Get ready to soar out into the cosmos because we’re about to go supersonic with Captain Marvel, the twenty-first entry in the long-running Marvel Cinematic Universe and this is one cinematic trip that makes for all kinds of fun.
Set in the mid-1990s, Captain Marvel follows Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, as she turns into one of the galaxy’s mightiest heroes and joins Starforce, an elite Kree military team, before returning home with new questions about her past and identity when the Earth is caught in the centre of an intergalactic conflict between two alien worlds.
Co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck take us back in time in this brand new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and in this, Marvel’s second notable period piece film, following Captain America: The First Avenger, we’re returning to the mid-1990s and there’s plenty of nostalgia to get excited about here. With its all-new setting not only do we get an origin story for a brand new heroine in the form of Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers but also the MCU itself. Here in 1995, we’re getting a snapshot of what the world was like before it had heroes in it, and just how rapidly it changes thanks to them. To any child of the 90s, well, you’ll be overcome with nostalgic emotion here with everything from Blockbuster video to Gameboys to Guns n’ Roses on full blast and it really makes this film a real pleasure to soak up.
Along with it’s unique setting Boden and Fleck give the film a style that really meshes with the films of the era. Equal parts action-packed and laugh-out-loud funny, Captain Marvel is a great ‘buddy-cop’ adventure in a similar vein to such seminal 90s classics such as the Lethal Weapon series and you can be sure that Danvers and Fury get up to plenty of hijinks here. Along with this angle of the story, our directors also focus in on the alien nature of Captain Marvel and if you think about it Captain Marvel is really a ‘first contact’ type of story. Boden and Fleck do a great job of melding these two genres together and there’s a great balance of both past and future going on here. While it’s a formative origin story, Captain Marvel’s presence at the end of Phase Three and following on from the events of Avengers: Infinity War also offers us an interesting look into where this universe is going next, and trust me when I say that it’s unbelievably exciting.
Stepping up and taking her place amongst the titans of the MCU is Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, and this heroine has a very interesting journey ahead of her in Captain Marvel. This daring Air Force pilot is one to always push the envelope and never back down from a challenge and finding herself as an elite member of the Kree Starforce she readily picks up the fight against the Skrulls. But while Larson’s Danvers is a soldier through and through, she soon finds herself questioning her choices and allegiances once she arrives back on Earth and it’s here that things get fun. With its strong focus on the alien and otherworldly, Larson’s central contribution to the film is the journey to rediscover Danvers’ humanity and the power that it gives her. As she learns to harness her vast alien powers she firmly walks into her destiny and it’s great fun to watch her soar through the sky throwing photon blasts at the bad guys. As the MCU moves forward into a new chapter it’s great to have such a dynamic heroine at its centre and I’m game to see where Larson takes us next.
Joining Larson up on the big-screen is Marvel’s all-around king of cool, Samuel L. Jackson, who once again returns as Nick Fury, but this time he’s a whole new man. Picking up in the mid-1990s following the end of the Cold War, this Fury is now riding a desk, past his prime and frankly fed up with everything. That is until a certain super-powered heroine literally crashes down to Earth and helps him find his spark again with a new purpose and mission. While we’re used to Fury’s gruff and all-business demeanour, here Jackson gets to call upon his considerable comedic chops and is allowed to let his guard down a bit as his mind opens up to the possibility of a whole new realm of heroes. While Jackson is regarded as Marvel’s elder statesman with his work throughout the MCU, it’s great to see him on more of a base level here and almost ‘starting out’ so to speak. And for those wanting some long-held Nick Fury secrets, well, Captain Marvel has plenty of them so keep your eyes open.
Stepping into Captain Marvel in the role of antagonist is Ben Mendelsohn as the calculating Skrull general Talos and he’s one villain who’s got a serious agenda. Putting his Australian accent to good use, Mendelsohn’s Talos is a calculating strategist who is fighting his own personal war with the Kree and who comes into direct contact with Danvers. While he can handle himself in a fight, Talos is much more of a strategist and a thinker and he’s holding plenty of his own secrets close to the chest. While I can’t divulge too much on Talos’ ultimate objective without running into spoiler territory I will say that Talos’ interaction with Danvers really spins you for a loop as an audience member, and it keeps you on your feet.
Finally, Jude Law makes a critical appearance in Captain Marvel as Starforce commander and Danvers Kree mentor Yon-Rogg who guides Danvers in her training and discipline as an adopted Kree disciple. In terms of a character, Yon-Rogg is an all-together different performance for Law and the British thespian really falls into place as this highly disciplined and capable soldier. His place in the story is almost like that of Danvers conscience and sensei as he pushes her in pursuit of her powers and the friction that comes from this leads us to an interesting place throughout Captain Marvel. With Law what we get is the unexpected and he really does a great job of playing against type. As an MCU experience, Captain Marvel really leads you into the unexpected on multiple turns and Law is a big part of this so watch out.
If you’re looking for some sci-fi fun then Captain Marvel is one ride you’ll really want to jump on. With everything from experimental space ships to photon blasts, along with Brie Larson’s considerable martial prowess, this latest addition to the MCU is jam-packed with action. Larson’s fighting abilities focus on a clear mix of judo and boxing, and with the advantage of considerable powers and a heap of alien tech they make for an exciting visual treat. I also found there to be a real retro styling to Captain Marvel’s action that really fits into that 1990s action cinema mould. The film has a great pulsating energy to it which really grips you as an audience member, especially as our heroine’s powers fully come into their own and she rockets into the stratosphere.
In addition to its retro feeling and impressive action, Captain Marvel also expands the MCU further into the future and gives us a greater insight into the intergalactic realms of the MCU. Our focus here is presently on the Kree/Skrull War and it’s a fascinating insight into moments that have only been hinted at in previous films such as Guardians of the Galaxy. Here we get an introduction into the universe and culture of the Kree, a highly evolved civilization who see themselves as above any other galactic entity and it’s interesting to see Danvers own humanity rise up and challenge the status quo. Captain Marvel’s thematic strands of personal power and testing one’s own strength really find an interesting place here and it’s interesting to see it play out amongst this formative chapter of the MCU.
Captain Marvel is a film that really goes for it with everything that its got and it’s a whole lot of fun. Packed out with brilliant moments of nostalgia, plenty of wicked sci-fi action and a whole heap of surprises, it’s very clear that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in good hands with Captain Marvel and the future looks bright.
Image: Walt Disney Pictures