Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace. Directed by: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.
Aside from a variation on the Marvel Studios logo, the first thing that appears in Marvel’s new blockbuster is one sentence that reminds us of something painful. Thank You, Stan. This is the first Marvel film post-Stan Lee’s death, and the simple text reminds us of this in a poignant way.
What follows is Marvel’s twenty-first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and one that fully cements them as merchants of absolute popcorn fun. Captain Marvel follows ‘Vers’, a Kree soldier who fights in an alien war against the villainous shape-shifting Skrulls. When a mission goes wrong she ends up on Earth, helping desk jockey agent Nick Fury and changing his outlook on the world forever.
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck only have low budget indie’s to their names: Half Nelson, It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Mississippi Grind. In Captain Marvel they retain some of their indie charm and inject it into a big Marvel tent-pole. Unlike Ant-Man and the Wasp which felt a little fluffy compared to the funeral march of Infinity War, it helps that Captain Marvel comes just before Endgame, signalling a change in the tide along the wider Marvel Comics universe.
Boden and Fleck, much like other directors, are clearly aiming to make one kind of movie within the superhero subgenre. In Captain Marvel what we get is something akin to a buddy-cop movie, with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury portrayed as a desk jockey nearing the end of his career, teaming up with the out-of-water rogue Danvers.
Samuel L. Jackson is clearly having fun playing a character he’s played for ten years but doing something different with him, no eyepatch, goatee, leather ensemble, instead we have 90s era Sam Jackson looking like an over-the-hill old guy and milking the humour for all it’s worth. It’s great to see a different side to Fury who all too often is a stoic enigma, and here bounces off of Larson perfectly.
Brie Larson also works great as the hero – in Carol Danvers she has someone who is impulsive, kind of arrogant and sarcastic (so a Marvel hero) but also showing levels of heart within her soul that sometimes gets lost in the big explosions. Yes, Larson is an Oscar winner, but she also has roots in comedy and she shows that she can play all the various emotions very well.
The ensemble around them are very well placed Ben Mendelsohn shows a flair for comedy you wouldn’t think he had, while Jude Law and Annette Bening are clearly having an absolute ball in their roles, and the entire cast bring a bright and breezy joy to things that at times is one part Star Trek and one part Star Wars.
For the most part, Captain Marvel plays out like a buddy cop movie with nods to 90s crime films like Ronin (the train chase in particular) with an unfolding mystery that calls back to The Winter Soldier if not ever fully embracing their kind of tone, opting to keep in the odd-couple dynamic for longer.
The score by Pinar Toprak is also exciting and epic and as the first female composer hired for the MCU it’s another glass ceiling being busted through and doing it very well.
The film also never outstays its welcome, and when the film is making Star Wars references and jokes about cats, it works a treat. If there’s a flaw, it comes with the latter half when the ramifications of a late in the game twist don’t mine the emotional territory that it could. However, as a primer for Endgame the film gets you as pumped as you need to be.
Yes, it’s not the most original Marvel film, but to be honest they are a studio more consistent in quality than most, and Captain Marvel is another fun romp that never outstays it’s welcome and provides a strong role model for girls around the world, and a chance for Samuel L. Jackson to flex his comedy muscles. In that respect, it’s quite Marvel-ous.