'Captain Marvel' Is the First Great Film of 2019
I didn’t know what to expect from the latest Marvel movie. Some notices from friends were less than enthusiastic, and with the epic Avengers: Endgame just a few weeks away, I thought maybe this would be a slight appetizer before the sumptuous main course.
I’m happy to say that Captain Marvel is so much more than an appetizer. This is absolutely one of the best of the Marvel movies, a total delight to the eyes that features a great cast, a compelling origin story, tremendous action, and almost non-stop humor that gives much of the film a lighter touch than many other films in the Marvel cinematic universe.
I’ve liked almost all of the films in said universe, pretty much everything but Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World, but rarely does a Marvel movie ever make me laugh as much as I did in Captain Marvel. Sure, Spider-Man: Homecoming is pretty hilarious, and the Ant-Man films have their charms, but having this latest film set for a big chunk of its running time on 1990s Earth makes for big laughs and plenty of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it in-jokes. (The Stan Lee cameo, for example, is hilarious and definitely gets the Kevin Smith stamp of approval!)
What also adds to the lighter touch is the engaging performance of Brie Larson in the title role. I’ve been following her career for many years, starting back when she was on the brilliant Showtime series The United States of Tara.
Thankfully terrific opportunities found their way to this most talented actress. Her role in the 2013 indie Short Term 12 was her true breakthrough, her Oscar-winning performance in 2015’s Room showed her dramatic range, and now her portrayal of Captain Marvel showcases both her dramatic and comedic chops, and proves that she can carry a film of this magnitude.
I love so many choices of the filmmakers (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who made the terrific 2006 indie film Half Nelson). Sometimes, for instance, I get exhausted when while watching one Marvel movie you have to be thinking back on what happened in the last Marvel movie and three others before it.
Here you get to bask in an origin story that has some ties to the Marvel universe — we get Nick Fury before he was Nick Fury, a delightful story choice that gives Samuel L. Jackson his most playful and ebullient performance in ages — but for the most part gets to break off and do something new.
Yes, it’s an action movie. Yes, it’s got lots of special effects. Yes, there’s a big showdown at the end. But the tone to the film is different from so many of the others, and, at least for me, the story sweeps you away in the first few minutes and keeps you in its grip for the entire running time.
It’s comedic — oh my God, this film may offer the best use of a cat since Inside Llewyn Davis — but it’s not as comedic as, say, Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s dramatic — the backstory particularly for the central character is downbeat — but it’s not as dramatic, as say, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Black Panther. It exists in this great place in the middle where you’re laughing a lot but also taking its themes and storyline seriously.
The film does have its occasional lull, like in an extended sequence at a best friend’s farmhouse that slows the movie down, and I also feel like Annette Bening could have been used better and more often. The reveal of Jude Law’s character is fairly obvious, too.
But for the most part, Captain Marvel is a total blast. It’s a hugely entertaining film suitable for all ages, and, yes, it will get you psyched even more to see next month’s Avengers: Endgame. There’s so much written and talked about how the Marvel movies are taking over the film industry, each one seemingly a bigger hit than the last, but it’s hard to get mad when the films are this consistently solid. The big Marvel release of the year is still a few weeks away, but don’t let Captain Marvel pass you by. It’s well-worth a watch!