Nick Fury recognized that when he used his emergency pager. I loved, however, that the film wasn't just this CGI fest and that, if there was anything Carol learned from the Kree, is that her power isn't just what she shoots out of her hands. Marvel Studios is very good at giving us a blend of both the CGI with real physical hand-to-hand combat.
My favorite moment of the film, though, is when the Supreme Intelligence uses mind games to keep Carol down but it is when she digs deep into her experiences of every time somebody tried to keep her down yet she got up again when she truly realized the maximum potential of her powers.
My only problem is that they ended up giving the impression that the Skrulls were "good." In this film, this group of Skrulls wanted to escape the war. But, in the comics, this race of shape shifters is also the one who has tried to infiltrate and invade our planet numerous times. In fact, when it was discovered that Skrulls would finally be appearing in the movies that Marvel Studios would eventually adapt the popular Secret Invasion storyline in which the Skrulls managed to infiltrate all areas of our power structures.
They try to give the impression that the Skrulls also have blood on their hands, but it suddenly looked like the Kree were the bad guys. Well, let's face it. They are no angels themselves. They are known for their hubris and have genetically experimented on humans in the earliest days of our history leading to the creation of the Inhumans race. So, there is blood on their hands as well. In the Kree/Skrull war, there really are no winners. That said, it is also not lost on me the metaphor. Marvel is always capturing the zeitgeist and here we have a situation where those who don't look like us are not really monsters and those who look like us can be monsters. The Kree are all about building that wall.
To me, this is a minor quibble as I know Marvel will eventually find a way to do the Secret Invasion storyline. So, in Marvel we trust.
We can't end this review without mentioning how awesome it was that Marvel Studios dedicated its whole logo to Stan Lee with the following message "THANK YOU STAN." I've seen the movie twice and, each time, people hooted and hollered and cheered at this. Again, it's a testament to the life and work of Stan Lee to get these well deserved accolades. We would not be here today without him. We miss you, Stan!