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Releasing this film on the International Day of Women was no mistake by the makers of Captain Marvel for one goal of the movie – and this is a goal at which the film absolutely succeeds – is to tell a tale of independence and empowerment for its main character. The title character is powerful, confident and clever. She is funny, independent and empowered. Her story is the story of a superhero and there is barely a moment spent – for humorous purposes or otherwise – where anyone questions the fact that, if she is not the most powerful person in the room, she is well on her way to becoming that.
The movie gets a lot of mileage out of the fact that its title character does not quite remember her entire history. A series of inter-cutting flashbacks (which anyone who has seen the trailers has watched) reveal bits and pieces of conflicting history to Captain Marvel and part of the fun of the movie is walking along with her as she attempts to unravel how these images work together to make her whole.
Brie Larson is wonderfully cast in the title role. She looks perfect in each incarnation of the costume, and that is a critical thing for anyone playing a superhero – sometimes these costumes look silly. Larson has the gravitas to carry it off, even when her hair pokes through her helmet like a mohawk. And, though her character is on a quest to find out exactly who she is during the course of the movie, Larson’s Captain Marvel never doubts herself. She may not be in control of her history, but she is completely in control of herself. As Captain Marvel is set up as one of if not the most powerful characters in the Marvel Movie Universe, the casting had to be spot on. It is.
Set in the 1990s, Captain Marvel takes on a terrifically 1990s movie trope – the buddy comedy – and plays that out to entertaining effect. Samuel L. Jackson is on board as a young, two-eyed Nick Fury and he is having a tremendous amount of fun. The pairing of Larson and Jackson works and the friendship between the characters is the backbone of the movie. That computers seamlessly de-age Jackson about 20 years is pretty cool and pretty scary (and what they do for castmate Clark Gregg as a young Phil Coulson is equally cool and/or creepy).
Ben Mendelshon is, likewise, having a ton of fun as leader of the antagonist alien race – the shapeshifting Skrulls. This is an actor who knows how to chew scenery in the best way and he does so with aplomb here.
Annette Benning continues a noble tradition of the addition of an A-List actor (see Brando, Marlon, Nicholson, Jack, Redford, Robert, Close, Glenn and others) to a comic book film and, much like her compatriots, looks like she’s having a terrific time as well. And Jude Law is the perfect mentor to Larson’s Captain Marvel.
But it’s Captain Marvel who is at the heart of the story and her friendship with Maria Rambeau (delightfully played by Lashana Lynch) and Maria’s daughter Monica (played by Akira Akbar) is the most important to the movie. The relationship between these characters is perfectly pitched and utterly in sync with the overall themes of the movie…
… which are hard to delve into in a spoiler free review. Suffice it to say that Captain Marvel employs more twists and turns than other Marvel movies and all of them land very nicely. The movie keeps the audience on its heels and, hey, we’re talking about the 21st Marvel movie in the last 10 years. That this one continues to surprise is absolutely saying something.
There is world building here. There is world bridging here (yes, the audience gets a sense of a part of the forthcoming Avengers: Endgame) and there are thrills to be had in all of this.
If there is a drawback, and this may well have something to do with the saturation of the genre, some of the scenes seem a bit telegraphed. This is not to say they are not enjoyable. The entire movie is one empowering hoot. Rather, this is to say that even good scenes that are overly familiar can only have so much effect. And, to be fair, it’s not Captain Marvel’s fault that Wonder Woman beat it to some thematic punches.
These are minor quibbles. This is a very fun movie and a fitting installment in the overall Marvel saga. Come for the great characters and the kitty cat, stay for the TWO post credit sequences.
CAPTAIN MARVEL receives FOUR FLERKINS out of a possible FIVE