The newest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel, is a fun and family-friendly adventure flashback to the 90s, before the creation of the Avengers superhero team. The film is based on the Marvel comic character of Carol Danvers, and is likely to be the first introduction for many filmgoers. It’s both fun and slightly safer than it could be. At its root it’s about empathy, and that’s something we definitely need more of today.
Captain Marvel is an amnesiac warrior of an alien planet played by Brie Larson. Since she doesn’t remember her past, she has no idea of her own potential or what she did to become a super-fighter. It’s the only thing she knows. As a member of the Kree military she took on the name Vers, but without any evidence of a childhood or adolescence, she has no concept of life outside of that job. When a mission goes awry, she is lost on Earth and surrounded by enemies that can disguise themselves as any living organism. Not only does she not know who she really is, she can’t trust anyone she meets, either. Finding out who she is could unlock memories and help her get back to her squad.
There’s a lot of talk about this movie, and yes, it is formulaic. In my opinion, this film needed to be formulaic, but make enough of a twist in her story or in the world of the MCU to convince us that Captain Marvel isn’t a cheesy name. Is this successful? Yes, but it’s obviously not supposed to be the next Black Panther, and I don’t think anyone expected it to be. Carol Danvers is an entirely new chapter to the story of the MCU and if anything the film is closer in tone to Thor or Ant-Man. If that’s a bad thing for you, then Captain Marvel just may not be your cup of tea. And that’s perfectly fine – the world will keep spinning and the next Avengers film comes out in a month and a half anyway.
Danvers and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) make a good team. It’s a one-two punch of backstory for the otherwise mysterious Fury and as an introduction to Danvers. Brie Larson nails the oddity of someone who seems to fit in but is too “business” to be real, almost like she’s a cop posing as a high schooler, except she’s an alien to this world. They are silly enough so as not to offend, but almost too careful in some ways. The core of Danvers’ story is finding herself and her history. There’s a lot of heart to be found, particularly in scenes with Jackson, Larson, Lashana Lynch, and Akira Akbar. Lynch and Akbar’s characters are heroic in their own ways.
What I also like about this movie is that it has the spirit of my very 90s childhood, whether it’s all bright colored clothing, comic character TV shows, Schwarzenegger movies, Windows 95, and naive optimism. The film comes out at a good time for 90s throwback trends, too. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and gifts us the image of an empty Game Boy box in a completely random location. That wasn’t a cute throwback so much as it was eye-roll worthy.
It’s not all warm and fuzzy; Danvers’ fight scenes are awesome too, as she introduces a new set of powers we’ve not yet seen in a single character yet. It’s basically been marketed as a prelude to the next Avengers, rather than a very strong standalone film, but it’s still worth watching.